5 Ways Charitable Giving Is Good For Donors5 Ways Charitable Giving Is Good For Donors
Donor LoveDonor Psychology

5 Ways Charitable Giving Is Good For Donors

I lost my Mom to Parkinson’s disease.

It was a long and terrible struggle. Toward the end, I was her caregiver. I watched helplessly as the disease took more and more of her away — from herself and from the rest of us.

It’s over now. I’m thankful she no longer struggles in a ruined body and a darkened mind.

Yet it’s not over. My heart still aches over the torment she suffered. I wish I’d spent more time with her. I regret that I wasn’t with her the night she died.

I fucking hate Parkinson’s disease.

But there’s a way I can strike back. I can defy Parkinson’s. I can give it the finger. I can even take back some of what it stole.

I can give to a nonprofit organization. They’ll take my money, even a small amount, and fight Parkinson’s disease. They’ll help people who have it now. They’ll fund research into better treatments. And maybe, someday, they’ll find a cure—so Parkinson’s can never take anyone else down that terrible road.

All it takes for me to move from defeat to victory is to give away some money. It’s the best deal I can think of.

And it works when I give to causes that were close to my mother’s heart, like classical music or education. In fact — and here’s the amazing part — I get the same positive effects no matter what causes I support. Even causes that have no connection to her.

Giving is giving. It has that power.

My brush with Parkinson’s disease isn’t special or unusual. We all face things that break our hearts, make us feel angry or helpless. Giving doesn’t erase the pain, but it re-orients us. We become less the victim, more in control. Wiser, and less wounded. It can ease our grief, revive our hope, and give us strength to face affliction, wrath, danger, and distress.

If you’re a fundraiser, never forget the power you put in the hands of your donors when you present the opportunity to give. It’s not just a monetary transaction.

And if you think you’re taking something away from donors when you receive their gifts, you’re missing the main point about what giving is and what it does. I know fundraisers who are almost ashamed of their work. They equate it with begging or even scamming, as if they’re getting the better of donors in some barely tolerable way. As if their only defense for getting money away from donors is the sad argument that the end justifies the means.

Anyone who feels that way simply isn’t paying attention to what donors get in the deal.

Here’s what your donors get out of giving …

Giving raises consciousness

Fundraisers often say things like “If only we could get the word out about how serious our cause is. Then more people would care, and more people would donate.”

Actually, it’s the other way around. When people donate, they care more and understand more.

When you give to a cause, you immediately begin to care more about it. You pay more attention when it’s in the news. It gets more concrete and important in your mind. That leads to other kinds of involvement—like volunteering, advocating, and spreading the word.

If you want to change the world in a meaningful way, I can’t think of a better way to start than getting people to care with an act of charity as the first step. That’s a lot more effective than trying to drum a new way of thinking into their unwilling heads.

Beyond that, research shows that donors are dramatically more likely to commit all kinds of good deeds, like returning lost wallets, giving up their seat to older passengers on crowded buses, or giving blood. Donors are more kind, compassionate, and active than non-donors. When you ask them to give, you support their habit of virtue.

Giving creates happiness

Charitable giving stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, the same way eating and sex do. Yes, giving is that primal. It’s built into the core of our being. Part of what it is to be human is to freely give away some of what you have.

Social science research shows that donors are 43% more likely to say they’re “very happy” than non-donors. This happiness comes from several sources:

  • The well-documented “warm glow” of altruism that comes with the release of dopamine in the brain when people give.
  • A more positive self-image. Donors see themselves as better people, as more in control. Donors can say, “There’s pain and chaos everywhere, but I can take a stand and do something about it!” No doubt for the same reason, donors are generally perceived by themselves and by others as leaders.
  • A sense of balance, because it’s a way for people to give back some of what they’ve received. We all owe deep debts to the many people who have helped us through life. We can’t possibly pay back those debts, but we can pay forward.

Giving improves health

Probably because of all those psychological benefits, giving also promotes physical health. Donors are 25 percent more likely to say their health is “excellent” or “very good” than non-donors.

Giving is financially beneficial

Here’s the fact about giving that may surprise you: research shows that charitable giving has a return on investment of 3.75 to 1.

For every dollar given to charity, the donor eventually gets $3.75. Beat that in the stock market! A causal link is impossible to establish, but the correlation is clear: people who give to charity end up financially better off.

Giving makes the whole world just a bit better

Think for a moment about the impact charity has on society. Not just because of the important causes it funds, but because of the millions of healthier, happier, more involved donor-citizens it empowers. The whole world is better because of those donors and the way they live. If charitable giving weren’t happening, our world would be darker and bleaker, more broken and brutal.

Fundraising is where it starts.

So next time you feel like a pesky panhandler, or you hear a colleague say you’ve got to cut back on your messaging because it’s harming donors, stop. Take a breath. Remember what giving means for donors.

And be thankful that you’re part of something so transforming and powerful.

Want to connect with other fundraisers on what your work means to you and your donors? Join our free Facebook community, the Smart Fundraisers Forum.

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5 Donor Love Must-Do’s for the COVID-19 Crisis

Think for a moment what it’s like to be a donor right now during this pandemic crisis…

  • You are afraid — for your own health, your economic future, for your family and loved ones, for the world.
  • You want to help.  After all, you are a donor, and that’s what you do!
  • You are getting a lot of emergency fundraising about the current situation — probably more than you could possibly respond to. At the same time, some of your favorite organizations have gone silent on you.
  • You want to do the right thing and donate where you can make a difference, but it’s hard to tell what’s your best choice.

How do we as fundraisers give our donors what they need most in these confusing and difficult times?

You show them the love.

You go all in on Donor Love.

Here are five things you can do that will boost your donors’ confidence and make them glad they give to your organization during this time of crisis. These things will not only make your donor feel better, but they’ll increase the chance that your donor will keep being your donor — through this crisis and long after.

  1. Say thank you every time you interact with donors

Thanking for a donation is obvious. But let me challenge you to take a look at your standard donation thank you letter (maybe you call it your receipt or acknowledgment letter), website donation auto response, and standard email donation acknowledgment. Do they use the words THANK YOU? Do they use the words THANK YOU more than once? You might be surprised. I know I am when I see how often the message meant to thank donors doesn’t actually say thank you!

This is the most important time ever to ramp up the thankfulness.

Even better, make sure those thank you letters are very specific to the impact your donor has had.

Now consider how you can say thank you even more. Thank you for calling. Thank you for your email. Thank you for your feedback (even when they give feedback you find challenging). Build this into phone scripts and email templates as standard.

Your donor needs to hear it. Again and again. Especially now — and what you do now will have outsized impact.

  1. Handwrite a note on their receipt / thank you letter

Show your donor that a real human acknowledges the wonderful thing they did. This really comes to life when you not only hand-sign thank you letters, but also add a smiley face or quick handwritten note.

  1. Call them to say thank you

This is another powerful way to show your donor that a real human acknowledges the wonderful thing they did. Thank you calls are really impactful. You can also simply set the task of trying to call and thank every donor, once in the year. It doesn’t have to be in response to a specific gift. Have an example of the impact they have had and call and thank them for being part of that impact and acknowledge how long they have been giving.

Check out Amnesty Australia’s brilliant all staff Thank You Day. I should warn you that this video may make you want to get everyone involved in thanking your donors, which is an incredible way to support fundraising within your organisation.

  1. Give them opportunities for feedback, questions and sharing

A Supporter Connection Survey is a great way to do this — and it has heaps of added benefits. (Find out more about this tool by reading Here’s One Easy Tool That Transforms Your Fundraising).

A donor care letter is another way to do this. (Read about how to do one of these at A Great Way to REALLY Thank Your Donors.)

Give them a way to communicate with you on your appeal response forms such as a comments or feedback box. Literally say, “I’d love to hear any feedback you have about how I communicate with you” or “If you have any questions about the impact you are having on X, please let me know below” or “I’d love to know why you chose to give to support X today, please let me know.”

And here’s something courageous leaders do: Give donors a way to get in touch personally – my favorite is providing your email address (not a generic one but your actual email address) and direct phone number in your next appeal letter. Don’t worry — you won’t have hundreds of donors calling you, but the few who do are engaged and worthy of your time.

  1. Implement an acknowledgment strategy

The following table is an example of how you can get started with an acknowledgment strategy. It starts with the key donor groups this charity has, ranked by priority. It assigns a person to be responsible for their piece of donor love. And it details the standard action to be taken by the person responsible when a donation is made.

This organisation uses multiple team members and multiple tactics to show the love. Most importantly, it is programmed so it happens.

Every interaction is captured in their database so it can be tracked. The Mid and Major Donor teams use the opportunity as part of their engagement and prospecting, the Bequest Manager uses the opportunity to stay in touch, the Fundraising Manager uses the opportunity to help their team engage with donors.

They also use a surprise and delight approach, which sees them gather together small gifts that are produced as part of their wider fundraising and communications activity (such as premiums from returned acquisition packs or appeals, leftover merchandise and gifts from events) as well as some purposely produced items they know donors love.

The team is given the opportunity to use their discretion to add these small gifts of thanks to thank you letters as a way of surprising and delighting donors in an appropriate and cost-effective way.

Donor Type

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career — even when times are tough. Join The Fundraisingology Lab for extraordinary training, resources, cheat-sheets, and a worldwide community of fundraisers who will lift your spirits and transform your career.

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Donor Love

The 4 Pillars of Donor Love That Can Transform Your Fundraising

What exactly is Donor Love?

It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot these days.

It might sound like some kind of flower-power, flaky magic, wishful thinking term that doesn’t mean much at all.

That’s not it. It’s a real thing. Proven to be effective at raising funds.

Or, to hear what some are saying, you might think Donor Love means “fundraising that makes us fundraisers feel good.”

That’s not it. In fact that is pretty much the exact opposite of Donor Love.

Donor Love is a set of tactics aimed at winning the donor over by putting her at the center of the story. It’s honoring, thanking, and listening to the donor.

And in times of crisis, it’s more important than ever.

But before it’s tactics, Donor Love must be an attitude. A mindset.

Donor Love is not unlike “being in love.” You’ve been there. When you are in love, your love is right there, all the time, connected to everything you do. It guides your thinking and behavior. It causes you to do things you might not normally do.

When you have Donor Love in your heart and mind, you can invent amazing new ways to connect with your donors.

Here are some thoughts to make donor love part of your mindset:

  1. We are not entitled to donor support

It’s unfortunate that a sense of entitlement hovers in the background of a lot of poor fundraising. There’s a belief that donors should give because our cause is important. No donor is obligated to support your organization. In fact, donors are increasingly skeptical and choosy about which organizations they will donate to. It’s your job to win each donor over, showing how giving to your organization matters to her.

  1. The donor is the hero of every fundraising story you tell

 When we tell stories about how amazing our organization is, we miss the real point. Donors want us to be amazing. It’s really part of the price of admission to fundraising. But they give because they are amazing. So be amazing — but make sure your fundraising shows the donor that you are a tool for her amazingness. That changes everything! And raises more money.

  1. Donors don’t give because we are awesome; they donate because they are awesome

The job of a true Donor-Love fundraiser is to remind the donor how awesome she is and give her the opportunity to put her awesomeness to work through your organization. Or, to put it as Mark Phillips of Bluefrog put it, “She is not one of your donors. You are one of her charities.” This little bit of humility will make you a much more persuasive fundraiser.

  1. Donors want to give

This might be the most radical and important pillar of Donor Love. Too many fundraisers seem to think “not bothering” donors by going silent on them is a great way to treat donors.  Is there any other functional human relationship that works like that? Love is a two-way street. Remember that the donor gets as much out of the relationship as we do. Often, they get a lot more, especially when we are treating them with love and respect.

Those are pillars of Donor Love.

What about the tactics?

There’s more — a lot more — about that in my Moceanic online workshop, Donor Love Made Practical. It’s all about the techniques of Donor Love. But it’s also about the mindset. Donor Love Made Practical is available exclusively for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. It’s just one of the many members-only online courses, practical resources, and community connections available in the Lab. Find out more about joining The Fundraisingology Lab here.

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Donor Love

Put Donors First, Even When It Seems Like a Pain

I wanted to give a fairly large gift to a charity I admire. And I wanted to put it on my American Express card. You see, I have an annual budget that I like to donate, and I want it to all be on my AMEX card which makes my tax return much easier.

So I asked the charity if I could donate by AMEX …

And they said no.

I asked why, and they had two reasons they didn’t accept AMEX:

  1. AMEX usually charges more than other cards for the merchant fee. This can reduce the value of the donation by 1% to 3%.
  2. AMEX card holders have other cards too. They can use those.

I asked around and found out many charities don’t accept AMEX, and for the same reasons.

Actually, there’s also a third reason, and I think it might be the real reason: In order to accept AMEX, someone has to get around to the paperwork, and there are other priorities. Charities are often understaffed, and this just seems a lot of effort for small return.

But let’s take a deeper look at the question, especially from the donors’ point of view:

  • AMEX donors give up to 50% more than non-AMEX donors. This reason alone should get every charity in the world to start taking American Express!
  • Even those AMEX donors who give the same amounts as non-AMEX donors are identifying themselves as higher value prospects.
  • AMEX charge cards usually have no credit limits, reducing bounces.
  • AMEX regular givers give slightly higher monthly donations, and they have much, much higher retention rates.
  • Wealthier people — that is, your best high-donor prospects – tend to use AMEX cards.
  • AMEX holders pay for their cards, so they want to use them.
  • AMEX donors like to keep donations on one card. It’s easier for their tax records.
  • AMEX donors may say that it is fine when you ask for Visa instead, but you are creating a barrier — they wouldn’t have offered AMEX first if they wanted the donation on a different card.
  • Making the case for why you accept AMEX is a useful opener for donor-focused training, it’s a great example of putting donors ahead of administrative needs.

Am I persuading you? Diners should be accepted too — for the same reasons.

But my real point here is not actually that you should take AMEX — I promise I’m not getting paid by them! The point is that a tiny decision — like accepting AMEX or not — tells a lot about how donor-centred an organisation is.

Put donors first.

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Donor Love

While You’re Feeling Thankful, Remember Your Donors

They say one of the keys to a happy, successful life is to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness.

That’s one of the reasons the US holiday of Thanksgiving is so wonderful.

Being thankful is good for your personal life … and it’s very good for your fundraising!

One of the best ways to thank your donors is a well-built thank you letter. Here are some of the hallmarks of a great donor thank you letter:

  • Well written. Put some real thought into your thanks. Use all the skill and creativity you used to ask in the first place.
  • Emotional. Don’t just recite the facts. Tell an emotional story about the difference her giving has made.
  • On the same topic as what they gave to. If you asked the donor to give to feed hungry children, thank her for feeding hungry children! Don’t change the subject or talk about “supporting us.” You spent considerable energy motivating the donor to do something specific and wonderful. She needs to know that what she did specifically and wonderfully mattered!
  • Correct. Go to great lengths to make sure you thank her for the correct gift amount.  And that you have her name and address completely right.
  • Prompt. If weeks pass between the gift and the thank you, it’s quite likely the donor will barely remember giving. What a lost opportunity to connect while she’s still feeling the warm glow of giving. If it takes more than 24 hours for you to get a thank you in the mail, there’s room for improvement.

Thank you letters that do those things help make donors happy they gave to you.

Donating is an act of trust, connection, and compassion. It’s important to recognize that every donor has taken some small risk in making that gift, and they need to be reassured that it was a good decision.

You put a lot of thought and effort into asking for the gift. You should put at least some into thanking for the gift. Good thanking is part of a good relationship. Your donors are worth it.

Discover more of the ins and outs of thanking donors and building a long-term relationship by joining The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.

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2 Truths Your Donors Wish You Understood about Direct Mail

I am a Gen Xer. I am not the core target market for direct mail. In my early twenties I had to learn two lessons quickly in order to do my job as a Fundraising Appeal Manager.

Lesson one: The people who respond to direct mail grew up with the post being THE main way people communicated outside of in person

The audience who loves and responds to direct mail the most are the Silent Generation born before 1945 (and we are talking about those born in the last 1920’s to 1945) and the older of the Boomers, so let’s say those born 1946 to the 1950’s.

If you’re younger than that, you no doubt see the mailbox as a container full of bills, catalogues, and other not-so-wanted things.

But a few decades ago, the average person could count on there being personal letters from people they knew in every post. Try to imagine how different it would be to approach the mail knowing you’d be connecting with friends and family — some of them people you haven’t seen in years. The post was a source of precious human connection. And even though it was possible to reach distant people by telephone, it was prohibitively expensive, used mainly for emergencies and very important news, if at all.

You and I approach the mail with little sense that there’s anything good in there, and rarely anything from a real person.

Not most of our donors. They expect good things to come in the mail.

This is why direct mail — which to my imagination seems so unlikely to be at all interesting — can work. And work very well in many cases.

Break free from your sense that the mail is almost entirely boring, annoying, and irrelevant.

Do your best to imagine what it’s like to think of the mail as magical, beautiful, and important.

That’s when you’ll start to succeed in direct mail fundraising.

Lesson two: Direct Mail donors want mail from causes they are connected to and care about

Our core direct mail audience range from their 60s to their 90s. Most don’t work the long hours you and I do. They don’t have the kids’ dinner to scramble together in the evening, along with the household chores, being nice to the significant other, and doing all those work/life balance things we know we should be doing. They have more time.

They also have more life experience. They saw more than any generation before due to their access to radio, TV, phones, print, and later the internet. They have lived through wars, famines, and revolutions. They saw the rise of AIDS. They fought for civil rights and lead the feminist movement.

Every generation tends to believe their own time is the most dramatic and important of all time, but think about it: people who are now older lived through more crisis, danger, and drama than you or I can imagine. They have a strong sense of connection with the world, which comes from their experience. It also comes with age, because changes in brain chemistry increase their sense of connection with the world.

They see and experience their world differently from you and me.

Direct mail may seem to us like irrelevant and unwanted “junk mail.” To a true direct mail donor, it is a chance to change the world!

That’s the reality you’re working in when you work in direct mail.

Learn more about the often-surprising ways we connect with donors by taking our most popular online course, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.

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4 Ways to Secure That All-Important Second Gift

I met up with a fundraiser — let’s call him Brian — a couple of years ago to talk about the work my team had been doing for their donor acquisition program. The direct mail acquisition was doing really well. Great response, strong average gift, acceptable ROI, in a tough market … I was there to find out why they had decided to do less of it, not more.

Brian was late for the meeting. He had been with his team making welcome calls.

Every single new donor who had provided a phone number received a welcome call. They attempted to get through up to 12 times! They really wanted to connect on those calls.

Turns out the second gift rate of their new donors who were reached with a phone call was higher than those not reached. The value over 12 months was also higher. It wasn’t just the call making the impact, information gathered in the phone calls was impacting … more email addresses captured, giving a wider reach for their multi-channel communications and critically understanding the donors relationship to the cause (a major health issue / killer) was sought and used to personalise subsequent communications.

Brian was prioritising this donor care for new donors. If he recruited even higher volumes of donors, they would not be able to keep up with the calls and do all of their other work.

The best outcome would have been Brian being able to get more budget to staff the welcome calls so he could continue to invest in higher volume acquisition. He couldn’t. But he made the tough decision — and I think this was the right one … better retained and engaged donors for a longer life time over as many donors as possible.

As a follow up to my recent blog, The Most Important Gift from Your Donor – It’s the 2nd, Not the 1st!, I’ve got four evidence-based ideas you should plan to do, after your brilliant first gift acknowledgment (like Brian’s welcome calls), as part of your new donor engagement and second gift conversion strategy.

1. Ask again, quickly, and many times, giving the donor more opportunities to have even more impact.

I have seen many donor communications plans that do not prioritise asking again quickly … I think this comes from the unsubstantiated idea that we need to rest donors after they give. Analysis shows that those most likely to give again are those who have given the most recently. Testing I have run has demonstrated that the sooner you ask, the higher the second gift rate.

2. Focus on what they have demonstrated they care about … not EVERYTHING you do. Ask them to support the same thing they just gave to again.

What did you ask the donor to support? Tell her she supported it. Show her how the thing you are asking her to support now links to what she has shown she cares about. Even better — the best thing to ask for is the same thing she gave to in the first place. The idea that you have to ask the donor to support something different seems to come from an idea that donors need lots of options or that they might get bored with the same thing. The data DOES NOT support this. A donor is far more likely to give to the same thing again than something different.

Many donors work on a 12-month giving cycle … which can stretch out, particularly if the number of opportunities to give again from you is few. If after 12 months of opportunities to give you have not had a response, ask the donor to give to exactly the same thing they gave to in the first place … it works.

3. Offer Monthly Giving.

Monthly Givers are retained at much higher rates than one-off or occasional givers, and new one-off givers are great prospects for Monthly Giving, when asked correctly.

Asking soon, like within 6 to 8 weeks of their first gift, maximises response as the memory of giving and how great it made them feel is still fresh. And don’t give up! Some donors need more time experiencing supporting you to see the value in Monthly Giving.

4. Send them a survey.

A “new donor survey” can be a great engagement tool, and donors who respond are more likely to keep supporting you.

A version of your Supporter Connection Survey can be used for new donors really effectively. If you haven’t already taken our Supporter Connection Survey course, it’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.

Acquisition is hard. Make your life easier by planning to get that second gift and to keep those new donors giving from the outset.

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career. Join The Fundraisingology Lab and you join the thousands of smart fundraisers who are becoming EXTRAORDINARY FUNDRAISERS. Check it out.

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Donor Love

5 Tips and Tricks to Loving Your Donors

For many years I gave to an organisation that organised an annual fun day for children with disabilities. The kids and their caregivers were hosted at a day-long party with activities, games and entertainment accessible to all.

I have no idea how I first ended up giving. But I know that I gave every year, for five years. Each year, a fellow named Mark called me — at work because that was the number I’d provided. He would remind me who he was and where he was from. I always listened because Mark was polite, engaging and reminded me we had spoken before.

Mark would spark my memory by mentioning the details of an annual event for disabled children I had previously supported. Mark would ask if I remember my gift the previous year. And every year I said yes, because after I donated I received a thank you letter and receipt from Mark. This letter was always memorable.

The letter was remarkable in that it defied every single graphic design principal (my designer friends would have called it ugly) and was written exactly like Mark chatted. It was an actual letter from a human. And I loved it.

On the first two sides of the letter Mark recalled the event, how it sounded, what he remembers catching his eye and a description of one child and their caregivers’ experience at the event. Photos taken at the event were clipped randomly onto the final two pages with captions highlighting the joy being had in each and every shot.

Mark said thank you more times in the letter than you think was possible.

Mark would always note the date of our call, how much I had donated and how many children that equated to being able to attend the event.

The letter was memorable. Mark was memorable. The whole experience was memorable. Mark showed me the love. Mark helped me feel wonderful about myself. Mark’s letters always made me smile.

Each year, for five years, I made it possible for one, two or three kids and their carers to have an awesome day out, to have a fun, carefree time they otherwise would not have had. (The run ended at year six because I moved to a different job, and Mark couldn’t find me. I heard, though, that he managed to get my successor in the job to start supporting the event!)

I felt the love.

Mark nailed it. 

The following is for those who believe, like Mark, that showing your donors the love is the right thing to do and you are looking for some inspiration.

1. Say thank you every time you interact with donors

Thanking for a donation is obvious. But let me challenge you to take a look at your standard donation thank you letter (maybe you call it your receipt or acknowledgment letter), website donation auto response and standard email donation acknowledgment. Do they use the words THANK YOU? Do they use the word THANK YOU more than once? You might be surprised. I know I am when I see how often the message meant to thank donors doesn’t actually say thank you!

This is your immediate opportunity to ramp up the love.

Even better, be like Mark and make sure those thank you letters are very specific to the impact your donor has had.

Now consider how you can say thank you even more. Thank you for calling. Thank you for your email. Thank you for your feedback (even when they give feedback you find challenging). Build this into phone scripts and email templates as standard.

2. Handwrite a note on their receipt / thank you letter

Show your donor that a real human acknowledges the wonderful thing they did. Mark’s do-it-yourself approach felt authentic. He always hand signed his letters to me and on occasion there was a smiley face or quick note handwritten. Mark was hand signing hundreds of letters every year.

3. Call them to say thank you

This is another powerful way to show your donor that a real human acknowledges the wonderful thing they did. Thank you calls are really impactful. You can also simply set the task of trying to call and thank every donor, once in the year. It doesn’t have to be in response to a specific gift. Have an example of the impact they have had and call and thank them for being part of that impact and acknowledge how long they have been giving.

Check out Amnesty Australia’s brilliant all staff Thank You Day. I should warn you that this video may make you want to get everyone involved in thanking your donors, which is an incredible way to support fundraising within your organisation.

4. Give them opportunities to feedback, ask questions, and share

A Supporter Connection Survey is a great way to this — and it has heaps of added benefits. (Find out more about this tool by reading Here’s One Easy Tool That Transforms Your Fundraising).

A donor care letter is another way to do this. (Read about how to do one of these at A Great Way to REALLY Thank Your Donors.)

Give them a way to communicate with you on your appeal response forms such as a comments or feedback box. Literally say “I’d love to hear any feedback you have about how I communicate with you” or “If you have any questions about the impact you are having on X, please let me know below” or “I’d love to know why you chose to give to support X today, please let me know.”

Give donors a way to get in touch personally – my favourite is providing your email address (not a generic one but your actual email address) and direct phone number in your next appeal letter. Don’t worry — you won’t have hundreds of donors calling you, but the few who do are engaged and worthy of your time.

5. Implement an acknowledgment strategy

The following table is an example of how you can get started with an acknowledgment strategy. It starts with the key donor groups this charity has, ranked by priority. It assigns a person to be responsible for their piece of donor love. And it details the standard action to be taken, by the person responsible, when a donation is made by someone in that donor type or segment.

This organisation uses multiple team members and multiple tactics to show the love. Most importantly, it is programmed, so it happens. Each of the interactions detailed is captured in their database so it can be tracked. The Mid and Major Donor teams use the opportunity as part of their engagement and prospecting, the Bequest Manager uses the opportunity to stay in touch, the Fundraising Manager uses the opportunity to help their team engage with donors.

They also use a surprise and delight approach which sees them gather together small gifts that are produced as part of their wider fundraising and communications activity (such as premiums from returned acquisition packs or appeals, leftover merchandise and gifts from events) as well as some purposely produced items they know donors love. The team is given the opportunity to use their discretion to add these small gifts of thanks to thank you letters as a way of surprising and delighting donors in an appropriate and cost-effective way.

Donor Type

Thank you to Mark (wherever you are now) for teaching my younger self that authenticity, manners, and genuine passion are the foundation of great donor care. And thank you for being a wonderful example of how showing donors the love pays off.

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career. Join The Fundraisingology Lab and you join the thousands of smart fundraisers who are becoming EXTRAORDINARY FUNDRAISERS. Check it out.

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Donor Love

5 Reasons You Must Invest in Donor Service

In the commercial world, there is no arguing that: 

  • Customer service has long been recognised as an incredibly important revenue driver. 
  • Excellent customer service vastly lowers churn rate (loss of customers). 
  • When complaints are handled well,  customers become more loyal than they were before the issue.

Why then, in the fundraising world, is donor service often the last thing we invest in? 

These things are just as true for donors as they are for customers. If you need empirical evidence check out Adrian Sargeant’s work. One of his major findings is that loyal donors give more and stay longer — and the quality of service and care you provide donors directly impact loyalty

I personally know this to be true. I started my working life in customer service, and I got my first job in the nonprofit space because of my customer service experience. I was the only person in that organisation at the time providing donor service.  

When I left five years later there were six staff dedicated to donor service and we had one of the highest retention rates in the industry. The people in the Donor Service team helped to retain donors, upgrade them, save them from cancelling, made them feel amazing about their giving, helped them understand the real impact they were having, dealt with their concerns, feedback and complaints. It was great donor care

For several years I was part of a major industry wide Mystery Shopping program in Australia and New Zealand. Over 100 charities mystery shopped, with service being one of the key things we were looking at benchmarking. 

Those that came out on top with great Donor Service also had the best retention.  

And I’ll be honest: I saw some appalling service. And there was some inspirational service. The really poor service came from organisations that had no investment in Donor Service. In fact, most of the really bad organisations did not even have a resource dedicated to Donor Service … It was database administrators answering the phones — not acceptable for good Donor Service.  

Getting the money to invest in Donor Service can be hard. Here are some reasons for investing in Donor Service that have helped many fundraisers make the business case for spending some budget on quality Donor Service: 

  1. Your Donor Service people are the face of your cause to many donors. They are the representation of your brand, your mission and your values. Are you putting your best foot forward here? 
  2. Your Donor Service people will speak to more donors than anyone else in your organisation. They are in the best position to listen to your donors – they can help you understand your donors’ needs. Have you worked with your Donor Service people to ensure that they are in a position to help build your body of understanding about your donors? 
  3. Your Donor Service can differentiate you from other causes your donors give to. When it comes to donors making the hard choices between who to keep supporting and who to stop supporting or who to consider including in their Will — poor service could be your downfall.  
  4. Your Donor Service people will save, retain, and upgrade donors. Trained Donor Service staff can save over 20% of inbound Monthly Giving cancellations. They can upgrade gift amounts to appeals. They can identify highly engaged higher value donors and provide critical insight into their motivations. They can help frustrated donors resolve their issues. All of this will happen as long as you consider the following point …  
  5. Donor Service is a skill that requires the right people, trained and supported under a clear mandate. Just like any other part of your fundraising you can assign an ROI (Return on Investment) to your Donor Service. And just like other parts of your fundraising you need a strategy, investment, and a way to monitor, measure and report back. Is Donor Service considered as important as your acquisition program?  

Related post: 6 Ways to Measure Your Fundraising to Understand Your Donors

If you are a small organisation or just starting out with fundraising, you can still invest in Donor Service. It may be part of someone’s job but ensuring it is considered as part of your Donor Care Strategy will give it visibility and help you to understand its value. So as you grow you can make evidenced cases for further investment.  

We can help you explore your Donor Service needs and opportunities through our one-to-one Coaching. To find out more and book a free call visit: www.moceanic.com/coaching-plus/ 

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Direct MailDonor CareDonor Love

The Most Important Gift from Your Donor – It’s the 2nd, Not the 1st!

I started my working life in customer service, selling women’s shoes. This had two major impacts on my life. 

  1. I have a shoe addiction that appears to be incurable. 
  2. I have always believed that understanding your customer leads to the best possible outcome for both of you.

In my shoes days, my chatty nature allowed for me to get to the heart of most ladies’ shoes desires fairly quickly — and resulted in solid sales for me and happy ladies with new shoes they loved. Over my seven years selling shoes I generated a small following of ladies who returned to me time and again for their shoe-indulging needs. If they came back a second time and sought me out, I knew I would very likely see them again and again and again.  

The same goes for donors, if they come back for a second time, they are much more likely to give again than those who have only done it once.  

One of my first jobs in fundraising was on the phones with an environmental charity taking inbound donation calls. I was blown away by the passion of the donors, how much they knew about the environment, threatened species, and climate change. I found myself learning as much as possible so I could join and understand their enthusiasm and concern. And I naturally found myself focusing on thanking them for their donations, their time, making the effort to call in, for supporting again for supporting for so long, for supporting for the first time.  

I didn’t know that this kind of thanking was not common. And like my shoe days, I ended up with a group of donors I spoke to, or who asked to speak to me, every time they gave. They appreciated my attempts to understand them and what they cared about and my thankful approach. I learnt quickly — because they told me — that lots of other organisations did not thank them in any way. That they weren’t always sure their giving was doing anything. 

These basics still hold true, but now I have the evidence beyond my own anecdotal experience to prove it.  

Thank and engage with a new donor and they are more likely to give again. And someone who gives for the second time is more likely to give again … the first gift is not a commitment, the second one is closer to an indication of ongoing potential. 

So how do we secure a second gift? 

I think it’s important we don’t assume a first gift is a commitment.  

When we solicit a first gift from a new donor, we rarely suggest it’s any form of commitment. In fact, strong first gift asks focus on a single focused offer (see Jeff’s blog on this: How to Make Fundraising Work: Nail the Offer), and as such the expectation we set with prospective new donors is to receive that gift and show the donor that their giving has achieved what we said it would. 

Sean explains this well in his blog: Sorry darling not everyone wants a relationship with you.

“You see, most donors don’t want relationships with you. They gave because they liked the pack/person who signed them up on the street/advert online/Facebook post/friend who did an event. The connection is slight. Casual. Hardly ‘engaged’.” 

Here’s my top tip for securing the second gift: 

Make sure your first-time donors know they have done something meaningful, that they have had the impact you offered them.

Your thank you acknowledgment for their first gift is your first moment of truth. Your first opportunity to engage and influence a potential second gift. Running at the first-time donor with expression of thanks for the “commitment” they’ve made to your organisation … or worse still, throwing a tonne of information about everything you do and welcoming them on board like they have committed to marriage, is not responding to where the first time giver is. 

If you aren’t even sending a thank you or acknowledgment, stop reading here and go address this. It’s the most important thing you will do to improve your donor experience and donor retention.  

Effectively thanking donors for the donations, they make is not a cost — it’s a necessity. It’s good manners, it’s common sense, and it will help you take a step towards being donor-centric (See Jeff’s blog 20 Donor-Centric Things You Can Do to Raise More Money — Now and for Years to Come  for some chat on what donor-centricity is and other things you can do to be more donor-centric).

I’ll put it out there: the majority of first gift acknowledgments are rubbish.  

Why? Because they are generic or purely administrative or not reflective of what the donors did (which was make a gift, in response to some trigger). None of these things make a first-time donor feel like their donation was valued. And even worse, they don’t give an emotional pay back … they don’t show your first-time donor that they have done something important in some specific way. 

An administrative or generic acknowledgment ticks the boxes of being organised and they are unlikely to upset anyone … but they certainly don’t provide compelling, emotional support for the outcome of giving. 

An over-the-top ‘Welcome to Us’ first gift response is likely just confusing and/or overwhelming. This is just information overload, with lots of organisational information unrelated to them, their donation, the impact of their donation, or their motivation for giving the donation. Lots of rational, factual, and organisationally focused information that I guess we create with the belief we are presenting our credibility. Often these packs ‘educate’ or introduce a first-time donor to everything we do. 

Welcome to Save the Snails Fiona, you have joined an organisation that is 45 years old, and doing X, Y and Z to save snails and we are so pleased to have you on board. 

And the donor is thinking, Hey wait a minute, I didn’t join anything. What is happening here?  

Even if you acknowledge what they gave for, this ‘too much, too soon’ approach can obscure the compelling, emotional support for the outcome of giving. 

A really great thank you / acknowledgment should: 

  1. Address the donor personally and correctly. 
  2. Tell her what impactful / life-changing thing she has achieved, personally, by making the donation. Be specific about the impact … this is different from what you are going to spend the money on. Make sure this impactful thing is the impactful thing you solicited the donation for. 
  3. Say thank you … the actual words Thank You. It’s surprising how much effort goes into writing thank you letters that do not say thank you.  
  4. Tell the donor a story or extend the story she responded to. A rescue helicopter charity thanked me for my first donation, made online and unsolicited, by telling me about a young child whose life was recently saved by the rescue helicopter team and thanked me for helping to ensure further missions like that will happen. I was given an emotional reason to feel good about myself for making a donation. I was given a compelling story I could re-tell myself or my family about the impact of my generosity. My giving was treated with the respect it deserved. 

Here are a few common first gift acknowledgments to check to make sure they’re working right: 

  • Website auto response – the response that confirms the donor has made a gift once she makes the final click on the donation form. These are hands-down the most non-personal and uninspiring administrative interactions most charities deliver. If you don’t have control over this part of your web journey, find out who does and engage them to help you. It might cost some money, but it is worth it. 
  • The donation destination on your website. Do the words Thank You appear at all? 
  • Inbound call to your office / supporters service team. Are they trained and supported to have the skills and feel they have the time to be delivering really heartfelt thank yous to everyone who makes a donation? 
  • Inbound call to a phone agency. Have you listened in on their thank yous?
  • Response to a direct mail pack. Are you pumping out a generic, two paragraph note on the combined thank you and receipt piece of paper your database produces? At the very least please make those two paragraphs meet the above criteria, and if they can’t, find a way to include an additional thank you letter with the administrative receipt. The cost and operational hassle are worth it. 

We can help you explore your Donor Service needs and opportunities through our one-to-one Coaching. To find out more and book a free call visit: www.moceanic.com/coaching-plus/ 

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