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.

Advertisements

Incorporating Monthly Giving Into Your Fundraising

Image via Bloomerang

Most of you are getting ready to launch your year-end appeal if you haven’t already done so. I hope your organization also has a monthly/recurring giving program. If you don’t, you’re missing out on a great way to raise more money and receive a constant stream of revenue throughout the year.

Plus, monthly giving will raise your retention rate. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the retention rate for monthly donors is 90%. These donors are committed to your organization!

To keep things simple, I’m going to use the term monthly giving, but you should offer your donors other options, such as quarterly giving.

How to get started

If you don’t already have a monthly giving program, try to set one up before your year-end appeal and let your donors know about it. If that’s not possible, make it one of your first New Year’s resolutions for 2019.

Setting up a monthly giving program will take a little work up front but will pay off in the end. Mention it in your appeal letters and make it a prominent option on your donation page.

Some organizations’ donation pages aren’t set up for monthly giving. I experienced this recently when I tried to make a donation. If I wanted to make a recurring gift, I had to contact the organization and in the interest of time, I chose a one-time gift.

Make it easy for everyone and set up a monthly giving option on your donation page.

Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

Invite your current donors to become monthly donors

One way to get monthly donors is to ask your current donors to switch to monthly giving. Send targeted appeals to donors who have given at least twice. These donors have already shown you their commitment.

Let them know how much you appreciate their support and invite them to join your family of monthly donors. Show them how their $50 or $100 gift is helping you make a difference and how they can help even more with gifts of $5 or $10 a month.

Monthly donors get their own special appeal

If you already have monthly donors, send them a special appeal. Don’t send them a generic appeal that doesn’t recognize that they’re monthly donors. You should be personalizing and segmenting all your appeal letters, anyway.

Thank them for being a monthly donor and let them know you couldn’t do your work without their continued support. Politely ask monthly donors who’ve supported you for at least six months if they can upgrade their gift.

Monthly donors also get their own thank you letters

Not only do monthly donors get their own thank you letters, handwritten notes, or phone calls, you need separate letters for brand new monthly donors and current single-gift donors who’ve become monthly donors. I covered this in a recent post.

 Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Don’t shortchange your monthly donors with a generic thank you letter.

I make most of my donations monthly. The thank yous I receive range from pretty good to dreadful to nonexistent.

Some organizations will send a monthly acknowledgment by email. I don’t mind these because it lets me know my donation was charged. Often I get the same boring email each month with an equally sleep-inducing subject line such as Subsequent Sustaining Thank You. One organization uses the subject line You Are AMAZING, which is pretty amazing, and rare.

Since your donors have committed to donating every month, show them the same courtesy by communicating with them at least once a month. Those generic thank you emails don’t count.

You could send an e-mail update and at least a couple of updates by mail. Show your donors how they’re helping you make difference in your updates. Share a story or give specific examples.

A few ways I’ve seen organizations recognize their monthly donors are by giving them a special shout out in their newsletter, thanking them in their annual report, and inviting them to take a tour of the organization. Other ideas include an open house, a thank you video, a thank you postcard, and a handwritten note. Whatever you do, keep in touch throughout the year.

Pay attention to your monthly donors

All donors are special, but monthly donors are extra special because they’ve made this commitment to you. Therefore, you’re doing a huge disservice when you don’t recognize them for who they are. You can send requests for an additional single gift but not without thanking them for their monthly support.

Speaking of paying attention, you need to keep track of when a donor’s gift is about to expire. One way to avoid that is to not include an expiration option on your donation page. But that only solves part of the problem because credit cards have expiration dates. Don’t rely on your donors to keep track of this. They’re busy and have a lot of other things to worry about.

Set up a system where you can flag credit card expiration dates. A month ahead of time, send your donors a friendly reminder letting them know it’s time to renew their monthly donation. You can also ask for an upgrade and, of course, thank them. If you don’t do this, you’ll lose money and you’re showing your donors you don’t care because you’re not paying attention to them.

What Can You Do If Your Monthly Donors’ Payments Are Not Coming In?

Monthly giving is a proven way to raise more money and improve donor retention. I hope you’ll take the time to start or grow a monthly giving program for your organization.

Monthly giving resources

 

Monthly Giving Mistakes

16185149128_a4db78e711_m

Monthly giving is a great way to raise additional revenue and boost your retention rate. If you don’t have a monthly giving program, start one now. How to Create a Monthly Giving Program for Your Nonprofit

Many organizations do have a monthly or recurring giving option, which is great. What’s not great are some of the mistakes I see nonprofits making with their monthly giving.

Here are few of those monthly giving mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Sending generic appeals to monthly donors

I’m a firm believer that once someone becomes a monthly donor, they get their own appeal. You should be segmenting your appeals anyway (by current donors, potential donors, etc) and that rarely happens.

Recognizing that you know your donors can help you raise more money. Some organizations have special names for their monthly donors. All donors are special, but monthly donors are extra special because they made a commitment to support you long-term.

Therefore, you’re not showing the love when they get a one-size-fits-all appeal that doesn’t recognize they’re monthly donors.

I mentioned before that monthly giving allows you to raise extra money. Another way to raise additional revenue is to ask for a larger gift. Most organizations don’t do this and that’s one of the perils of generic appeals.

Here’s a way to craft an appeal to ask monthly donors to upgrade their gifts.

Thank you so much for your donation of $5.00 a month. We really appreciate your support. You can help us out even more by increasing your gift to $7.00 or even $10.00 a month.

Be reasonable. One organization did ask me to increase from $5.00 to $7.00 a month. Another asked me to become a Sustainer at $25.00 a month, which is a bit of a jump.

Not paying attention and letting monthly gifts expire

A little over a year ago, I started making monthly donations. Some organizations let you choose how many months you want to donate, although most don’t have that option. When given an option to choose, I picked 12 months. I didn’t keep track of which organizations had “expiration dates.” Neither did these organizations.

It wasn’t until I went through my credit card statements at the beginning of January, that I discovered three of my monthly donations had stopped charging. I did renew these donations and now I’m keeping track of which donations will expire in a year.

But how much of this is my responsibility? Donors are busy, especially at the end of the year. Help them out a little. These organizations missed two months of donations because they weren’t paying attention. I wonder how many other monthly donations they missed as well.

You can avoid this by keeping track of when monthly donations are set to expire. A month ahead of time, send donors a friendly reminder letting them know it’s time to renew their monthly donation. You can use the example above to thank donors and ask for an upgrade as well.

Monthly donors are not the same as single gift donors. I did receive generic appeals from some of these organizations but ignored them because I figured my monthly gift would continue.

Your thank you acknowledgments are boring  

Given that some organizations don’t bother to thank their donors at all, I should be happy that I get thank you acknowledgments each month for my monthly gifts. But many of these organizations send exactly the same thank you letter (most by email, a few by mail) every time. Sometimes it’s sporadic – thank yous one month, nothing another.

Here’s the text of one thank you I get every month.

Thank you very much for your ongoing support and your sustainer donation of $5.00 to X

Your next donation is scheduled for 1/31/18.

If you need to change your credit card or billing information, please visit the Gift Service Center or contact our Member Services team at …….

Your ongoing commitment will make a real difference, and we are deeply grateful for your support. It’s good to know you’re with us.

At the bottom, there’s a Donation Transaction Summary. Oh, that dreaded word transaction.

Kind of boring, isn’t it? Monthly giving expert, Erica Waasdorp recommends sending one thank you letter for the tax year and not sending monthly thank you letters. Is Your Monthly Donor Tax-Letter Ready? This way you can send one super-fabulous thank you letter instead of 12 boring ones.

However, it is possible to create 12 interesting updates. If you want to send a thank you each month, then give a specific example of how a donor’s gift is helping you make a difference. Or take Erica’s advice and nix the monthly thank you. Instead you could create a newsletter or send updates specifically for monthly donors.

Either way, be sure to stay in touch with your monthly donors at least once a month. They’ve made a commitment to support you once a month. You can do the same for them by pouring on the gratitude and showing these donors how they’re helping you make a difference.

A monthly/recurring giving program can be a great opportunity for your organization. Don’t blow it by making these mistakes.

Making the Most of Monthly Giving

 

Image via Bloomerang

Monthly or recurring giving is a great way to raise more money and give you a constant stream of revenue throughout the year. More nonprofits are taking advantage of this. According to CauseVox, 54% of donors give through a sustainer (recurring) program, with 82% giving monthly.

Plus, monthly giving will raise your retention rate. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the retention rate for monthly donors is 90%. These donors are committed to your organization!

How to get started

If you don’t already have a monthly/recurring giving program, get one set one up before your next big appeal and let your donors know about it. While this post will focus on monthly giving, you should certainly give your donors other options for recurring giving, such as quarterly.

Setting up a monthly giving program will take a little work upfront, but will pay off in the end.  Mention it in your appeal letters and make it a prominent option on your donation page. How to Create a Monthly Giving Program for Your Nonprofit

Get donors on board

One way to get monthly donors is to ask your current donors to switch to monthly giving. Send targeted appeals to donors who have given at least twice. These donors have already shown you their commitment.

Let them know how much you appreciate their support and invite them to join your family of monthly donors. Show them how their $50 or $100 gift is helping you make a difference and how they can help even more with gifts of $5 or $10 a month. The 7 Steps to Launching a Monthly Giving Program at Your Non-Profit

Monthly donors get their own special appeal

If you already have monthly donors, send a special appeal just for them. Don’t send them a generic appeal that doesn’t recognize that they’re monthly donors. You should be personalizing and segmenting all your appeal letters, anyway.

Thank them for being a monthly donor and let them know you couldn’t do your work without their continued support. Politely ask monthly donors who’ve supported you for at least six months if they can upgrade their gift.

Keep in touch throughout the year

I donate monthly to a number of organizations and wrote about my experience earlier this year. Raise More Money With Monthly Gifts

Some organizations do a better job of communicating with their monthly donors than others. Be one that shows these donors how much you appreciate them.

Since your donors have committed to donating every month, show them the same courtesy by communicating with them at least once a month. You could send an e-mail update and at least a couple of updates by mail. Show your donors how they’re helping you make difference in your updates. Share a story or give specific examples.

A few ways I’ve seen organizations recognize their monthly donors are by giving them a special shout out in their newsletter, thanking them in their annual report, and inviting them to take a tour of the organization. Other ideas could include an open house, a thank you video, a thank you postcard, or a handwritten note. Whatever you do, keep in touch throughout the year and make your monthly donors feel special.

Take advantage of this opportunity to raise more money and boost your retention rate by starting or enhancing your monthly giving program.

More monthly giving resources.

Raise More Money With Monthly Gifts

30653824153_68dce512ed_m

Although I often encourage monthly (or recurring) gifts as a great way to raise more money, I just started making them at the end of last year. I made all my pledges online, and it was easy to do.

It should also be relatively easy for you to start or grow a monthly giving program. Of course, this doesn’t just include asking for donations. You’ll need to thank your monthly donors and stay in touch throughout the year.

Here’s what you need to get started.

Make a special request

You should always promote monthly giving in your fundraising appeals. Your best bet to get a monthly commitment is long-term donors. One idea is to send specially targeted appeals to donors who have given for at least two years. Thank them for their past support and ask them to upgrade to becoming a monthly donor. Their previous donation of $50 could become $5 a month or $100 becomes $10 a month.

Make it easy

Be sure monthly or recurring giving options are prominent on your pledge form and donation page. Let your donors know what $5, $10, $15 etc a month will fund.

Make the online process easy, but keep in mind that some donors won’t want to set up their monthly giving online. Some may want to do this by mail or phone, and if it’s by phone, make sure there’s a friendly person on the other end to help them.

If possible, make one person responsible for monthly giving. There needs to be a contact person if your donor needs to change her credit card/bank account information or has questions.

Create an attitude of gratitude

Welcome your monthly donors with open arms. If they’re first-time donors, welcome them to your organization. If they’re current donors, thank them for going the extra mile and becoming a monthly donor.

Most of the organizations I donated to thanked me specifically for being a monthly donor. Some did it better than others.  One organization refers to their monthly donors as Friends for all Seasons. Another told me “I have joined an elite group of dedicated supporters we call our Friends of the Center.” Another thanked me for being a Monthly Partner.

These organizations are telling me I’m extra special, and most of my gifts were $5 a month.

Several organizations send me monthly thank you letters either by mail or email. While this is nice, most of them are exactly the same generic thank you every month. One sends a statement, but it includes a different update each month.

Here’s how you can do better. Yes, send your these donors a thank you each month, but don’t resort to the same old same old. One organization that helps low-income families does a good job of sending engaging updates. Here’s an excerpt from their most recent email thank you.
Boys with shoes

When a mother of three children picked up her children’s Kidpacks, she burst into tears and said “My kids will be so happy.” She couldn’t afford to spend extra money on new clothes, shoes, books or school supplies because she was barely making ends meet.

Much better than a boring letter or receipt.

Take your donors on a journey

You want to stay in touch with your monthly donors and let them know how they’re helping you make a difference. You can do this with your monthly thank you letters and other updates. You may also want to consider a special newsletter just for monthly donors.

Another idea is to introduce your monthly donors to an individual or family your organization is working with. Let’s say you run a tutoring program. You can introduce your donors to Kira and her tutor, Sophia. Each month you can share updates on how Sophia is helping Kira do better in school.

Make your monthly donors feel special

Of course, all your donors are special, but go out of your way to show the love to your monthly donors. Find creative ways to show appreciation. You could make a video or hold an open house just for monthly donors. You want them to stay committed to being monthly donors for a long time.

Erica Waasdorp is an expert in monthly giving and has tons of information to help you.

And here are some more monthly giving tips.

18 Tips to Create a Wildly Profitable Monthly Giving Program

3 Tried and True Techniques That Encourage Monthly Giving

 

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.