Break Free From Your Generic Communication

4002324674_cc8c5b9d3e_zHow many times have you received an appeal or thank you letter that never mentions your past giving or that you’re a monthly donor? All you get is a generic, one-size-fits-all letter that doesn’t acknowledge who you are. Chances are most of the other donors of that organization are getting the exact same letter.

This happens way too often and it’s a problem. Your donors aren’t the same, so they shouldn’t all get the same letter. Another problem is these letters continue with the generic theme by using vague language and even worse – jargon.

Break free from your generic communication and create something more personal. Here’s how.

Segment your donors

Segment your donors into different groups as much as you can. At the very least, create different letters for new donors, repeat donors, and monthly donors. You can also personalize letters to lapsed donors, event attendees, volunteers, etc.

Strengthen Your Donor Segmentation: 7 Successful Strategies

4 SIMPLE DONOR SEGMENTS THAT WILL MAXIMIZE YOUR FUNDRAISING EFFORTS

Thank your donors for their previous gifts and/or upgrades. Speaking of upgrades, many organizations don’t ask donors to increase their gifts because they’re sending everyone the same, generic letter. If you don’t ask, you most likely won’t receive. One reason (among many) to segment your donors is it can help you raise more money.

You can craft an appeal like this – Thank you so much for your donation of $50 last year. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $75 or even $100? This way we can help more homeless families find housing.

Also, giving donors the amount of their last gift helps them out. Donors are busy and give to other organizations besides yours. They may not remember what they’ve given before.

Although, even if you ask for an upgrade, it may not happen if you ignore your donors or only blast them with appeals. You need to practice good donor relations, too.

Top 10 Ways to Upgrade Nonprofit Donors

And let’s stop sending Dear Friend letters, as well. You’re not being a good friend if you don’t even use your donors’ names.

Yes, this will take more time, but it’s worth the investment. So is a good database to help you with this. Your donors will feel appreciated and may give you more money.

Generic language is uninspiring and confusing

If you’re bombarding your donors with vague, generic language or jargon, you’re going to bore and/or confuse them pretty quickly. Most of your donors don’t have a medical or social services background. They don’t use terms like food insecurity, at-risk populations, and underserved communities and neither should you.

Use language they’ll understand. Instead of talking about food insecurity, give an example of a family choosing between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. What you mean by at-risk or underserved?  Are high school students less likely to graduate on time? Do residents of a certain community not have good health care nearby? Get specific, but at the same time, keep it simple.

Deconstructing Your Jargon

Green Eggs and Ham. The quintessential primer for nonprofit donor communications.

Another way to burst past generic language and jargon is to tell stories. Most people respond better to a human-interest story than a bunch of boring statistics.

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

How you can do better

You may be between fundraising campaigns right now and have a little more time (or maybe not). If so, now is a good time to start segmenting your donors in your database, if you haven’t already done that. Also, segmenting your donors isn’t a one-time deal. Make changes if you need to. For example, some of your single-gift donors may have upgraded to monthly.

In addition, dust off those templates and freshen up your appeal letters and thank you letters. Create letter templates for different donor groups and replace your vague, generic language with something clear, conversational, and specific.

Have someone outside your organization, a friend or family member, look at your messages. Something that’s clear to you may mean nothing to others.

Take time to break free from your generic communication with something that will show your donors how much you appreciate them by recognizing who they are and giving them content they can relate to.

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Get Ready to Show Some #DonorLove

32497267743_0b58581e37_mWhen was the last time you thanked your donors? I mean really thanked them. That lame, automatic thank you email you sent after your year-end appeal doesn’t cut it. And even if you were one of the few organizations who did a good job of thanking their donors, gratitude is not a one-time deal.

#DonorLove is a yearlong endeavor and with Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s a perfect opportunity to thank your donors and show how much you appreciate their support.

8 Top Ways to Send Nonprofit Donors Love on Valentine’s Day

12 Ways to Send Your Donors Love With a Valentine

Okay, I get it, maybe you would rather not to go for a Valentine’s Day theme, but you should still do something fun and creative to show appreciation this month (and every month). The holidays are over and it’s been a cold winter for many of us. We could all use a little mood booster right now.

This is also a good opportunity to keep in touch with the people who gave to your year-end appeal, especially first-time donors. If you haven’t shown any #DonorLove since your year-end appeal, then you must reach out soon.

Here are a few ways you can show some #DonorLove.

Create a thank you photo

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

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Image result for pictures of people holding thank you signs

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 and you don’t need a Hollywood production team to create one. Here are some examples of thank you videos.

4 Inexpensive Examples of Saying Thank You With Video

A Thank You Video to Promote Donor Retention

Obviously, the purpose is to thank your donors. A simple video showing a bunch of people saying thank you will do the trick. You also want your video to be short, donor-centered, and show your organization’s work up close and personal.

Your thank you landing page is a perfect place to put a video (or a photo). This is your first opportunity to say thank you and most landing pages are just boring receipts. You can also put your thank you video on your website and share it by email and social media.

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.

That said, I do think you should make every effort to send a card to ALL your donors. More on that below.

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, the Taylor family can move into a home of their own.

Phrases like Thanks to you or Because of you should dominate your newsletters and updates.

Thank you basics

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.

Thanking your donors needs to be a priority

I’m a big proponent of communicating by mail, even if it’s only a few times a year. It’s much more personal. Yet, many nonprofits balk at spending too much on mailing costs.

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 could also look for additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover cards and postage.

Maybe you need a change of culture, and this comes from the top. Fundraising Consultant Pamela Grow recently gave an example of an organization that “is moving away from the 48-hour written thank you receipt letter to quarterly email thank you receipts” because the Executive Director thinks “most people just trash the letter without reading it.

This is wrong on so many levels and to quote Pamela, “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” You need to get your board, all staff (especially leadership), and volunteers invested and involved in thanking your donors. Leave a good lasting impression.

You can’t say thank you enough. Make a commitment to thank your donors at least once a month. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

Keep thinking of ways to show some #DonorLove. Get creative.

10 Ways to Thank your Nonprofit Donors

Your Donors Want Stories, Not Baubles

How to Thank Donors — and Bring Them Closer to Your Cause

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

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?

What Comes Next

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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

Show Some Gratitude to Your Donors

Thanksgiving will be here soon and it’s a time of the year in the U.S. when we show gratitude to the special people in our lives. Do you extend this same gratitude to your donors?  It often doesn’t seem like it.

Nonprofit organizations tend to treat thanking their donors as an afterthought. But you need to spend just as much time thanking your donors as you do on fundraising.

Here are a few ways you can show some gratitude to your donors.

Wish your donors a Happy Thanksgiving

Send your donors a special Thanksgiving message. If you can send a card or postcard, that’s great, but an email message is also fine.

Let your donors know how grateful you are to have them as part of your family. Share a success story and a photo or video. Your donors will appreciate a heartfelt message, especially when they’re being barraged with year-end appeals.

But don’t stop with Thanksgiving

While gratitude is often front and center around Thanksgiving, that shouldn’t stop you from showing some #donorlove at other times of the year. The holidays, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day pop up as natural times to show gratitude, but mix it up a little and find other times of the year to say thank you. In fact, you don’t even need a reason. Just thank your donors.

Whatever you decide, DO NOT include a donation envelope or any other type of ask with your thank you message. This is known as a thask and it’s guaranteed to deflate your donor’s good feelings in an instant.

Incorporate thanking your donors into your year-end fundraising campaign

Many of you are working on your year-end fundraising campaign. I know you’re trying to raise money, but you should also be showing gratitude. Does your appeal thank donors for their past or potential gifts?

Besides wishing your donors a Happy Thanksgiving, find other ways to show gratitude while you’re also sending appeals. This is especially important around #GivingTuesday, and I’ll write more about that in my next post.

Be ready to thank your donors as soon as you receive a donation

You’ve all heard you need to thank your donors right away, within 48 hours if you can. This usually doesn’t happen or it’s done poorly. Every single donor, no matter how much they’ve given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card/letter mailed to them or receives a phone call.

I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting your fundraising appeal out. Perhaps you’ve recruited other staff or volunteers to help you.

You need to do the same thing when you thank your donors. Get your board, other staff, and volunteers together to make phone calls, write thank you notes, or include a handwritten note on a thank you letter.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Your donors deserve more than just the same, lame generic thank you letter.

I write a lot about thanking donors. Here are a couple of recent posts that cover ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Give Your Online Donors The Recognition They Deserve

The initial thank you right after you receive a donation is important. So is the next one and the one after that and the one after that….

Thanking your donors is not a one and done deal. You want to thank your donors at least once a month. Here are some ideas to show gratitude throughout the year.

  • Send a handwritten note.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media.
  • Send welcome packets to your new donors.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude.
  • Give a huge shout out to your donors in your newsletters and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without their support.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
  • Thank your donors just because they’re great.
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

This Thanksgiving and throughout the year, show some gratitude to your donors. Don’t they deserve it?

How Will You Welcome Your New Donors?

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One of your year-end fundraising goals may be to get new donors. That’s fine, but a better goal is to keep these donors. The retention rate for new donors is a dismal 23%. Put simply, over ¾’s of your new donors won’t donate again.

There are many reason donors don’t give a second gift – some you can control, some you can’t. One of the biggest reasons is poor or nonexistent donor communication. This is easy to fix, and if you put some time and effort into it, you can rise above other organizations who seem to like to ignore their donors.

Show some #donorlove by putting together a welcome plan for your new donors.

Start off with an extra special thank you

Don’t send your new donors that tired old, generic thank you letter that doesn’t acknowledge that they’re new donors. You have to do more. Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk says 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 together a group of board members, staff (especially your executive director), and volunteers to call your new donors or send them a handwritten thank you card.

If you can’t make phone calls or send a handwritten card, send a thank you letter that specifically recognizes that someone is a new donor. You could also add a handwritten note to a thank you letter welcoming your new donor.

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

Next, send a welcome package

A week or two after the initial thank you, send 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.

Send separate welcome packages to one-time donors and monthly donors. You could invite new one-time donors to become monthly donors. For monthly donors, send different messages to brand new donors and existing donors who’ve become monthly donors.

How to Retain First-Time Donors With Your Email Welcome Series

Why welcoming new donors is so important

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

Who are your new donors?

Get to know your new donors better. Include a short survey with your welcome package to find out how they heard about you, what issues are important to them, and if they prefer print or electronic communication. 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.

Give your donors the gift of appreciation and impact

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. You want donors who care about your work, not getting a free tote bag.

Instead of spending your resources securing premiums, invest in creating thank you cards or making a welcome video.

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

This is a year-round effort

Don’t let the welcome package be the last time your donors hear from you until your next appeal. Use a communications calendar to help you plan to stay in touch throughout the year.

The biggest hurdle you’ll face in donor giving is getting a second gift. Once donors make a second gift, they’re more likely to keep giving, although not always. Making your new donors feel welcome and staying in touch throughout the year will help you keep your donors for a long time.

Here’s more information on the importance of treating new donors well.

How to Get First Time Donors to Give Again

3 Ways to Make a Lasting Impression with First-Time Donors