You May Love Your Jargon, But Your Donors Don’t

6530334269_0ba98aa219_m.jpgNonprofit organizations love their jargon, don’t they? But guess what? Your donors don’t love it as much as you do because it’s boring and they may not understand what you’re trying to say.

I think people use jargon because it’s an insider language and it makes them feel like they’re “in the know” in their professional community. It’s easy to slip into jargon-mode around the office. But the danger comes when jargon creeps outside of your insular world and into your donor communication.

People need to understand you to connect with you

We can get lazy and use jargon when we can’t think of anything fresh and original. Instead, you see appeal letters, thank you letters, and newsletter articles laced with cringe-inducing terms such as food insecurity, at-risk youth, underserved communities, and impactful.

Are You Speaking The Same Language As Your Donors?

How to do better

Sometimes you need to give a little more information. For example, instead of just using the term food insecurity, describe a situation where a single mother has to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.

Let’s look at a few more of these problem terms and what you can say instead. You may use some of these terms internally and they might be in your mission statement, but try to limit them when you communicate with your donors.

  • At-risk means there’s a possibility something bad will happen. Instead of just saying at-risk students or youth, tell a story or give specific examples of something bad that could happen. Our tutoring program works with high school students who are more likely to fail, be held back, and drop out of school.   
  • Underserved means not receiving adequate help or services. Instead of saying we work with underserved communities, explain what types of services these residents don’t receive. Maybe it’s healthcare, affordable housing, or decent preschool education. Tell a story or give a specific example. Gina has to take two buses to see a doctor for her diabetes because there isn’t a good healthcare facility in her community.
  • Impact means having an effect on someone or something. How are you doing that, and why is it important? Again, give a specific example. Thanks to donors like you, we’ve helped families find affordable housing so they don’t have to live in a shelter, a motel, or their car. Now they have a place to call home. And, let’s please all agree to stop using the word impactful.

Tell a story

This is why stories are so important. You can get beyond that vague, impersonal jargon and let your donors see firsthand how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

If You’re Making a Difference, You Have Stories to Tell

What would Aunt Shirley think?

I like to use this analogy. Imagine you’re at a family gathering and you’re explaining what your organization does to your 75-year old Aunt Shirley. Does she look confused and uninterested when you spew out words like underserved and at-risk, or does she want you to tell her more when you mention you’ve been able to help homeless families move into their own homes?

Stop using jargon around your office

Another way to help you transition from jargon to understandable language is to stop using it around your office. That means at your staff meetings and in interoffice written communication. Maybe you go so far as to re-write your mission statement to make it more conversational. And telling staff and board members to recite your mission statement as an elevator pitch is a bad idea unless you can make it conversational.

Let’s stop using jargon when we can use clear, conversational language instead. Read on for more examples of scream-inducing jargon. Do you have any to add?

4 Reasons to Stop Using Nonprofit Jargon

Nonprofit Jargon: Do Your Supporters Understand Your Fundraising?

I Have No Idea What You’re Talking About [Nonprofit Jargon]

 

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Give Your Monthly Donors the Attention and Recognition They Deserve

245744537_9b2401b807_mMonthly donors are special because they’ve committed to donating to nonprofits long-term. Retention rates for monthly donors are 90%, which is considerably better than retention rates for other types of donors.

You’d think because of this, organizations would be jumping for joy and giving these donors extra special attention. But you would be wrong. While some organizations do recognize their monthly donors, unfortunately, many do not.

This post will show you how you can give your monthly donors the attention and recognition they deserve. If you don’t have much of a monthly giving program or want to start one, here’s more information on that.

Incorporating Monthly Giving Into Your Fundraising

Welcome your new monthly donors

When someone becomes a monthly donor, whether they’re a first-time donor or have upgraded from a single-gift donor, welcome them into your family of monthly donors.

Be accommodating

I highly recommend a contact person for your monthly donors in case they need to update their credit card information or make a change to their gift, hopefully an upgrade. Include this information in their welcome letter.

Speaking of letters, tax season is upon us (oh joy), and several organizations have sent me a summary of my monthly donations. This is extremely helpful for people who itemize deductions. Make this letter more than just a receipt. Thank your donors and let them know how their monthly donations are helping you make a difference (more on that later).

Another way to help out your monthly donors is to let them know when their credit cards are about to expire. Don’t rely on your donors to remember this. I’m dreading the day I have to update my credit card information. Most likely I will miss some organizations. This will help you, as well, so you can keep receiving a steady stream of donations.

Make your thank yous more than just okay

When you send your initial thank you letter, you MUST recognize the recipient as a monthly donor.

Many organizations send a monthly acknowledgment email or letter, and I would say most are just okay. Some are basically only receipts. And while it’s helpful to know the organization received your donation, you’re not practicing good stewardship if that’s all you do.

You could spruce up these monthly acknowledgments, both by not making them sound like they were written by a robot and by providing some donor-centered updates.

One recommendation I have is to make sure every monthly donor gets at least one handwritten thank you note a year. You don’t have to write much but you will make a good impression.

Reach out at least once a month

Besides showing #donorlove, here are some other ways to reach out to your monthly donors.

Create a special newsletter for monthly donors or include a cover letter referencing monthly donors. I’m not always a fan of the letter from the Executive Director, so see if you can keep it donor-centered. You could also give a shout out to your monthly donors and include information on how to become a monthly donor.

Hold an open house for monthly donors. Even if they don’t attend, they’ll appreciate the invitation. You could also offer tours, either at a specific time or on request.

Include a list of your monthly donors in a newsletter, annual report, or on your website. Donor lists are just one of many ways to show appreciation and not the only one, so do much more than just that. Of course, honor any donor’s wish to remain anonymous.

Send an email update specifically for monthly donors.

Thank yous, newsletters, and updates are not a one-time time deal. Keep it up throughout the year. Create a special section in your communications calendar specifically for monthly donors.

Keep Monthly Donors Longer With These 6 Engagement Tips

Monthly donors get their own fundraising appeals

As I mentioned before, once someone becomes a monthly donor, you must always recognize them as such. You most certainly should send fundraising appeals to monthly donors, but not the same ones you send to other donors.

I think the best way to raise additional money from monthly donors is to ask them to upgrade their monthly gift. Be as specific as possible. For example – We’re so happy you’re part of our family of monthly donors and are grateful for your gift of $5.00 a month. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $7.00 or even $10.00 a month?

You can also ask monthly donors for an additional gift during one of your fundraising campaigns, but you MUST recognize they’re monthly donors – We really appreciate your gift of $10 a month. Could you help us out a little more right now with an additional gift? We want to expand our tutoring program to three more elementary schools.

If you send the usual generic appeal, imagine your donor saying –  “But I already give you $10 a month and you don’t seem to know that.”

All your donors are special, but monthly donors are extra special. Don’t they deserve some attention and recognition?

 

Are You Shortchanging Your Donors?

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Your donors made a commitment to your organization by giving to you. Are you making the same commitment to them?

Donors have a choice. There are many nonprofits they could donate to, but they chose yours, along with others I’m sure.

Donors can also choose to stop giving to your organization and this could happen if you shortchange them by not giving them the recognition and appreciation they deserve.

Here are a few examples of ways you could be shortchanging your donors. Are you a guilty party?

Treating all donors the same

Your donors are not the same, yet many organizations send the same appeal and thank you letters to all their donors.

Don’t do that. At the very least, send different communication to new donors, current donors, and monthly donors. Welcome new donors, thank donors for their previous support, and acknowledge those ever so important monthly donors.

To take it a step further, get to know your donors better. A survey is a great way to do that. You could pop one in an e-newsletter or include one in the welcome packet you should be sending to new donors.

You can survey donors about what drew them to your organization, what issues are important to them, or what their communication preferences are. This way you can share information you know they’ll be interested in. Also, if you find out your donors don’t spend much time on social media and prefer email, you can concentrate your efforts there.

Some organizations allow donors to give to different initiatives. If you’re one of them, send communication specific to that program. For example, send one group an engaging update on early education and another something on childhood hunger.

Strengthen Your Donor Segmentation: 7 Successful Strategies

3 Examples of Nonprofit Donor Surveys

Not communicating enough

Funny how nonprofits go all out during appeal time and after that you hear almost nothing. You need to communicate throughout the year. Make a point to reach out to your donors between once a week and once a month. A communications calendar will help with this.

Some organizations do a good job of thanking and updating throughout the year. Others, not so much. Your donors were drawn to your organization because they’re interested in the work you do. Let them know how they’re helping you make a difference.

Find creative ways to stay in touch. One organization sent me a quiz by email, which was a great, interactive way to find out more about a certain issue.

Not communicating well

I could write an entire post about poor communication. Okay, maybe you have a newsletter, but it’s not very good. Yes, you thank your donors, but all you send is an organization-centered, generic email.

Thank your donors like you mean it. Share stories in your in your newsletter that your donors want to read (remember the survey I mentioned above). Ditch your jargon and write in a conversational style your donors will understand.

Another problem is getting bogged down in the details with a bunch of long-winded text. Get your donors interested right away. They’re busy and aren’t going to read a long, boring newsletter or annual report.

Short and more frequent is the way to go. If you email a short, and of course engaging, update every two weeks or so your donors shouldn’t get the impression you’re not interested in them.

You also want to communicate by mail periodically. You could write an amazingly personal email, but it’s so easy for that to get lost in your donor’s inbox. And what if you find out some of your donors don’t use electronic communication very often?

At the very least, make a point to send at least one non-ask piece by mail. One suggestion I like to recommend for organizations with tight mailing budgets is to spread the love throughout the year. Send a small number of handwritten notes or postcards each month ensuring that every donor gets one. Also, imagine their surprise when they get a note from you in May or September when they’re not expecting anything.

Your donors are important and they need to know that. Don’t shortchange them by treating them all the same, not communicating enough, and doing a poor job of communicating with them.

Is This The Best You Can Do?

3986997574_5aa55585a4_mI sometimes wonder if nonprofit organizations are doing the best they can when they communicate with their donors. Unfortunately, there are a lot of examples of poor communication out there.

It doesn’t have to be like this. You can do a better job of communicating with your donors if you make an effort.

Does your thank you letter make your donors smile?

I find some of the worst examples come from thank you letters or what I like to call the thank you experience (for online donors it’s the thank you landing page, thank you email, and a thank you by mail or phone). Often it’s a lack of thank you experience.

At the end of last year, I gave an example of a thank you landing page and thank you email which were basically just transactional receipts. Some Observations From the Year-End Fundraising Season

This organization also sent a thank you letter about a week after I made the donation. I was pleasantly surprised because most nonprofits don’t mail a thank you letter if you donate online, although they should.

My good feelings vanished when I saw this letter was also just a receipt. It was from the Chief Financial Officer and opened with – This letter serves to acknowledge receipt by X Organization of a donation of X dated 11/27/18. Then it when on to say my husband and I may be entitled to claim a tax deduction. At the very end, the organization said – Thank you for your generous contribution.

This organization seems to think the most important part of a donation is the tax deduction rather than making the donor feel appreciated.

The organization redeemed itself a little by sending another letter from the President, which was dated January 10. This was an actual thank you letter, although not an outstanding one (more on that in a future post).

The problem here is this organization left me with a bad impression by making their initial thank you a receipt. I should have received the actual thank you letter at the beginning of December, not six weeks after I made the donation.  I would have combined the two letters, leading with the thank you and including the tax-deductible information at the end.

Contrast this with a rare handwritten thank you note I received from Reach Out and Read, which gave specific examples by telling me my gift will enrich the lives of children by providing them with books at their wellness visits. and Their parents will receive information about the importance of reading to their children daily.

One question you can ask yourself as you write a thank you letter is will this letter make my donors smile?  It won’t if it’s like the first example but should if it resembles the second one.

I encourage you to spend six minutes watching this video How to write a great thank you letter to your year end donors, which will help you create a thank you letter that will make your donors smile.

One key to good thank you letters is giving it the personal touch. TY Thursday: A Personal Letter is Better Than a Personalized One

Fundraising appeal dodgeball

#GivingTuesday and the end of December bring back memories of playing dodgeball in gym class. Nonprofits are hurling a constant stream of email appeals with pleas for “last chance to donate.” Really, you can’t donate after December 31?

I was barraged with emails at the end of December even though I gave gifts in November or am a monthly donor. Most were just generic appeals, although a few added a thank you to people who have already donated. Personalization didn’t exist.

Fundraising letters weren’t much better. Organizations I don’t support tried to entice me with useless mailing labels and notepads. Organizations I do support don’t acknowledge my past giving.

To paraphrase one of my favorite Seth Godin quotes – More isn’t better. Better is better. –  Instead of a constant blast of appeals, work on making them better.

5 Lessons From Year-End For Fundraisers Like You

Donors Are Ticked Off By Excess Solitication

What’s holding you back?

Now that we’re in the New Year, this is a good time to figure out how you can make improvements in your donor communication.

Although a handwritten thank you note is better than a letter, you may not be able to send notes to all your donors. But that shouldn’t stop you from writing a good, heartfelt letter. Also, show your online donors some love by sprucing up your landing page and thank you email so they don’t resemble a receipt.

Maybe you can write short, personal notes on your thank you letters. Recruit board members and volunteers to help you with this.

Perhaps you’ve been sending the same boring appeal letters and thank you letters for years. Write a better letter that focuses more on relationships with your donors instead of a transaction.

Segment your donors. At the very least, thank current donors for their past support. Investing in a good database will help this.

Take time to make improvements in your donor communication so your donors don’t wonder – Is this the best you can do?

A Few Ways You Can Raise More Money in 2019

Happy New Year! I expect many of you launched a year-end appeal last year. I hope it was successful. If it wasn’t, I have some suggestions about how you can raise more money – both now and throughout the year.

Reach out to your lapsed donors

Take advantage of this now. Look to see who donated in 2017, but didn’t give this year. It’s possible some people meant to give but were too busy.

Send these donors a personalized appeal or give them a call. Let them know you miss them and want them back. You can go back another year or two, as well.

Take a good look at your list of lapsed donors. They’re not all the same. Do you have someone who’s given consistently over the last few years, but not this year, or are you looking at a person who gave once five years ago?

Eventually you’ll want to move some of your lapsed donors to an inactive file. This will save you money because you won’t be mailing appeals to people who aren’t going to donate.

But you can raise more money with a pesonalized appeal to donors who are likely to give again.

5 ways to win back your lapsed donors

We Want You Back! A Simple Strategy for Reactivating Lapsed Donors

Emphasize monthly giving

A great way to raise more money is by having a monthly/recurring giving program. Monthly donors usually give more and their retention rate is 90%.

If you don’t have a monthly giving program, make this the year you start one. You can also try to get current donors to upgrade to monthly giving.

Your best bet for monthly donors are people who’ve given at least twice. These are donors who have shown a commitment to you. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask first-time donors. You can include information about monthly giving in the welcome packet you send to new donors. You do welcome new donors, right?

Donors who gave in November or December may not be ready to give again so soon. Make a plan to specifically invite people to become monthly donors in the spring or at other times of the year.

Incorporating Monthly Giving Into Your Fundraising

Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

Remember the two R’s

Now I’m going to tell you how you can raise more money without asking for money. You need to remember the two R’s – retention and relationships.

It’s easier and less expensive to keep your donors than to find new ones. Yet, many nonprofits have abysmal retention rates, especially for first-time donors. Now is a good time to figure out your retention rate.

One way to raise your retention rate is with the second R – relationships. Building relationships with your donors is a key component of fundraising.

This starts with a good thank you experience and continues as you update your donors regularly throughout the year letting them know how they’re helping you make a difference.

One reason you may be behind in your fundraising goals is because you just blasted out a bunch of generic appeals without targeting them to specific donors and trying to build relationships.

How To Actually Calculate Donor Retention (The Right Way) & 8 Essential Tips For Effective Donor Retention

What Comes Next

The New Year is a good time to evaluate what’s working and what’s not in your fundraising. You should be able to raise more money by reaching out to your lapsed donors, starting or growing a monthly giving program, paying attention to your donor retention, and focusing on building relationships.

Photo by: http://401kcalculator.org

Some Observations From the Year-End Fundraising Season

We’re right in the thick of year-end fundraising season. If you have a campaign underway, I hope it’s going well for you, although it may be too early to tell.

A good fundraising campaign is more than just sending out a bunch of appeals and hoping the donations come in.

I get a lot of appeals, some from organizations I support and some from ones I don’t. I’d like to share a few observations from the year-end fundraising season.

Most of what I’m going to cover focuses on organizations I already support. For those I don’t, I’ll just say your generic Dear Friend letters aren’t giving me a compelling reason to give. And that includes your triple match offer. That said, organizations I already support aren’t pouring on the inspiration either.

Fundraising is not a transaction

Don’t get me started on the transactional aspect of #Giving Tuesday. I was barraged with email appeals, many of which were not that different from the ones I received the day before on Cyber Monday.

Most of my gifts are monthly donations which automatically renew, so I didn’t make that many gifts on #GivingTuesday. I thought I was making donations, but some organizations viewed it as a transaction.

One organization’s landing page looked like this.

************************************************************************

THANK YOU!

You may print this page for your records. A receipt has also been emailed to you.

ORDER INFORMATION

Your Transaction has been Approved!

Merchant: xxx

Description: Donation for Specific fund

Email: agreen…

Name: Ann Green

Company:

Phone: xxx

Street Address: xxx

City: xxx

State: xxx

ZIP Code: xxx

PAYMENT INFORMATION

Amount:

Transaction ID: 61419346676

Payment Method: Visa  xxx

Date/Time

QUESTIONS?

If you have questions or need assistance with your donation, call  xxx or email us at xxx

************************************************************************

The thank you email they sent included the subject line – Transaction Receipt from xxx

Ugh! I made a donation not a transaction. Whatever software they’re using seems to be geared towards purchases, not donations, and that’s a problem unless they include a warm, heartfelt message with their “auto-receipt.” That didn’t happen. All I got besides Thank you for your support, was a generic description of what the organization does.

Another organization sent a transaction receipt and let me know  – This order is now complete. Transaction approved! I also received a couple of “donation receipts.”

Can we please stop using the word transaction? There’s nothing wrong with including a receipt, but that’s not the only thing you should send.

Create an amazing thank you landing page and an equally amazing thank you email and put the receipt at the end.

Four Ways to Improve Your Thank You Redirect Page to Retain More Online Donors

A little less generic communication, a little more segmentation

Actually, a lot more segmentation. Only a handful of the appeal letters I received thanked me for my past support. One letter opened with Words cannot express how grateful I am to have you as part of our team.

Most of the email appeals were just generic requests. The ones I received on #GivingTuesday made a big deal about it being #GivingTuesday. I wish they would have made a bigger deal about recognizing me personally.

One organization did acknowledge the gift I gave a year ago on #GivingTuesday, even though it was a monthly gift that automatically renews.

What I would like to see first is organizations saying thank you for being a donor, and don’t bury that at the end of the letter. Make it prominent.

Next, as someone who makes mostly monthly gifts, I want to be acknowledged as a monthly donor. These donations automatically renew, but it’s fine to ask for an additional donation or an upgrade.

After thanking me for my generous support as a monthly donor, one organization asked if I would like to make a special gift this month or increase my regular pledge. Another organization sent a request to increase my gift by $1.00 a month. Unfortunately, those are the exceptions not the rule.

It will take a little more work, but send different appeals to potential donors, current donors, and monthly donors.

Keep telling your stories

I’ll end on a more positive note. The appeals that stood out included stories, as well as photos.  One that caught my eye was a first-person story from a boy named Jacob. In his handwriting (most likely), Jacob recounts his battle with leukemia – When I was 4½, I was told that I had leukemia. For 2½ years, I went through a lot of bad stuff…… Another story came from an animal therapy dog named Tova who made a request to Help Me Help More Humans.

Taking a creative approach is much better than bragging about your organization or opening your letter by saying you have a challenge match, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but opening with a story would have been better.

If you’re not raising enough money or keeping your donors this year, you may need to look at fundraising as more than a transaction, segment your donors, and share some good stories.

What Comes Next

Image result for free images for next

I imagine most of you have sent out your year-end appeal. You may think your work is done for now, but it’s not.

In fact, what comes next is even more important, especially if you want to keep your donors for a long time.

Fundraising isn’t just about raising money. It’s also about building relationships and making your donors feel good about giving to your organization.

Some of you may already be doing what I’m going to suggest below. Kudos to you! But I can guarantee some of you aren’t doing these crucial relationship building steps.

Do a good job of thanking your donors

The key word here is good. A good thank you is not the same boring email or letter you’ve been using for way too long. A good thank you is also not something you send weeks after you’ve received a donation.

You want your donors to feel good about making a donation. A handwritten note or phone call is always better than a letter, but if you only have the means to do a letter, make it awesome.

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

The retention rate for new donors continues to be abysmal.

One way to help ensure people will give again is to create a welcome plan, which will provide you with ways to let your new donors know how much you appreciate them.

If you specifically welcome your new donors, you’ll stand out because most organizations don’t do this. Make sure your welcome plan consists of ways to communicate throughout the year and not just the initial welcome message. The following post has more helpful information on welcoming new donors. Nonprofit Retention: All Donors Aren’t Created Equal

Make your current donors feel special, too

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.

If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.  

This is why segmenting your donors and personalizing their correspondence is crucial, so is a good database to help you with this. Strengthen Your Donor Segmentation: 7 Successful Strategies

Make a plan to specifically recognize your long-term donors.

Send holiday and New Year’s greetings

The holidays give us the perfect opportunity to reach out. Send holiday and New Year’s greetings by mail or email. Do not include any type of ask with this. If you need to send fundraising reminders, make that a separate message.

Don’t hold back on your other donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end fundraising, 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.

Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep going

Your first New Year’s resolution should be to communicate with your donors more. Many nonprofits seem to go quiet between fundraising campaigns. Don’t be one of them.

Keep reaching out to your donors – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on how they’re helping you make a difference.

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

You want to keep your donors for a long time and making them feel good about supporting your organization will help you with this.

Image via ImgCop.com