Can Your Organization Pass the Donor-Centered Test?

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I recently received a newsletter from an organization that focused mainly on themselves, then their clients, and then barely mentioned their donors. There’s no question this organization does good work, but their newsletter failed the donor-centered test. Unfortunately, they’re not the only guilty culprits.

The term donor-centered is pretty self-explanatory. It means focusing on your donors’ needs and interests, acknowledging them in your letters and other communication, and taking into account that not all donors are the same.

Can your organization pass the donor-centered test? Take a few minutes to find out.

Fundraising Appeals

  • Are your fundraising appeals focused too much on your organization – rambling on about how great you are?  Your organization may be great, but let your donors figure that out. Your donors are the ones who are great, and they want to hear how they can help you make a difference for the people/community you serve.
  • Are your appeals segmented to the appropriate audience? Thank past donors or reference your relationship to a potential donor. Maybe they’re event attendees, volunteers, or friends of board members.
  • Are your appeals addressed to a person and not Dear Friend?
  • Are your appeals vague, impersonal, and filled with jargon your donors won’t understand?  Don’t say we’re helping underserved members of the community. A donor-centered appeal would say something like – With your support, we can help low-income families find affordable housing.
  • Do your appeals make people feel good about donating to your organization?

Thank you letters

  • Do your thank you letters come across as transactional and resemble a receipt? Yes, you need to acknowledge the donation is tax deductible, etc, but most donors are more concerned about how their gift made a difference.
  • Do your thank you letters (or better yet, a handwritten note) shower your donors with love?  Start your letter with You’re amazing or Thanks to You!, and not On behalf of X organization.
  • Are you telling your donors the impact of their gift?  For example – Thanks to your generous donation of $50, a local family can get a box of groceries at the Southside Community Food Bank.
  • Do you recognize each donor?  Is this the first time someone has donated?  If someone donated before, did she increase her gift?  Acknowledge this in your letter/note.

Newsletters

  • Do your newsletters sound self-promotional and focus on all the wonderful things your organization is doing instead of showing your donors how they’re helping you make a difference?
  • Is your newsletter written in the second person?  Write to the donor and use the word you more often than we. How to Perform the “You” Test for Donor-Centered Communications – Do You Pass?  BTW, all your donor communication should be written in the second person. It’s much more personal.
  • Does your newsletter include success stories, engaging photos, and other content your donors want you to share?
  • Are you using the right channels?  Perhaps you only send an e-newsletter, but some of your donors prefer print.
  • Are you showing gratitude to your donors in your newsletter?

Always think of your donors first

Use these test questions on other donor communication such as annual reports (these are rarely donor-centered), your website, and social media posts.

How did you do?

Be sure the messages you send to your donors focuses on them and makes them feel special. Staying donor-centered can help you build relationships and keep your retention rate from plummeting.

Read on for more information on how to be donor-centered.

A donor-centered organization, your donors, & relationship building

How to Create a Donor-Centered Fundraising Letter

 

Where Did All Our Donors Go?

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The ACLU saw a record number of donations come in right after the Trump administration enacted its travel ban. This spawned a discussion on the Nonprofit Happy Hour Facebook page in which someone wondered if these would be one-time donations. That’s a good question since donor retention rates are declining again. New Study Shows Donor Retention Rates Are In Decline

Yikes! This should not be happening. I hope your organization isn’t hemorrhaging donors. If you’re not sure, then you need to figure out your retention rate to see how you’re doing. A Guide to Donor Retention

Donors stop giving to organizations for a variety of reasons. Some you can’t control, such as their financial situation, but many you can, such as how you communicate with them.

If you’re wondering where did all our donors go, here are some ways to get them back or prevent them from leaving in the first place.

Reach out to your lapsed donors

Did you have a number of donors who gave in the past, but didn’t this year?  Reach out to people who haven’t donated in the last two years by phone or personalized letter.  Let them know how much you appreciate their support, that you miss them, and you want them back. Some people may have been busy in December and didn’t have time to respond to your appeals.

Personalization is the key. Don’t send some generic appeal. That’s why I recommend mail or phone, although you could follow up by email.  

Reaching out to lapsed donors could be a good way to make up for lost revenue, Disappointing year-end campaign results? Here’s how to recover.

Show your donors how you’re making a difference

As a new monthly donor to the ACLU, my response to their court petitions was, my money is going to good use. This is what you want to show your donors. The ACLU was lucky that they were able to show results on such a grand scale, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your donors how you’re making a difference, too. A recent newsletter from a local organization whose mission is to end homelessness shows how they’re helping people “find their road home.”

Welcome new donors and keep showing the love

According to the latest Fundraising Effectiveness Project results, new donor retention is an abysmal 23%. We spend so much time trying to get people to donate and then think our work is done, when in fact in has only just begun. Your Appeal is Just The Beginning

If you haven’t already done this, send your new donors a welcome package by mail or email. But keep showing the love to all your donors

You want as many donors as possible to give again, preferably at a higher level. This won’t happen if you don’t stay in touch throughout the year.

Break through the noise.

There’s a lot going on right now. We all get so many email messages and social media posts it’s enough to make you want to turn off your computer or put your phone away.

Don’t be part of the noise. When you communicate with your donors, make it good. It’s not enough just to send a donor newsletter or post a social media update. Show gratitude and share engaging updates.

To get noticed, aim for shorter more frequent content. Send email once a week and social media posts a few times a day. Don’t forget to reach out by mail, too. But most important, share stories and updates your donors will want to read.

Shifting priorities

Social justice organizations are seeing a huge increase in donations right now. I donated to many more nonprofits at the end of the year, but still supported the ones I had in past years. Some people might not be able to do that.

Your organization may be seeing a decline in donations because of this. That means you need to work harder to keep your donors. If you follow the advice above, you’ll have a better chance of keeping your donors for a long time.

Read on for more on declining retention rates. What are the Obstacles to Improving Donor-Retention Rates?

Let Your Donors Know How Much You Appreciate Them

 

16317995822_f23087f3eb_z-1Valentine’s Day is coming up and it’s a perfect opportunity to thank your donors and show how much you appreciate their support. Okay, maybe you think doing something for Valentine’s Day is hokey, but you should still do something fun and creative to show appreciation this month. The holidays are over, winter isn’t, and the world doesn’t feel like a very nice place right now, so we could all use a little pick-me-up.

This is also a good opportunity to stay in touch with the people who gave to your year-end appeal, especially first-time donors. If you haven’t shown any donor love since your year-end appeal, then you definitely need to reach out now.

Here are some ideas.

Create a thank you photo

Make your donor’s day with a great photo, like one of these.

 

You can send thank you photos via email and social media, use one to create a card, and include one on your thank you landing page.

Make a video

Videos are becoming an increasingly popular way to connect. Here are a couple that I received recently by email.

To Our Friends, With Gratitude

What You Made Possible in 2016

You’ll notice that both are short (and they need to be short), donor-centered, and show the organization’s work up close and personal.

Share an update or success story

In addition to saying thank you, share a brief update or success story. Emphasize how you couldn’t have helped someone without your donor’s support. For example – Thanks to you, Jenna won’t go to bed hungry tonight.

Send a card

A handwritten note will also brighten your donor’s day. If you don’t have the budget to send cards to everyone, send them to your most valuable donors. These may not be the ones who give you the most money. Do you have donors who have supported your organization for more than three years? How about more than five years? These are your valuable donors.

Another idea – Send a small number of thank you cards every month, ensuring that each donor gets at least one card a year. Spreading it out may be easier on your budget.

Thank You 101

Make this the year you do a better job of thanking your donors. Thank your donors right away and send a thank you note/letter or make a phone call. Electronic thank yous aren’t good enough.

Be personal and conversational when you thank your donors. Don’t use jargon or other language they won’t understand. Write from the heart, but be sincere. Give specific examples of how your donors are helping you make a difference.

If your budget doesn’t allow you to mail handwritten cards, is there a way you can change that? You may be able to get a print shop to donate cards. You can also look for additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover cards and postage.

Maybe you need a change of culture. Getting your board, all staff, and volunteers involved in thanking your donors will make a huge difference.

Keep thinking of ways to surprise and delight your donors! Get creative.

20 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas

21 IDEAS TO REFRESH YOUR DONOR STEWARDSHIP

You can’t say thank you enough. Make a commitment to thank your donors at least once a month.

You don’t even need to wait for a holiday or special occasion. Just thank your donors because they’re incredible and you wouldn’t be able to make a difference without them.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Year-End Fundraising – Part One

At the end of November, I made year-end donations to 25 organizations. Because I was worried about people who would be left behind in the new administration, 11 of these were new donations.

I wish I could tell you that all these organizations sent glowing thank you letters and have been following up with engaging updates and minimal additional requests for donations, but, alas, that is not the case.

Some organizations are doing a better job of communicating than others. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I experienced after I made my year-end donations.

Saying thank you

I made all my donations online, but only four organizations sent me thank you letters, and one sent a handwritten postcard. I’m a big believer in sending a thank you by mail or making a phone call even if someone donates online.

Two of the letters started with the dreaded “On behalf of.“ If you’re sending something on your letterhead, I already know it’s coming from your organization. The first words in your letter should be Thank you or something like You’re incredible.

One of the letters included a pre-printed Thank You! in big, bold, blue scripted letters at the top. Another opened with Welcome, and thanks so much … since I’m a new donor. These are simple things you can do to make your letters stand out.

All of the organizations sent email thank you messages. Some were generic receipts. Others opened with a story and an engaging photo.

Automatic emails won’t be personalized, which is why you should also thank by mail or phone. You can, however, still write a warm, heartfelt thank you message.

Another way to stand out is with a good email subject line. You have to include a subject line, so give some thought to it. Many of the organizations said thank you in the subject line.  One acknowledged it was a monthly gift.

A couple of good examples are Thank you, Ann and Thank you for your generosity. Some not so good examples are Donation received, Thank you.Your gift has been received (they get additional demerits for using the passive voice), and X organization Gift Acknowledgement

If you use a lame subject line, it’s less likely someone will even open your thank you email. Once they do, inspire them with opening lines such as You did something incredible, You are taking a stand for justice or You did something important.

Welcoming new donors

I made a number of first-time donations, but I’m not feeling a whole lot of new donor love. As mentioned above, I did get welcomed as a new donor and the thank you letter included links of ways to get involved.

One organization offered me a t-shirt, which I declined.  A thank you letter included contact information and a link to tell the organization why I supported them. Another invited me to take a tour of the organization, which is a great way to connect.

Otherwise, it was business as usual. Don’t fall into that trap. You need to go the extra mile to welcome new donors. With first-time donor retention rates at about 30%, you can’t afford to be complacent.

Monthly giving

This is the first time I’ve done monthly giving – approximately half of my gifts were monthly ones. I actually got more response to being a monthly donor than being a new one.

One organization gave me the name of a contact person if I needed to change anything. Another specifically sent me a story letting me know how my monthly donation is helping them make a difference.

Here’s a good example of a way to communicate your thanks to your monthly donors  –  I really can’t emphasize enough how much we appreciate our monthly donors. Your consistent support is the backbone of our program.  Another organization refers to their monthly donors as Friends for All Seasons.

A different organization sent me an email thank you acknowledgment for the second installment of my monthly gift. I assume this will be a regular occurrence, which is a great idea. You want to encourage monthly donations and ensure your donors will keep supporting you this way. Setting up an engaging thank you email to go out each month is a great start.

Stayed tuned for Part Two where I share the good, the bad, and the ugly of how these organizations are staying in touch, or not.

10 Ways To Engage Donors And Boost Donations This Holiday Season

 

2086084757_0dec5905e6_mGuest Post by Jeremy Silverstein

Fundraising for your nonprofit organization occurs year-round as you build relationships with donors, host events, and ask for donations. However, research shows that almost one-third of yearly online giving occurs in December. Capitalize on generosity this holiday season as you engage donors and boost donations. Here are 10 ways you can do that.

Create a Seasonal Holiday Campaign

Deck the halls and give your seasonal donation campaign a holiday flare.

  • Post a picture of a rescue dog sporting a holiday wreath.
  • Bake cookies for families in need, and ask donors to sponsor a plate.
  • Feature a holiday tree on your thank you cards.

Consider hosting a holiday party, too, as you engage donors and incorporate seasonal elements into your fundraising campaign.

Share Your Goals

Tell donors why you’re raising money. Will it provide school supplies to 100 kids or send 10 developmentally delayed adults to job training? Your transparency builds trust in your cause.

Get Personal

Donors are human, and they want to know that their money makes a difference. Why should they give to your cause?

This year, consider asking organization beneficiaries to share their stories as you get personal.

  • Give donors a tour of the handicap van you purchased for client transportation.
  • Showcase photos of rescue dogs with their new families.
  • Ask a job-training recipient to record a video of his/her work day.

Re-Examine Your Donation Process

A cumbersome or time-consuming donation process turns away busy donors. Simplify the process with a few tips.

  • Update your website so it’s mobile-friendly.
  • Add a bright “donate here” button to every page.
  • Make the donation forms short and sweet.

Ask for Gifts in Kind

Cash donations are always appreciated, although not everyone can give a monetary donation. Another way people can help out is with tax-deductible in-kind gifts. Examples include:

  • New, unwanted electronics that you can sell online or use in your next auction fundraiser.
  • Gently used office supplies that keep your organization functioning properly.
  • Vehicles that are sold and turned into cash.
  • Annuities or life insurance policies that continue giving,

Help Donors Give Gifts

Help your donors cross everyone off their gift-giving list when you invite them to donate in someone else’s name. On your print and online donation forms, include a box where supporters can “give a donation as a gift.”

To increase participation, create an attractive gift package. It may include a thank you note, recognition certificate, or small branded gift. As an example, donors who give $100 to your animal rescue receive a stuffed dog in a branded coffee mug.

Participate in Giving Tuesday

Started in 2012, Giving Tuesday promotes charitable holiday giving. More than 700,000 people raised $116 million in 2015.

While Giving Tuesday has passed, be sure to thank donors who participated and encourage giving throughout the month. Prepare social media posts and mailings that give donors facts, photos, and testimonials detailing your organization’s impact in the community.

Be Grateful

Many people show generosity during the holidays. Join in and remind your donors that you’re grateful for them.

Send handwritten thank you notes to all your supporters, whether they give $10 or $1,000. Use social media, your website, and your newsletter, too, to highlight how donations make a difference for your cause. These stories and your gratitude ignite even more generosity.

Target Volunteers

Volunteers already give so much of their time to your cause, but think about asking them for financial gifts, too. Volunteers are twice as likely to give as non-donors partly because they already know and love your cause.

Think Ahead

Of course, you’re focusing on securing year-end donations. Think ahead to next year, too.

Remember that some of your donors may not be able to give during the holidays, but they will resume giving when the new year arrives. Reach out to these donors when you share your goals for your fundraising efforts, thank them for past support, and build bridges for the future.

The holiday season provides 10 excellent ways to engage donors and increase gifts. With these tips, you can increase donations for your cause. What other ideas work for you?

Author bio: Jeremy Silverstein is Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching at Goodwill Car Donations. During his five years with the organization, Silverstein has handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles and has become an expert in the field.

Say Thank You Like You Mean It

 

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Year-end fundraising season is underway and many of you may be working on your appeal letters. But have you given any thought to how you’ll thank your donors? If you’re thinking that’s something you can worry about after your appeal letters go out, you’re making a huge mistake.

Thanking donors often takes a back seat in fundraising campaigns, but it’s a crucial component that you need to start planning now. It’s often poorly done and I feel as if organizations thank their donors because someone told them they had to instead of it being something they want to do.

You can rise above the mediocrity and thank your donors like you mean it. Here’s how.

Do something special for your donors now

Do something special for your donors before you send your appeal. This could be a short thank you update you send by mail or email (mail is better). I received a couple of donor-focused updates recently. One had a big Thank You in the middle. The other opened with Your Giving in Action...

This post includes a great example. Knock it Out of the Park You could also send a postcard or give a special shout out to your donors in your newsletter, although all newsletters should be gratitude-focused anyway. Another option is to hold an open house. Why Having an Open House Makes Sense

Handwritten notes and phone calls make a huge difference

Make your donor’s day by sending a handwritten note or making a phone call. Start recruiting board members, staff, and other volunteers to help you with this. If you can’t send cards or make calls to all your donors, choose the ones you will reach out to. Calling new donors can help ensure they’ll donate again. You should also consider reaching out to long-term donors. Retention rates are still shaky, so you want to make an effort to keep your donors.

Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.

Hi, this is Paul Wilson and I’m a board member at the Lakeside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. This is great. We’re seeing more people coming in right now because of cuts to food stamp programs. We really appreciate your support.

Write a stellar letter  

If you can’t send a handwritten note or make a phone call, then take the time to write a stellar thank you letter. All donors should get this letter, even if they’ve donated online. Getting something in the mail is more personal and your donor will be more likely to see it. Email thank yous tend to be more like receipts, although they don’t have to be. More on that later.

Your letter should not include the usual, boring “On Behalf of X organization…..” Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend and leave out vague jargon such as at-risk or underserved.

Don’t send the same letter to each donor. Recognize past gifts and upgrades, and give a specific example of how the donation will make a difference.

Something like this.

Dear Janet,

You’re amazing! Because of your generous donation of $50,we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries.

Thank you so much for being a longtime donor!

You can also write personal notes on the letters. Think about including an eye-catching photo as well.

Here are some more ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

5 Clever Ways to Improve Your Thank You Letters

4 More Clever Ways to Improve Your Thank You Letters

Steal This Thank You Letter! A Sample Donor Thank You Letter for Your Non-Profit

Give your donors an outstanding online experience

Many people donate online and that includes donating on a mobile device. Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you. It should be personal and not look like an Amazon shopping cart.

Open with Thank you, Diane! or You’re incredible!  Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve. Put all the tax deductible information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

Speaking of the automatically generated thank you email, be sure it’s warm and personal. Make it slightly different than the thank you landing page. It only needs to be a few sentences, but make it good.

Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Take time to write something nice.

Remember, you’re not done yet. Even if someone donates online she should receive a thank you card, letter, or phone call as soon as possible, preferably within 48 hours.

Here are some more ways to give your donors an outstanding online thank you.

5 ways to improve your online donation thank you page

21 Ideas For Your Nonprofit’s Donation Confirmation Page

Make your new donors feel welcome

Retention rates for first-time donors are awful. You want them to stay and your first step is to make these new donors feel welcome. Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your New Donors

Keep it up

Thanking your donors is a year-round commitment. It’s not just something you do after you get a donation. It needs to be a  priority, and you need to thank your donors like you mean it.

Photo bShih-Chieh “Ilya” Li

Why Having an Open House Makes Sense

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If you’re stuck trying to figure out a special way to show appreciation to your donors, how about having an open house at your organization?  If you can’t hold one on site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.

Invite other supporters, too

You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite other supporters such as event attendees, email subscribers, and social media followers, as well? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Encourage your donors to bring a friend.

Coordinate it with your year-end appeal

Depending on your resources, you may only be able to hold one open house a year. If you can hold more, that’s great.

A good time to have your open house is before you launch your year-end appeal, so you could hold one sometime between mid-September and early November.

Another option is spring if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank you event.  

Winter is tricky unless you’re fortunate to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people are off in vacationland.

Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.

Keep it informal

No three-course dinners and speeches that put you to sleep. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work, and serve something to eat and drink. You may be able to get food and beverages donated or find a sponsor.

Have a brief program. You could show a video and/or let a client share his/her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank your guests and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Again, keep it brief. You don’t want anyone fleeing the room.

Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense. 7 Tips to Create an Amazing Donor Cultivation Tour

Let your donors and other supporters see the heart and soul of your organization.

Get your board involved

You must have a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.

Make everyone feel welcome

Don’t hide in the corner or spend all your time talking to your co-workers. Your staff and board need to mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome.

You may want to go over your organization’s talking points and brush up on your elevator pitches, so everyone is prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions.

How to Get Everyone in your Organization on the Same Page

The Big Mistake That’s Hurting Your Nonprofit (and How to Fix It)

Don’t forget about the follow-up

Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be showered with love. Nonprofits often do a poor job of following up after an event and miss out on a great opportunity to build relationships.

Collect names and addresses of people who attended and send a thank you note right away. This is a good project for your board. Don’t ask for money (that comes later).

When you do send your next appeal, include a sentence that says, “It was great to see you at our open house.”

Not all your donors will attend your open house, but will appreciate the invitation. Donors and other supporters who do come are showing you they’re interested in your organization. Keep them interested! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you. That’s why having an open house makes sense.