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How to Build Deep and Long-Lasting Connections with Your Donors

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Book Review: Hooked on a Feeling: How the passion and devotion for good causes become memories and identities by Francesco Ambrogetti

Francesco has done it again. He’s written a deeply researched book that helps us understand the sometimes puzzling truth that charitable giving is a fundamentally emotional act. This new book takes up where Emotionraising left off.

A lot of people at nonprofits spend all their careers fighting the reality that giving is emotional. They just keep slamming their heads into that brick wall of fantasy thinking that if we just explain how great our programs are, donors will respond. A lot of the rest of us accept the facts, but we struggle with what exactly to do about it.

Here’s some help I gleaned from Hooked on a Feeling:

Thank your donors with real warmth and authenticity. “If a thank-you is administrative and formal, it is perceived as such and has no impact on future or repeated giving.” Take a good look at your thank-you messages. Are they warm, emotional, and human? Or do they seem to have been generated by your accounting software? The difference matters!

Ask donors for feedback. Just the act of asking for our donors’ feedback has profound effects on subsequent giving: In one study, asking for feedback led to a 50% decrease in attrition and a 35% increase in net income. Ask frequently and in many ways: Quick “rate your experience” questions, longer surveys, ask for feedback by phone, email, text. The information you’ll get is valuable. Just the act of asking for it may be even more valuable.

Engage with donors using as many of their five senses as you can. When you let a donor see, touch, hear, even taste or smell your mission you connect deeply and strongly. Handwritten notes (real ones from real people — especially children), videos, other items you can send them … they all have powerful impact.

Celebrate donor birthdays. Ask for birthdates. Not just so you know your donors’ ages, but so you can send a birthday card or make a birthday call. This improves donor loyalty and lifetime value.

Offer a money-back guarantee on your fundraising. This works in retail sales. It can also work in fundraising: “If you are not satisfied that your donation is accomplishing what we said it would accomplish, contact us and we will refund your donation.” You’ll get few if any, takers, but that up-front confidence that you give them with the guarantee can improve both response and the sense of connection you build with donors.

Encourage and gather complaints from donors. You know complaints from donors are inevitable. The exciting thing is that many complaints are far more an opportunity than a problem. Donors who complain and then get some kind of resolution often become your most loyal donors. The donors least likely to repeat are those who complain and get no response … and those who had an issue but never complained in the first place.

This book is packed with practical things like these.

Maybe more important, it’s full of new ways we can think about our donors and how we connect with them.

Ready for change?  Read this book!

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