Friday, July 25, 2014

Welcome Your New Donors With Open Arms

Did you know that approximately 70% of first-time donors don't make a second gift? Yikes! We can do better.

Let's make 2014 the year we turn those numbers around.

Do something special for your current first-time donors
Before your next big appeal, make a point to send your first-time donors a short thank you email, postcard, or note card in which you shower them with appreciation and give a specific example of how their support is helping you make difference.

Of course, you should continue to stay connected to all your supporters by showing gratitude and sharing accomplishments.

Create a welcome plan
Your first step after you receive a donation is to thank your donors within 48 hours, preferably with a handwritten note or phone call. Don't send a boring, generic thank you letter. Take time to create an awesome thank you. Is it Time For an Extreme Thank You Makeover?

According to fundraising expert Roger Craver, thank you calls increase retention rates for first-time donors by 25%. Get a group of board members and other enthusiastic volunteers to call your new donors, or send them a handwritten thank you card.

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

A week or two after the initial thank you, send out a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.

Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and join you on social media.

Your welcome package can include a warm introductory letter and a brochure or fact sheet. You could also guide people to your website for more information about your organization.

Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed.

I don't recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it's not necessary.

What donors really want from you is to know how they are helping you make a difference.

New Donor Welcome Kits | Your Next Gift Strategy

Who are your new donors?
They could be event attendees, volunteers, or newsletter subscribers. If you know, refer to that in your thank you letter. If not, send a short survey with your welcome package and ask, "How did you hear about us?"

Another question to ask is whether your donors prefer print or electronic communication. Short surveys are also a good way to connect throughout the year. The more you know about your donors the easier it will be to communicate with them.

Keep spreading the love
Keep reaching out your donors - at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on your success.

Also, think of other ways to do something special for your new donors. You could offer tours of your facility or hold an open house.

A huge factor in donor retention is a good donor relations plan that you will carry out regularly as long as your donors support you, which hopefully will be for many years.

Let's keep working on bringing up those retention rates.

Photo by Gideon Tsang

Monday, July 21, 2014

Is it Time for a Message Makeover?

What would happen if you got your staff or board together and asked them to give a short description of what your organization does? Would you get a variety of different answers?

Now take a look at some of your communication materials - fundraising letters, thank you letters, website etc. Are your messages consistent in all your materials? Are they written in clear, conversational language or are they filled with mind-numbing jargon?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then it's time for a message makeover.

Create a message platform
Putting together a set of clear, consistent messages, also known as a message platform, is a good project for you to take on this summer.

Now whenever you create a fundraising letter or content for your website, you can draw material from this set of messages.

Having a consistent set of messages is essential when you have more than one person writing for your organization and as new staff or volunteers come on board. All your materials need continuity and a single voice.

Everyone in your organization - staff, board, volunteers - is a message ambassador, and needs to be involved. Although, that doesn't mean they should be involved in every step of the process.

You may want to get some initial input from staff and board. Ask everyone a few key questions, such as:
  • Who is your target audience? You may need to cater different messages to different audiences.

  • What is important to them?
As you create your positioning statement and talking points, ask:
  • Who are you?

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?

  • Why is it important?

  • What makes your organization unique?

  • How are you making a difference for the people you serve and in the community?

  • What do you want to achieve?
Keep it simple
This may sound obvious, but your goal is to make sure your reader understands your message. Your messages should be clear, specific, and include a call to action. Again, they need to be conversational, so avoid using jargon. Most people respond better to a human interest story than a lot of statistics.

Your messages should not say something like - We make a difference for at-risk students. Instead, say Our volunteer tutors help students boost their reading and math skills so they'll have a better chance to get into college.

Use language your donors will understand
Have someone outside your organization, a friend or family member, look at your messages. Something that's clear to you may be confusing to others. What Does That Mean?

Stay consistent with a style guide
Continuing on the theme of consistency, I strongly recommend putting together a style guide. Create a Style Guide for Your Organization

Get everyone on board
A small group - marketing staff and board members with marketing experience - should put together the message platform and then introduce it to everyone else.

Here is some more information help to you create a message platform.

The 4 Cornerstones of Your Nonprofit Message Platform  

Build Your Message Team

Getting to Aha! The Nonprofit Marketer’s Top Challenge

Take some time this summer to make sure that your messages and materials are clear and consistent.

Before and After Kitchen Photo by Patrick via Flickr

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Is it Time For an Extreme Thank You Makeover?

Summer is here! Yea, finally.  This may be a slower time for you, and over the summer, I'm going to give you some suggestions on how to improve your fundraising and communications to help you get ready for a busy fall.

One area where most nonprofits can do better is thanking their donors, something that often seems like an afterthought. 

A landing page is more than a receipt
Many people donate online now, and your landing page is your first chance to say thank you.  Make it personal and not transactional. 

Open with Thank you, Susan! or You're amazing!  Include an engaging photo and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve.  Put all the tax deductable information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

If you use third party giving sites, such as PayPal or Network for Good, this is what your donors will see, and it's not pretty.How to Go Beyond a Receipt Follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours (see below).

Your thank you email should sound like it's coming from a human
Set up an automatic email to go out after someone donates online. This will let your donor know that you received her donation and it didn't get lost in cyberspace.

Again, make it warm and personal.  Just because it's generated by a computer, doesn't mean it needs to sound like a computer.

You're not done yet
I'm a firm believer that even if someone donates online he should receive thank you card, letter, or phone call within 48 hours.

Make your donor's day with a handwritten note
You can make a good impression by sending a handwritten thank you note.  Personal mail is so rare these days, and your card will stand out.

Now is a good time to create some thank you cards.  One idea is to use a picture of a client or group of clients holding a thank you sign.  If cost is an issue, you could get the cards donated.

Writing cards will take more time, so you'll need to plan ahead. Craft a sample note; recruit staff, board members, volunteers, and clients to help write cards; and hold thank you writing parties right after you send out an appeal.

Phone calls make a difference, too
You can do the same thing for thank you phone calls.  Create a sample script, recruit people to make calls, and hold thankathons after your appeal. 

Create an awesome letter
If it's impossible to write cards or make phone calls, then send out an awesome letter. 

This means something personal and conversational without any vague jargon.  Give a specific example of how the donation will make a difference. Something like this.

Dear Matt,

You're incredible!   Your $50 donation will give a family two bags of groceries.  Thank you so much!

Here are some more examples.

Make new donors feel welcome
Approximately 70% of first time donors don't give a second gift. Yikes! Don't let that happen. 

Start thinking about creating a welcome package now.  A week or so after you send a thank you note, send something in the mail or by email, if money is tight.

It's all about relationships
Keep in touch now and throughout the fall, so you stay on your donors' radar. Thanking donors is not a one-time thing. 

Image by Woodley Wonderworks

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How You Can Print and Mail With Limited Resources

In my last post Don't Give Up on Print, I mentioned that some nonprofit organizations try to save money by cutting back on printing and mailing. That could be a mistake and I suggested you survey your donors to see whether they have a preference between print and electronic communication.

So now you've surveyed your donors and found many of them prefer to receive print communication, and you rarely send anything through the mail because you have limited resources (budget, time, staff).  What do you do?  Here are some suggestions.

Be smart
First off, figure out what you should print and mail.  I recommend mailing at least four pieces a year.  If not, you'll miss reaching donors who don't or rarely use electronic channels.

In addition, be smart about what you send out and who you send it to. If your fundraising letter isn't generating the revenue you want, you might need to improve the content. You may also be sending it to a weak audience.  Mail to people who will be receptive to your cause.

Send out quality material your donors will want to read.

Increase your printing and mailing budget
Can you budget more for printing and mailing?  This is often not as much of a priority as it should be.

If you can't increase your current budget, find additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover these costs.

With a good color printer and the right software, you can produce materials in house. Be sure they look professional.

Find a sponsor
You could get your invitations or annual report donated.  A print shop might do this.  It's good publicity for them. You often get sponsors for an event. Have a sponsor cover the cost of the invitations, as well.

Put a donation envelope in your print newsletter
You might recoup the cost of the mailing, as well as raise additional revenue.  In my last post, I recommended organizations that feel really strapped send a newsletter with a donation envelope in the spring and a year-end appeal.
Use discounted mailing options
You may be eligible for special nonprofit rates. Special Prices for Nonprofit Mailers You could use standard or bulk mail for items that aren't time sensitive, such as newsletters or annual reports. Factor in how long it will take to mail, so your spring newsletter doesn't arrive in July.  Only use first class mail for appeal letters and thank you letters.

Recruit volunteers to help with mailings
Just make sure they do quality work and don't slap on crooked mailing labels or write illegible thank you notes.

Different strokes for different folks
You may not need to mail something like an annual report to everyone.  You certainly shouldn't mail one of those massive 20 pagers to all your donors.

You could send a four- page annual report to your major funders and a postcard annual report to the rest of your donors. 

Shorter is better, both to capture your donor's attention and to save on printing and mailing costs.   

It's possible to print and mail with limited resources.  It does take some planning and prioritizing, but it should pay off if it allows you to connect with more donors.

Photo by Reza

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Don't Give Up on Print

If your nonprofit organization has limited resources (and many do), you may try to cut costs by scaling back your printing and mailing.  But be careful.  Print communication still has a place.  

Know your donors
You might think print is too traditional or old fashioned.  It's not. Some donors prefer print communication.  How do you know?  You ask them. 

The more you know about your donors, the more effective your communications will be. It's good to know the age range of your donors.  Many of them may be over 45 and won't think print communication is old fashioned.  They might respond better to it.

The best way to communicate is to use a variety of channels, but make sure your donors are using them, too.  Aim to communicate by mail at least four times a year.

Here are some things you should still print and mail.

Fundraising letters
Fundraising letters are still effective and your fundraising campaign will work better if you use a multi channel approach.  Many people are prompted by the direct mail letter and then donate online.  That's what I usually do.

Thank you card or letter 
Even if someone donates online, they should get a thank you note in the mail (and within a few days, as well).

Think of how little postal mail we get these days, compared to email, and how much of it's junk.  Make your donor's day with a heartfelt, personal thank you note.

Yes, print newsletters are expensive, but not using them could be a mistake. Your donors are more likely to read a print newsletter. 

Ideally, you should send four quarterly print newsletters a year and a monthly e-newsletter.  If four is too costly, send one or two. 

Think about putting a donation envelope in your print newsletter.  It's a proven way to earn extra revenue.  If you do this, be sure to communicate in other ways in which you are not asking for money.

If you're really strapped, send a year-end appeal letter and a newsletter with a donation envelope in the spring.

Event invitations
If you hold fundraising or appreciation events, be sure to send a printed invitation.  Your higher dollar, older donors might respond better to a nice print invitation with a reply card. 

Annual reports and updates
I'm not a fan of those 20 page annual reports.  You're better off with something shorter - a four-page report or even an oversized postcard.

You should share accomplishments with your donors, but you may not need to mail an annual report to all of them. 

Think about creating different types of annual reports for different donors - four page reports for grant and corporate funders and postcards for smaller dollar donors.  You can also create an electronic version of your annual report.

Even if donors are active on email and social media, they are barraged with messages and may not see yours.  Keep them updated and show gratitude by mail, as well.

If some of this sounds impossible, I'll offer suggestions on how you can print and mail with limited resources in my next post.

Photo by IA Walsh

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Have You Thanked Your Donors Lately?

When was the last time you thanked your donors?  Maybe it was when you sent a thank you letter after your year-end appeal.  Perhaps you sent out a Valentine's Day email message. 

Okay, it's been awhile. You need to be thanking your donors more often - at least once a month. 

Nonprofit organizations generally don't do a great job of thanking their donors, and that's a problem, especially as donor retention rates continue to plunge. 

We can do better. The good news is, with a little planning, you can come up with short, creative ways to thank your donors throughout the year.

Send a card
Now is a great time to send a handwritten card or postcard.  Some organizations do special thank you messages around Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day, but not in May or June.

Your donors probably won't be expecting anything and should be pleasantly surprised. Send something by the end of June before people start going on vacation.

Share your mid-year accomplishments
We're almost halfway through the calendar year.  Hard to believe, isn't it?  Share some accomplishments with your donors.  Remember to focus on how THEY are helping you make a difference.

You could create a postcard infographic with a prominent thank you and a few accomplishments.  Keep it short and engaging. Don't bore donors with a lot of facts and statistics.

Create a thank you photo or video
A good photo can get your message across in an instant.  Think about creating a photo where a person or group holds a thank you sign. 

Network For Good Thank You Photo  

beCause Thank You Photo 

I really like this thank you video from OperationSmile.  It features different people associated with the organization saying thank you.  Can you do something like that?  You don't need to make a long video.  Two minutes or less is great. 

Put your photos and video on your website and share them by email and social media.

Use your newsletter to thank your donors
Many nonprofits have a newsletter, which often focuses too on much the organization. Your newsletter should always be donor-focused.

When you share success stories, thank your donors in the process.  Thanks to you, we were able to expand our afterschool program to three more high schools.

Do something special for your donors
Think about having an open house or maybe a BBQ for your donors.   A great time to do this would be in September or October.  It's a nice segue to your year-end appeal.  

Make an investment to thank your donors
You may be thinking, we don't have time to do some of these things and we can't afford to do a lot of mailings.  That may be so, but you can't skimp on thanking your donors.

Create a Thank You Plan that you can incorporate into your communications calendar.  I hope you have a communications calendar because that will make some of this a lot easier.

You might not have much of a printing and mailing budget, but some donors prefer print communication.  Besides it's always nice to get a thoughtful card in the mail.  Can you budget more for printing and mailing?  Communicating with your donors should be a priority. Make an Investment to Thank Your Donors 

Keep finding ways to thank your donors throughout the year.  What are some other ways you thank your donors?

Photo by Jon Ashcroft

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Donor Loyalty

This post is included in the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival

I'm not a dog owner, but I know a lot of people who are.  People like dogs because they're loyal and make great companions.

You may have never made a connection between dogs and donor loyalty, but there is one.  Read on to find out more.

Dogs are excited to see you
Most dogs are social and like to be around people.  They're usually excited to see you after you've been gone all day or maybe if you've just been out of the room for a few minutes.

Are you excited to see your donors?  Are you excited when they give you a gift, especially the first one?  New Donor Welcome Kits | Your Next Gift Strategy  Do you shower them with attention and gratitude?

Do you send a heartfelt thank you letter that starts with You're incredible, or do you send the same old boring, generic letter? By the way, dogs don't wait to show their affection and neither should you.  Thank your donors right away.

Dogs give you unconditional love
Dogs are usually there for you no matter what. Can you do the same thing for your donors?

Your donors shouldn't hear from you only when you ask for money. And, don't wait for a donation before you say thank you.  Say thank you a lot -  at least once a month.  Create a Thank You Plan

Dogs need attention
I like dogs, but we don't have one because we can't give it the amount of attention it needs. 

Dogs need attention.  They don't like to be left alone for a long time. They need to be fed and taken outside to do their business, and when they aren't, well, it's not pretty.

Your donors also need attention. They don't like to be ignored either.  Find ways to stay in touch throughout the year. Don't Let Your Donors Pack Up and Leave 

Dogs need consistency
Dogs need to be fed and taken outside on a consistent schedule.  Donors like consistency, too. Be consistent when you communicate with your donors.  Perhaps you'll send a quarterly print newsletter, a monthly e-newsletter, and share other updates once a week.

Dogs are curious
When we take my mother-in-law's dog for a walk, she's always checking out her surroundings, possibly looking for a squirrel to chase.

Your donors are curious too.  They want to know what you're doing.  They donated to your organization because they're interested in your work.  Share engaging and enlightening information with them.

Dogs want to be part of a community
Dogs want to feel like they are part of your family, and usually are.  Your donors should feel like they are part of your community or family, too.

Dogs are not loyal if you mistreat them
If you ever run across an aggressive dog, it's probably been mistreated.  You need to treat you donors well, too. If you don't, they won't bite you, but they probably won't donate again.

However, if you are loyal to your donors and treat them well, they should treat you well in return.

Photo by Steve Pollock