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Stewardship

Fundraising vs. Stewardship: Which is More Important?

What is more important — fundraising or stewardship?

I hear this question frequently. A while ago, I asked fundraisers what their #1 challenge was, and many people identified this.

It’s not a casual or theoretical question. It’s an urgent, almost existential question: That is, should you focus your time and money more on motivating your donors to give, or should you focus on making them feel good about giving?

The easy, too-obvious, not-terribly-helpful answer is: You need to do both.

But you already know that. You know we don’t live in an “everything is equally important” world, and that if you don’t rank your priorities, you’ll rarely make progress.

But you can’t do everything all the time. So between fundraising and stewardship, which one should take priority?

Let’s dig into the assumption behind the question. Because I believe it’s a faulty assumption: That every minute you spend raising money is a minute you’re not stewarding your donors. That if you do too much of one, you are not doing enough of the other.

Here’s a better starting place that can liberate you from the either/or conundrum:

Fundraising campaigns improve donor retention.

Or to put it another way: Asking donors to give is one of the most important and effective ways to keep them as donors.

Fundraising IS stewardship.

How so? Well, the purpose of stewardship is to keep donors (retention) and to encourage them to their best level of engagement (upgrading). If you are successful at stewardship, you’ll have good donor retention and good levels of upgrading. If you aren’t doing well with those things, you are clearly not doing well at stewardship, no matter how well you mean. There are survey and qualitative research ways to gauge stewardship, but they don’t mean much if retention and upgrading aren’t happening.

How do donors retain?  They donate. That is, they respond to your fundraising.

How do donors upgrade?  They donate more than they did before — more donations and/or bigger amounts. That is, they respond to your fundraising.

When they don’t respond, they don’t retain. When they don’t respond more, they don’t upgrade.

There’s not some other magical form of retention and upgrading other than that.

There are, no doubt, donors on your file who are happy as clams with the relationship they have with you, but they stop giving anyway. When that happens, it means whatever stewardship you were practicing didn’t succeed. (It doesn’t necessarily mean you did a terrible job; it just tells you that you didn’t succeed with this particular donor. If a lot of donors stop giving, that could be a sign you did a terrible job of stewardship!)

There are also, no doubt, donors on your file who are mad as hornets with you all the time. But they keep giving. For some reason, they get enough out of giving to overcome their anger. For them, your stewardship, oddly enough, is working. Even if it may not seem like it. (And this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing a good job; it just means it’s good enough for these donors.)

But for the large majority of donors, their sense of love, connection, and relationship — all the things we’re going for in stewardship — are exactly correlated with giving.

That is, the things you do to encourage them to donate are, in fact, a kind of stewardship. And many stewardship vehicles, such as newsletters, are really good at raising money.

Don’t think of them as two different either/or activities. Most activities accomplish both.

In fact, if you think of fundraising and stewardship as opposites in some kind of zero-sum game where too much of one is not enough of the other, I can almost guarantee that you will not do a great job of one of them. Or both.

If you think fundraising is a questionable activity that annoys donors, something you only do because you have to, and you wish there were a better way — your fundraising is off to a very bad start. Your attitude is all wrong, and it’s going to show. You will raise less money. And you’ll have low retention rates.

On the other hand, if you think your job is all about asking, asking, asking, and you feel like relationship-building is a silly waste of time — your stewardship will pretty much suck.

So value both. That’s how you’ll get maximum results from happy, connected donors.

Want to discover more secrets of the fundraising trade? Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll get access to amazing fundraising courses, all kinds of tools and templates, plus a supportive (and super-cool) worldwide community that will help you build your fundraising career.

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CoronavirusDonor Love

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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BooksDonor Care

Hurry up and Read This Beautiful Book on Caring for Your Donors

Book Review: Donor CARE: How to Keep Donors Coming Back AFTER the First Gift, by John Haydon

donorcarebookcover

When you read a book, you often get a sense of the author. It’s so much like they’re in the room with you, speaking directly to you. It’s more so with books than with other forms of writing, because writing a book demands so much heart, soul, and mind — it can hardly help but bring the writer to life for you. This effect is even stronger when the author is a good writer.

That’s one reason Donor CARE by John Haydon is such a blessing to have. It’s kind of a way for us to keep John here with us. And it’s not the only reason you should get this book.

As you probably know, we lost John to cancer a few weeks ago. It’s a devastating loss for the whole fundraising community. John was smart, experienced, wise, and kind. His previous books, his blog, and his sessions at conferences helped so many of us become better fundraisers. It’s hard to believe that we will no longer see or hear John Haydon.

Except we have his final book. And Donor CARE is really and truly John Haydon.

The book is built around the acronym CARE that will help you remember what we must do to care for our donors:

Connect: Every human being needs to connect, and that includes donors. This means we must connect by telling great stories that touch their hearts, tell them how their giving makes a difference, and let them know the community they are part of as donors.

Appreciate: Let donors know you appreciate them. Not just their money, but them as people.

Reply: Make sure your donors are in a relationship with your organization — not just a series of transactions. Get back to them — quickly and wonderfully — when they give. Report back on their giving. Create ways to have conversations with them.

Encourage: Treat them well. Let them know how awesome they are. One of the main reasons donors stop giving (and non-donors don’t give in the first place) is that nagging feeling that their donations don’t matter. Your job is to make sure your donors never feel that way.

John really captured the reason donors give, and what that means to us as fundraisers. Check out this brief and insightful explanation:

Donors don’t give because they’re generous. They give because it feels great. And being a hero feels the best. This isn’t just unicorn thinking. It’s a phenomenon that’s hard-wired deeply in the human brain from millions of years of evolution. When you tell donors they can “feed hungry children”, “stop human trafficking” or “give twice the hope”, you make them the hero.

Most important, John makes it clear that donor care starts inside each of us.

Ultimately, CARE is an attitude. CARE is human, it begins with how you feel about your work, and how you feel about your donors.

If you don’t have it in your heart, you can’t really practice donor care! That insight alone is worth the price of the book.

Donor CARE is a practical, deep, and helpful book that will give you a lot to think about — and a lot to do. And it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. You’ll learn a lot about the man and his battle with cancer. You might not expect that from a book about being a better fundraiser, but, believe me, it enriches the book in amazing ways.

And it will enrich you, both as a human being on the journey we’re all on … and as a fundraiser.

Get a copy.

Want real and practical help on keeping your donors by caring for them? Consider one-on-one Coaching with an expert Moceanic Fundraisingologist. To find out more, click here to schedule a FREE advice call with the Fundraisingologist of your choice.

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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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Direct MailDonor Psychology

What Your Direct Mail is Like for Real People

I’ve spent a good decade and a half defending direct mail. Mostly in response to anxious nonprofit insiders saying things like “I’d hate to get all the mail we send.”

I won’t pretend everyone you mail wants it. And I won’t pretend everyone who gets your mail even reads it.

But many of them want your mail.

And many of them love your mail.

I’d like to take you on a walk-through of the ways real people consume direct mail.

What follows I believe to be true, or as close to true as 15 years in the trenches gets me. My hope is you find some tips and tactics you may not have considered or maybe just a good check-list for you to use.

First of all, let’s admit it: No matter what you send, no matter how you present it, some people will simply not give your (or any) mail pack any attention at all. My reading of the scant research on this suggests as many as eight, and as low as four, out of 10 people you mail simply dump your mail into the bin with barely a glance.

Those who remain are willing to grant you around 15 or 20 seconds of their attention. First the envelope and then whatever comes out first — if they open it.

They scan at headlines, pictures, captions, and the elements you’ve highlighted in some way. But they’re not reading. They’re just scanning to see if your mail is interesting or relevant or valuable. And about half quickly conclude that it’s not.

Into the bin.

So how can you make it through the first cut — the throw it out without even looking cut? And then the second cut — the throw it out unless something grabs their attention?

  1. Accept you aren’t the audience and put your personal opinions aside.
  2. Respond to the way people who do consume direct mail do it.

Let’s focus on the group that gives their mail some attention. What do they look for?

Their name. Spelt correctly. This is the first reason to not thrown it in the bin.

Maybe your logo. I’ve tested outer envelopes a lot. Of the tests that did deliver statistically significant results the outcomes varied by charity. For some a plain, unbranded, no message outer works best. For me this is the element of surprise – What is inside? Who is it from? For others the logo being present works better. Very rarely did a teaser message win. The main time a designed outer envelope has won was with animal welfare and children’s charities where compelling, emotive images of puppies, kittens or children beat the no design versions.

So you got them to open the pack. What do they do then? Consider you need to cater to three types of readers.

1. Sally Scanner. She starts skimming to get some details. My hope is your pack insertion order means the first thing Sally sees is the letter (and if you’ve never considered your pack insertion order please do, it’s your first moment of truth). So, assuming Sally comes across the letter first this is what she does.

  1. Is it addressed to me?
  2. What does the Johnson Box say?
  3. Who is it from?
  4. What does the PS say?
  5. What jumps out at me?
  6. Is it easy to read?
  7. Is it about me?
  8. Is it easy to respond / do what I’m being asked to do?

2. Dutiful Deb. Deb dives in a bit more than Sally. She’s probably a seasoned charity giver. She probably got several appeals at the same time as yours. She’s scanning a bit more deeply because it’s the right thing to. And Deb is looking for something to trigger her interest, something to entertain her, to engage her, to respond to values she shares with your cause.

3. Excited Elaine. Elaine expects your mail. She likes it. She sits down and reads the letter, the response form and the other pieces you’ve included. She is going beginning to end.

Your direct mail letter is a one-to-one conversation between the letter’s signer and Sally, Deb or Elaine, and nothing assures them that your message is intended for them better than seeing their name at the beginning of the letter. People love to see their name, and today’s technology makes it cost-effective to personalise your mailing. The marginal cost saving of not personalising is not worth the drop in response.

Before moving from the salutation to the signature, most readers will take a fraction of a second to scan whatever is visually obvious at the top of the letter … the material often called the Johnson Box.

Knowing this, you can use a Johnson Box, along with underlining, highlighting, bolding, and notes written in the margin to call attention to your call to action, and to pull the reader’s eyes across and down the page.

When we work with direct mail, we can get bored of a standard letter format. But a standard letter format is what works. If it didn’t, the format would have changed. We would have stopped writing letters home to mum this way and done something different.

After scanning the letter and perhaps reading the Johnson Box and/or opening paragraph, the reader will typically look to see who signed the letter.

It helps to print the signatory’s name and title under the signature and avoid “creative” signatures. Scribbled signatures don’t build trust, and eye-flow studies show that readers respond negatively to a signature they can’t read.

Once readers see who signed the letter, many will read the P.S. before moving back to the top of the letter. Not using a P.S. is simply a missed opportunity.

Keep the P.S. to three to four lines and use it to restate your call to action and tell the donor exactly how they can respond.

If you can personalise the P.S., do it. Inclusion of the recipient’s name at the beginning of the postscript draws even more attention to this recap of your call to action — and this call to action should include your ask, using a personalised ask amount derived from each donors previous giving level.

How you choose to format your letter (and any other elements of your pack) will impact its readability. FACT: Pretty does not necessarily equal readable.

To make your letter visually inviting, keep your paragraphs short, left justify your lines and provide plenty of space for your left and right margins.

Indent your paragraphs—they “catch” the reader’s eyes and help lead them down the page—double space between paragraphs. 12 point font is the absolute minimum, but I’d rather you use 14 point. I know you want to save costs and keep letter length to two pages … well all you are doing by sending out a 10 point font letter is turning away your audience. Too small = too hard. 

For enhanced readability, use a serif font—Courier, Times New Roman and Georgia are examples—for the letter. Practically every book, newspaper or magazine printed in the Western world uses serif type because it enhances reading flow and reduces eyestrain. If you want it read, use a serif font.

And don’t end a page with a complete sentence. Look at your newspaper. To finish practically any article, you must turn the page, and that’s exactly what you want your readers to do – keep turning pages until they reach the call to action.

I love a long word, especially when it’s the perfect word for a nuanced sentence. But that’s me and that’s 2% of the time. What I like more is being understood. And the research shows that writing at a lower reading level will hit the mark with the widest audience. Aiming above that will lose you readers. Simple, clear language is not dumbing down. Far from it, it is showing an understanding of your audience, it is showing your audience respect and it will force you to take the often complex situations we are working to address and make them accessible.

My favourite words to open a letter are “You” and “Your,” quickly followed by text that shows Sally, Deb or Elaine how awesome she is.

This isn’t a letter from an organisation to a prospect or customer. Your letter is a one-to-one conversation between the letter’s signatory and the donor. The more ‘we’ you use in the letter the less they’ll feel the signer is talking to them.

Write in a conversational style as if you were speaking face-to-face with the donor. Use your words to create an image for them. If the donor can see herself in the situation you create, she’ll take an interest and read on. A great story will win the day. A bunch of stats will not. A bunch of chat about how great an organisation you are will not.

Is responding super easy?

Response forms should be something you put some brain power into, not an afterthought. Your donor may engage more with the response form than the letter.

If the donor has to squint to read the information or the boxes are so tiny they struggle to make their credit card numbers fit, they’re more likely to give up. Make it easy!

Tailor the response form to the letter call to action. You will have told me a great story in the letter so follow through and repeat the messaging on the response form. Or consider Sally and Deb — they may only look at the response form … does the start of it present your specific call to action or is it generic? Consider how much more powerful your response form could be if you consider it to be another mini ask vehicle.

Want to know what really works in direct mail fundraising? Take our online course, 7 Steps to Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail. It’s your hands-on workshop in what works, how to do it, and how to apply these truths to your cause! It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.

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Direct Mail

3 Last-Minute Tweaks for Your End-of-Year Campaign

Tweak: a fine adjustment to a mechanism or system

Here are some fine adjustments you can do that can meaningfully improve your upcoming year-end campaign.

Tweak One

Make a direct ask. As in “Fiona, will you please make a donation today to help train more lifesaving paramedics?”

A lot of fundraising hints at giving, hoping donors “catch your drift.”

They don’t know what you need them to do unless you tell them! And we don’t receive unless we ask. I have tested this many times — not asking in an appeal letter simply means you will raise less money.

The more specific and direct the ask. The better. As in “Fiona, will you please make a donation of $125 today to help me train more lifesaving paramedics?”

This is even better. That $125 is based on my previous giving. Donors respond best when you suggest what they do, and suggesting they give a gift that’s around the size of their previous giving is your best bet.

Tweak Two

If you have direct mail donors who have also provided their email address, use email to support your campaign.

One email is not enough. It’s hardly worthwhile unless you send around seven emails. That way you’ll get far more people opening at least one of them.

Tweak Three

Call your top donors and ask them for a gift. Sean has done an awesome video to talk you through this and you can find that here: How to Boost Your Direct Mail Campaign After it Has Gone Out.

Now here’s the hard part: These three tweaks will make little difference if you are not basing your appeal on an emotional and engaging story that helps the reader feel the problem and see how they can be part of the impactful solution.

Want to really sharpen your fundraising skills? Take our online course, 7 Steps to Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail. It’s your hands-on workshop in what works, how to do it, and how to apply these truths to your cause! It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.

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Direct MailDonor CareDonor Love

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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Love your donors thank you
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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