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.

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Beware of Bright Shiny Objects

3214060741_db8c069c72_mIt can be tempting to jump on the latest craze and try something new. But that bright shiny object may not be the answer you’re looking for.

In fact, you can be more successful in your fundraising and communications if you use methods that have been around for awhile. Here’s how.

Give your donors the personal touch

We have lots of different ways to communicate with donors, many of them electronic. Electronic communication is great because you can get a message out to many people in an instant.

But technology isn’t always our friend. Often these electronic messages don’t sound like they’re coming from a human.

Hardly anyone writes personal letters anymore but imagine your donors’ surprise when they receive a personal, handwritten thank you note from you. Delight Donors and Volunteers With Hand-Written Thank You Notes

Another more personal way to communicate is to give your donors a call to say thank you. Thank You Calls as a Donor Retention Tool: 6 Steps to Success

In this age of automation, we need to be more personal.  

Make retention and relationship building part of your fundraising plan

Most nonprofit organizations rely on fundraising for the bulk of their revenue. It’s not easy to raise money, especially if you spend more time focusing on finding new donors than keeping the ones you already have.

You might think you can take a break after a big fundraising campaign, but your work has just begun. Thank your donors right away and continue to stay in touch throughout the year with donor-centered newsletters and other updates.

If you keep churning through donors and have a high attrition rate, you need to do a better job of building relationships. It’s not hard, but you have to work at it. This link includes a quick way for you to figure out your donor retention rate A Guide to Donor Retention, and here are a few ways to build relationships with your donors throughout the year. How Are You Building Relationships?

Your new donors are closer than you think

Of course, you’ll need new donors. You’ll have more success if you reach out to people who already know you. Potential donors are your newsletter subscribers, social media followers, event attendees, friends of board members, and volunteers.

You can cultivate these supporters by communicating regularly and showing how you are making a difference for the people you serve. If you do it well, you should have a good chance of getting them to donate.

Unfortunately, not everyone is interested in your organization. That’s why buying lists is not the best way to fundraise. Find people who will be drawn to your cause.

It’s also not enough to find people with money(forget about trying to woo Bill Gates). If you want more major donors, work with your board and other donors. Connections always help.

Again, it comes down to good old-fashioned relationship building, something most organizations need to improve.

So, beware of bright shiny objects and focus on more personal communication and building relationships.

Pay Attention to Your Donor Retention

Now that you’ve sent your year-end appeal, take a look at your retention rate to see how well you did. A Guide to Donor Retention Poor retention rates are a chronic problem for nonprofit organizations, but it’s something you can fix.

Reach out to your lapsed donors

How did you do? Did you have a number of donors who gave in the past, but didn’t this year?  Reach out to these lapsed donors by phone or letter.  Let them know you miss them and want them back. Some people may have been busy in December (who wasn’t) and didn’t have time to respond to your appeals.

Who are you missing?

I hope you have a good database to keep track of your donor records.  Check to see who didn’t donate. You should be most concerned about past donors who didn’t give this year. There are a variety of reasons people don’t donate, and many of them are ones you can control.  If you have a number of first-time donors who didn’t give again, chances are you spent a lot of time enticing them to donate, and then, well not much after that.

The case of the disappearing donors

Ideally, once you get a donor, you should be able to keep the person, but that’s not happening.  According to the 2015 Fundraising Effectiveness survey, first-time donor retention is an abysmal 19%.  It’s 63% for repeat donors, which is nothing to celebrate. We can do better.

One of your priorities this year is to get your first-time donors to become long-term donors.  

Create a welcome plan for new donors

If you haven’t already done this, send your new donors a welcome kit by mail or email. Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your New Donors 

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. Does Your Donor Communication Tell Donors What’s Next?

Create a donor relations plan in which you find ways to engage with your donors at least once or twice a month.  You can include this in your communications calendar. 

Know which channels your donors use the most, but don’t neglect direct mail. One idea is to send a thank you for being an amazing donor card at least once a year. If cost is an issue, spread your mailings out over the year, so you send a smaller number of cards each month. Donors may be pleasantly surprised to receive a card in May or September.

Be donor-centered

It’s not enough just to send a donor newsletter or post a social media update.  Most donor communication is all about the organization.  Share stories and updates your donors will want to read.

Keep building relationships

You can’t control your donors’ financial situation, but you can control your communication with them, and it needs to be whole lot better.

Pay attention to your donor retention and work on keeping your donors for a long time.

Image by Bloomerang

What Do Your Donors Think?

 

Last month I read this article in the Boston Globe Magazine. You’ve been asking charities the wrong question It emphasized the importance of focusing on social impact rather than overhead costs. That’s an important discussion, but what struck me were the responses in the print version of the magazine.

Your intention may be very different from what your donors’ reaction will be.

Are you asking too often?

One person responded with”My husband and I are retired, but twice each year we send $10 or $20 to 10 or 20 charities. Within a week, they’re back again. It seems a waste of paper, time, and postage.” I can relate. The number of fundraising emails I received in December made my head spin.

Of course, you need to ask your donors for contributions. You have fundraising goals you need to meet, and the end of year fundraising surge is a proven way to raise revenue.  But your donors are seeing a lot of requests for money.

One way to alleviate this is not to send fundraising appeals to donors who have already contributed to your current campaign.  If that’s not possible, thank anyone who’s already donated.  Keep your appeals donor-centered and focus on building relationships.  Why Does Giving to Your Organization Feel Like a Transaction and Not a Relationship?

Perhaps instead of asking too often, you’re not thanking your donors and engaging with them enough.  Follow this golden rule of fundraising – ask, thank, report/engage, repeat.  You should be in touch with your donors anywhere between once a week and once a month in ways in which you’re not asking for money.  This could be via newsletter, email and social media updates, and thank you cards.

If the only times your donors hear from you is when you send a fundraising appeal, then yes it will seem as if you’re asking too often.  If you engage more with your donors, you might even raise more revenue.  Here’s How Often You Should Mail to Your Donors

The free stuff could cost you money

Another reader lamented the practice of organizations sending stuff such as labels or offering a premium if you make a donation.  “The waste of money on all these offers will not be my money.” Yikes. This is not what you want to hear from a donor.

Your donors want to help you make a difference.  They don’t want more stuff.  Your goal should be to find donors who will be committed to your cause and support you for a long time. If you think you can get more donors because you offer them a coffee mug, you’re reaching out to the wrong people.

Put yourself in your donors’ shoes

Every time you communicate with your donors ask what they will think.  How will she respond to this appeal?  Have we included an engaging story or is it just filled with boring statistics.  Will he want to read this newsletter article about our executive director receiving an award?  More likely a story about the Jones family moving out of a shelter and into their own home will generate more interest.

What you think and what your donors think are not the same. I encourage you to print this great Venn diagram created by Marky Phillips to help you remember what your donors think is important. The fundraising paradox

Image by Marky Phillips

 

 

 

Give Your Donors the Royal Treatment

11715533163_0316b42569_zIn my last post, I wrote about the importance of welcoming your new donors and keeping them happy so they won’t leave after one year, as many do. But it’s equally important to show the love to your current donors.

You may think your most valuable donors are the ones who give the most money, but what about the people who have supported your organization for three, five, or even ten years?  These are your valuable donors, considering repeat donor retention rates are about 65%.

Pay attention to your retention

Donor retention often takes a backseat to finding new donors. That doesn’t make much sense since an “easier” way to raise revenue is to get your current donors to give again and give at a higher level.

This won’t happen if you ignore your donors or only communicate when you ask for money. Yes, you’ll need to find new donors, but spend more time keeping the ones you already have.

Before your next big appeal figure out your retention rate A Guide to Donor Retention, and how long each donor has supported you.

This is your first step to help you keep your current donors. Here’s what else you need to do.

Stay on your donors’ good side

I know you’re swamped trying to get your year-end appeal out, but this is not the time to scale back on your donor communication.  Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. Keep them donor-centered.

Send a special note of gratitude this fall, maybe a month or so before you send your year-end appeal.

Get personal

Personalize your appeal letters and thank you letters. Your donors have names, so don’t address them as Dear Friend.

I’m a big fan of the Whiny Donor (@thewhiny donor).  In the following post she describes how she’s been supporting her alma mater for 24 years and in turn received a thank you letter with the salutation Dear [College] Supporter.  That prompted her to stop giving. You’re bound to blow it with a donor or two…This may not happen to you, but why risk it.

Don’t send the same generic letter to everyone. You must recognize past gifts. Thank donors for their past gift in your appeal letter and a repeat gift in your thank you letter.

While on the personal theme, make sure your letters sound like they’re written by a human, not a robot.

Pour on the gratitude

Thank you phone calls and handwritten notes always trump a pre-printed letter.  I realize you may not have the resources to call or send cards to all your donors. Figure out what you can do, but if you have donors that have supported you for more than two years, that s a big deal, and it shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Find board members, other staff, and volunteers to help.  Perhaps you can only call donors who have given for at least three years.

If you do need to send a pre-printed thank you letter, again make it warm and personal.

You’ve only just begun

Stay in touch throughout the year.  Continue to show gratitude and let your donors know how they’re helping you make a difference.

Give your donors the royal treatment, so they’ll stay with you for many years.

Photo by Dennis Jarvis

Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your New Donors

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Did you know that approximately 70% of first-time donors don’t make a second gift? This has to stop. We can do better a better job of keeping our donors. Here’s how.

Do something special for your current first-time donors

Before your next big appeal, make a point to send your first-time donors a short thank you email, postcard, or note card in which you shower them with appreciation and give a specific example of how their support is helping you make difference.

Of course, you should continue to stay connected to all your supporters by showing gratitude and sharing accomplishments.

Create a welcome plan

Your first step after you receive a donation is to thank your donors within 48 hours, preferably with a handwritten note or phone call. Don’t send a boring, generic thank you letter. Take time to create an awesome thank you. Don’t Treat Thanking Your Donors as an Afterthought

Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk states that first-time donors who receive a thank you call are more likely to donate again and give at a higher level the next year. Get a group of board members and other enthusiastic volunteers to call your new donors, or send them a handwritten thank you card.

*Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any snafus.*

A week or two after the initial thank you, send out a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.

Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and join you on social media.

Your welcome package can include a warm introductory message and a brochure or fact sheet. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization.

Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed.

I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary.

What donors really want from you is to know how they’re helping you make a difference.

New Donor Welcome Kits | Your Next Gift Strategy

How Welcoming is Your Welcome Package?

5 Ways to Wow with Welcome Packs

Who are your new donors?

They could be event attendees, volunteers,or newsletter subscribers. If you know, refer to that in your thank you note or phone call. If not, send a short survey with your welcome package and ask, “How did you hear about us?”

Another question to ask is whether your donors prefer print or electronic communication. Short surveys are also a good way to connect throughout the year. The more you know about your donors the easier it will be to communicate with them.

Keep spreading the love

Keep reaching out to your donors – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on your success.

Think of other ways to do something special for your new donors, such as offering tours of your facility or holding an open house.

A huge factor in donor retention is a good donor relations plan that you will carry out regularly as long as your donors support you, which hopefully will be for many years.

Let’s keep working on bringing up those retention rates.  In my next post, I’ll share some ideas to help you keep your longer-term donors.

Don’t Treat Thanking Your Donors as an Afterthought

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This post is included in the July Nonprofit Blog Carnival 18 End-of-Year Fundraising Tips

Summer is in full swing, but fall is just around the corner.  Many of you may be starting to work on your year-end appeal, but have you given any thought to how you will thank your donors?

Thanking your donors is just as important as your appeal.  Here’s how can give your donors a great thank you experience.

Make a good first impression with your thank you landing page

Many people donate online now, and your landing page is your first chance to say thank you.  It should be personal and not have all the charm of a Home Depot receipt.

Open with Thank you, Jean! or You’re amazing!  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 deductable information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

6 Fresh Ideas for Your Nonprofit’s “Thank You” Landing Page

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

Robots don’t make good writers

Set up an automatic email to go out after someone donates online. This will let your donor know that you received her donation and it didn’t get lost in cyberspace.

Be sure it’s warm and personal.  Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot.

You’ve only just begun

I’m a firm believer that even if someone donates online he should receive a thank you card, letter, or phone call within 48 hours.

Stand out with a handwritten note

You can make your donor’s day by sending a handwritten thank you note. Personal mail is so rare, and your card will stand out.

Now is a good time to create some thank you cards.  One idea is to use a picture of a client or group of clients holding a thank you sign. 58742420_459d268c5e_z If cost is an issue, you could get the cards donated.

Writing cards will take more time, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Craft a sample note; recruit staff, board members, volunteers, and clients to help write cards; and hold thank you writing parties immediately after you send an appeal.

Phone calls make a difference, too

You can do the same thing with thank you phone calls.  Create a sample script, recruit people to make calls, and hold thankathons after your appeal.

Create an awesome letter

If it’s impossible to write cards or make phone calls, then send an awesome letter.

This means something personal and conversational.  Leave out vague jargon such as at-risk or underserved. Recognize past gifts and upgrades, and give a specific example of how the donation will make a difference. Something like this.

Dear David,

Thanks to your generous donation of $75,we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. 

Thank you for being a longtime donor!

Here are some more examples.

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Creating More Donor-Centered Thank You Letters: One Nonprofit’s Success

Make your new donors feel welcome

Approximately 70% of first-time donors don’t give a second gift. We need to change that.

Start thinking about creating a welcome package for your new donors. A week or so after you mail a thank you note/letter, send something in the mail or by email, if money is tight.

New Donor Welcome Kits | Your Next Gift Strategy

How Welcoming is Your Welcome Package?

It’s all about relationships

Keep in touch now and throughout the fall, so you stay on your donors’ radar. Then continue to thank your donors all-year round.

Why You Need a Thank You Plan

As you you prepare for your year-end appeal, please don’t treat thanking your donors as an afterthought.

Image by Woodley Wonderworks