Things We Are Thankful for This Weird Year
Thankfulness

Things We Are Thankful for This Weird Year

The Thanksgiving holiday (this week in the US, last month in Canada, with other nations and cultures celebrating similar holidays at different times) is a special time for fundraisers.

Because we live on thankfulness.

Being thankful is good for you. It improves your personal life. It strengthens relationships. It’s smart in business…

But for us fundraisers, it’s a foundational activity. When we thank the donors who freely give to fund our causes, our thankfulness is a key part of the “transaction.”

So we “get” the idea of giving thanks in a special way.

We asked several members of the Moceanic community what they are thankful for. It might not be an easy question in a tough year like this, but we think you’ll find their answers eye-opening and encouraging.

“I am thankful for all the brave fundraisers who have stayed strong and fundraised with gusto during COVID-19. When everything seemed so uncertain and topsy turvy, they did not weaken. They doubled down to connect with donors like never before. And together with their donors, they bring comfort, justice, and hope for a better tomorrow.”

Julie Cooper

“I’m thankful for those fundraisers whose first task every morning is to make sure yesterday’s donors will be sent a warm and personal thank you note today.”

Roger Craver

“I’m grateful for many things. Perhaps foremost, I feel deeply connected to so many beautiful friends and family. That gives me empathy, energy, a sense of loving, and being loved. I feel I can carry these gifts into my work, which means I’m always enthusiastic about the wonderful work that nonprofits and their donors accomplish.”

Harvey McKinnon

“I’m thankful for the leaders in organizations that prioritize fundraising education for their executive and board … those who were able to keep fundraising, not falter, and make informed decisions to move forward in response to the pandemic with the support of leadership.”

Fiona McPhee

“If every so often you sense a warm and grateful glow, it may have been sent by me. Because every day my copywriter’s heart is filled with thanks to walk this fundraising world with so many brave, passionate nonprofit professionals — and for the boundless generosity of donors — to build a better, brighter, more just world. A world of humanity, sustainability, peace, respect, and love. I love you all. Write on, keep fighting the good fight (the only fight!), and thank you.”

Lisa Sargent

“I’m grateful for the human capacity to love others. Throughout the trials of the past few months, one thing that has shone through is how, if we treat people properly, they are as willing as ever to step up and help others. Even when they have felt personally scared, isolated, disempowered, and disconnected.”

Adrian Sargeant

“I’m incredibly thankful for our members-only community at The Fundraisingology Lab. They are simply the most extraordinary group of people I know. And the opportunity to serve them as they navigated the uncharted waters of the coronavirus pandemic this year was truly a gift to me.

“Our members have not just survived; many have thrived in 2020. They have given me hope, joy, inspiration. I’ve been brought to tears by some of the difficult challenges they’ve faced, and I’ve jumped for joy to celebrate their success – often on the same day! So as I’ve spent 2020 mostly in my little home office, I am most thankful for every single one of those extraordinary members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Thank you!”

Christiana Stergiou

“This has been a tough year, but I’m thankful for the extraordinary generosity shown by wonderful donors around the world. They have leapt to save charities and their causes: organizations that called upon its supporters in their hour of need were shown the true power of love, generosity and community mindedness.”

Sean Triner

“I am grateful for wonderful fundraisers all over the world who continue to do the best they can under extraordinary circumstances. I am grateful I work in direct mail and the postal service is working so donations are flowing in. I am grateful for those organizations and thought leaders who adopted monthly giving early on, and I’m grateful that I played a part in ‘motivating’ them along as they’re in much less of a pickle than other nonprofits right now.”

Erica Waasdorp

What are you thankful for? Leave it in the comments below. Your thoughts will be a source of strength to other fundraisers.

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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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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 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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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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