Tag Archives: Donor Strategy

The Donor As The Hero

Donor as hero - Photo by Pixabay @Pexels

In my 22+ years in development, I have seen a lot of “new ideas” in solicitations:

  • Send the same letter to everyone, some people will give
  • Buy mailing lists!
  • Send the same letter to everyone along with an incentive piece like a notebook, return address sticker, or even a coin!
  • Every letter should be personalized
  • Letters should be personalized and have a specific ask
  • Offer a gift with certain donation levels
  • Not only personalize letters, but include a specific ask and list the previous year’s gift
  • Every letter should be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, and tell a story.
  • Did you forget to include a cute animal or child? Every letter has to be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, tell a story, and include cute pictures
  • Only send emails to people who contact you by emails
  • Forget letters, send everyone emails!
  • Don’t send too many emails
  • Send a combination of letters and emails
  • What do you mean you haven’t been using Instagram for solicitations?
  • Send letters, no one sends them anymore so you will stand out
  • Send postcards, no one even has to open an envelope to give!
  • Use twice as many “you” references than “we”, “me”, “our”, etc. in your letter

I could go on but, you get the idea. Maybe you’ve lived through many of these ideas. And they weren’t wrong for their time and the world lived in. So, what’s the latest?

The Donor As The Hero

How has the donor helped your beneficiaries?

“Your gift helped provide 3,248 meals for our community in the past year”

“Your $5,000 gift helped create 198 after school job opportunities for disadvantaged teenagers

“Your gift of $1,000, along with your fellow donors in the Foundation Society, created a mental health space for every one of the 12,838 people who walked through our doors last year. We hope you will help us continue to develop our safe space with a gift of $1,500 this year.”

Using the donor as the hero can highlight your best statistics while making the donor feel great. A win-win.

Now, just sit back and wait for donations. And the next big fundraising idea.

Or, if you would like help with your annual appeal and annual campaign, click here to set up a 30-minute free consultation

Making stewardship, gratitude, or solicitation calls this fall? Read this first.

If you are like many nonprofits, you are thinking about making phone calls this fall. I know I have been asked to make calls this month as a volunteer. It is a great way to connect with your members, donors, and volunteers. 

Your nonprofit may decide to call:

making nonprofit calls
  • Your entire membership to thank them for being involved (stewardship calls)
  • Previous donor calls (donation encouragement calls)
  • Previous donor calls (solicitation calls)
  • Recent donations (gratitude calls)
  • Volunteers (gratitude calls)

But, as one client reminded me, asking board members to make the calls is easy. Ensuring that someone is systematically following up on the information, questions, and comments gathered from the calls is the hard part.

In other words, how you handle the information you gain during the next few months will impact donations and retention for years to come.

The easiest way to anger a donor is ask a question, get an answer, do nothing with it, and never provide feedback to the donor.

Consider these 3 different scenarios that require 3 different responses:

  • One person asks what happened to their book donation from last year (not about how their DAF distribution for $5,000 was spent – only the book valued around $54)
  • Another asks why their favorite program isn’t running now that people are back in the buildings
  • A third person asks whether they can start volunteering in the next couple of months but not for the gala

Obviously, we can’t know what the answers are or who should answer them.

Phone Calls will be made to ___(group)___ by ___(group/individual names) ___ during ___(start date)___ to __(end date)___

  1. Assignments
    • Who is assigning the calls (and providing the call information and sample script)?
    • Who is tracking that the calls are made?
    • When should reminders be sent?
  2. Tracking the questions
    • Who will track that a comment was made or a question was asked?
    • Is there a contact report that should be filled out?
    • How will you track that a contact report was filled out? i.e. is there a central document like a Google Doc, is it entered into the CRM, or is every report sent to one person to track?
    • Will development staff be told each time a response is necessary with any comments that might be helpful? How will they be notified? Or do they need to check the tracking document? How often?
    • Who will let the appropriate person at the organization know there is a question or comment that needs to be addressed?
  3. Who can be assigned to respond? Who decides who should respond? Responders could include:
    • Fundraising Staff
    • Executive Director
    • Programming Coordinator
    • Volunteer Coordinator
    • Admin
  4. Who will check that the person was contacted a second time? Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. It is stewardship. It is logical. It is also the only way you will retain a donor. Someone needs to know that they oversee this.
  5. Who will collect and track contact reports? Each interaction with a donor provides valuable information. Don’t assume the volunteer – or even staff member – will be there to remind you of the facts in a week, a year or 3 years. Turnover is high. And memories are short.
  6. Analyzing the results
    • Did the people called have a higher donation level or retention rate after receiving a call?
    • How much time did volunteers actually spend on the calling process?
    • Did everyone make their calls?

Create a formal process from start to finish. Keep it simple. But make it an essential part of calling. 5 minutes to make the call. 5 minutes to write the call report. Or one minute and one minute if you just leave a message.

This seems to be a lot of work for a few phone calls, doesn’t it? The good news is once you create your system you may only need to revise it from time to time. So start assigning those calls.

We can’t guarantee the calls will make a difference. But, we are so confident in this follow-up process that we encourage you to use it anyway. Try it. You will raise more money and retain more donors. You’ll see.

Want to read more about End-of-year strategies? Here are a few from our archive:

Five End-of-year Segmentation Strategies

Which is Easier? Getting a Teenager into College or Getting New Donors in December?

Want to Learn a New Fundraising Trick?

Want to Learn a New Fundraising Trick?

It’s true. I am about to reveal the best new fundraising trick for your organization. Read on, it’s in Step 2.

Step 1: Start here:

  1. Have a strong case for support – Why is your organization is worthy of the donor’s philanthropy?
  2. Be creative. You are not the only nonprofit in your space – Know and share what makes you unique.
  3. Determine institutional priorities – what you want your donors to fund.
  4. Research your donors – understand your current trends (increased donor retention or decreased first time donor lapses).
  5. Decide which segment you want to focus your energy on this year.
  6. Research why this donor segment funds your nonprofit
    1. do they have a persona?
    1. what are their priorities?
    1. how they want to be reached? email vs mail vs social media.
  7. Thank them. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
  8. Keep in touch with them throughout the year – more than just solicitations

Step 2: Use the best new fundraising trick:

Dedicate time to do each one of the steps listed above.

Before you dismiss this (or think this is an old trick) consider:

Many of you know what needs to be done. But something else always takes priority. For example, there is something that you need to send out this week or there is one major donor who takes a lot of your time.

Just as you need to schedule vacation time, or doctors’ appointments, you need to schedule time to do the work—the right work. And don’t let other work—the urgent but unimportant– become a priority.  

The real trick knowing what is your priority, what provides the greatest return on your invested time. Know what you want and stay with it for the long haul so you get the expected and best new results.

If you, or anyone in your organization, would like to talk to us about how we can help you with the proven methods and the best fundraising trick this month, email me.

Five End-of-year Segmentation Strategies

End-of-year Segmentation Possibilities

This week, I have been considering the importance of end-of-year segmentation for the next 2+ months of Daily Table solicitations. I don’t mean personalization which should always be used to highlight previous giving and specific asks. I mean separating out different segments of a nonprofit’s donors and prospects to send tailored letters.

How many ways should an organization segment their end-of-year campaign? Is segmentation just for letters? Emails? Social Media? What is the time trade-off in this all important and extremely busy season? Which way should I go?

I thought I would share the potential end-of-year segmentation strategies I am considering. Possibilities include:

  1. At the minimum, use the CRM to separate current, recurring, lapsed and recent donors. This is a no brainer and will only require minimal changes to the letter. It is a bit more work than sending the same letter to everyone, but well worth the effort.
  2. Should my emails have the same or alternate end-of-year segmentation strategies as my snail mail? Segmenting is easy in email if your CRM is set up well. And probably even if it’s not set up that well. You can take out previous donors prior to each email. You can add special incentives or matches on the fly. You can encourage one group over another – i.e., if you realize that your LYBUNTs are not responding at the same rate as in previous years, you can alter the message for the rest of the campaign. NOTE: This means you must build evaluation and campaign restructuring into your timeline. Marketing and approvals can take hours or days. And do you want a few days delay in December?
  3. Can you segment social media? Yes. Cross posts between Facebook and Instagram or LinkedIn and Twitter are easy enough with a few clicks. But should you just do it automatically? While you can’t send different messages to different Friends on Facebook without groups, you can consider the specific audience on each social media platform as a different segment. If your audience is younger on Instagram – what would they like to hear vs the parents and grandparents on Facebook? What do you want to say to the business-focused crowd on LinkedIn? Would additional stats help? In other words if you are going to use social media – use it well.
  4.  Pull donors who have recently given during November and send them an additional thank you instead of an additional solicitation. This may seem counterintuitive when we are all focused on asking donors and prospects multiple times in our end-of-year campaigns. But development is a long game. We need funds for this year, but we never want to compromise donations for next year (see #5, below). Ask yourself whether a solicitation within weeks of a donation is more likely to get you another gift or an annoyed donor. Note: If you do decide to use this strategy for segmentation, let them know that they are receiving the thank you instead of the solicitation. And in the P.S. offer a way they can donate if they want to give again.  
  5. Add a cumulative giving to my end-of-year segmentation. If a donor has given for 5, 10 or 20 years – at any level – an organization can list their lifetime giving in communications. Lifetime giving is a key measurement of donor value. Someone who gives $50 for 5 years can be worth more than a $250 donor. Of course, Daily Table hasn’t been around 10 years. But that doesn’t mean cumulative giving shouldn’t be considered for the loyal supporters who helped get us off the ground and continue to give.

Want to look at it by type of donor or prospect? Check out our previous article on 17 Ways to Segment Lists For A Year-End Appeal

If you have additional strategies that you have used successfully (or you are considering this year) let me know. I am always open to learning from the MJA community.  

Feeling Frantic About Fundraising? 5 Suggestions to Help

Feeling Frantic About Fundraising? Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

You are not alone. As we begin to see a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, we have to consider what we need to accomplish in 2021.

And 2021 is a ¼ over.

  • Am I doing enough?
  • Will I be able to retain my new donors?
  • Will my 2020 LYBUNTS return?
  • Will I go back on the road to talk to donors?
  • Will other organizations be doing it if I am not?
  • Should I feel relieved or guilty about the strength of my nonprofit right now?
  • Do we need to hire staff to help us handle our new donor base?
  • Will these donors continue to support us so that we can afford new staff?
  • Is everyone feeling frantic about fundraising?

We know we have so much to do, and it feels like it all must be done today. Because it didn’t get done last week when it really should have been done.

Breathe. Or meditate. Or do whatever has calmed you down over the past year. And consider:

Where do we go from here? 5 Suggestions to stop feeling frantic about fundraising in 2021

  1. Assess your donors. Look at your donor retention levels for First Time Donors vs. Multi-year Donors vs. Monthly Donors. How do you match up to benchmark statistics? (email me if you want our benchmarks.)          
  2. Assess your donor pool without events. Many nonprofit events are smaller or not happening again this year. Now is the time to use those event hours towards your relationships with individual donors. And see if you can raise more money. In other words, events are often very costly and time consuming to produce so think of the resources you can dedicate to another initiative. (Please note: Events can be great community builders and friend-raisers but rarely offer the ROI of individual donors).
  3. Assess your staff. Do you have the right staff for the future? Do they have the bandwidth to handle your new donors in addition to the job they already do? Is it time to invest in your organization’s human resources?
  4. Assess your systems. Do you have a CRM that works for your nonprofit? Do you have recent prospect research? Do you send acknowledgements out within 24-48 hours?
  5. Assess your strategic plan. A strategic plan in 2018 might not look the same in 2021. Does the work look the same for your nonprofit? Are your board, volunteer, and staff priorities different? Would your SWOT analysis remain true?

Yes, we are big into assessments. We see it as taking a breath and looking internally before you charge forward into this post-pandemic world. Of course, if you would like us to help with your assessments email me.

And, hopefully, you can stop feeling frantic about fundraising and start feeling confident about moving forward.

Is it Worth Investing in Electronic Prospect Research Screening for Your Nonprofit?

Prospect ResearchWhen researching a prospective donor for an initial gift, or possibly an upgraded gift, many nonprofits stop and question, “Is it worth investing in electronic prospect research screening? Is it the path to the pot of gold? Or, is it too general to be helpful to your nonprofit (i.e. does it matter if they gave their medical school or a local women’s shelter if you are a religious organization?)”

Here are the Pros and Cons of Electronic Prospect Research Screening

The Pros:

  • Research is super fun for data geeks and sociologists alike. That’s because good donor research output will give you a snapshot of publicly available data that includes:
    • Previous giving history- how much have they given to others
    • Political giving –a strong indicator of their philanthropic mindset
    • Real estate estimates (they own how many houses????)
    • Business data (they are the CEO of what public company?)
    • SEC information including shares and market values of public transactions
    • Boards they may sit on
  • Previous giving history can help you adjust your expectations. Rarely, do donors jump from $1,000 to $100,000.
  • It can help you understand where passions lie. If they have donated to a local Food Insecurity Initiative, a local hospital and a local private K-12 school, they are probably like to give locally to organizations that build relationships or where they already have connections.
  • Understanding their political giving will help you deepen the picture of who they are and what they value. Do they donate to more Republican or Democrat causes? Town-focused, State-wide or National? Small amounts to individuals or large amounts to PACs?

The Cons:

  • All that data can be a rabbit hole that sucks hours of your day. And that’s just for one interesting person. Sometimes too much data is just too much.
  • Anecdotal information is not included. Anyone being considered for a major gift would, ideally, already be associated with your nonprofit. That means someone should know their connection point, recent conversations, and how they feel about your organization.
  • It is just data and doesn’t let you know if it is a personal gift. If they gave to a children’s hospital because they helped a family member, or they donate to the women’s shelter because their sister is on the board, that is a very different type of gift than general support because they think it is a good cause.
  • Common names skew results. Someone must go through each prospect and realize if it is the right Larry Smith or David Weinstein. One can probably give $1,000,000 and the other $1,000. That is a very different ask.
  • Just because they have the capacity and have given to your nonprofit, that doesn’t mean they want to give more. Of course, your job is to convince them otherwise, but be patient. 10 years of $50 gifts are still valuable to your nonprofit. And consecutive years of giving demonstrate loyalty the might lead to a bequest or other planned gift.

Is it worth investing in Electronic Prospect Research Screening?

In my opinion, yes. It will save you hours on Google getting basic information and some services (like DonorSearch) provide you with an impressive amount of detail about your prospects. But, like so many things in life, paying someone else to do the screening is in actuality buying you time to other aspects of fundraising and development.  Prospect research is not the end-all, be-all solution we would like it to be. But, it is an important step towards knowing your donors.

A Guide to Powering Up your Board Member Recruitment

Board Member Recruitment Let me start by saying that before you focus on board member recruitment, you need a standing committee on governance and leadership development. If you don’t, read this or this first.

OK, now we are on the same page and everyone understands the importance of a standing committee on governance and leadership development.  Among the ten basic responsibilities of board members is one that states thatthe board should “replace itself.” But, board member recruitment means that you have to continually generate and explore prospects for leadership roles in the organization as well as for potential board members. Here are 8 ideas for your committee to test out:

  1. Consider your constituents/members. One of the life lessons we are learning from the upcoming mid-term elections is that people seem to want to be represented by people who look and act like themselves. Board member recruitment should include representatives of your work. Members, current/former beneficiaries, or program participants can all be considered.
  2. Think about who has reached out to you. People who are looking to get more involved but first want to peek behind the scenes at a nonprofit will often reach out to you. They will invite the Executive Director or another staff member for coffee or to meet up. It might be after an event, “I will be at pancake breakfast with my kids, can we talk for a few minutes about this idea I had for a wine tasting event.” Whether or not you want to add a wine tasting is irrelevant – that person is thinking about how to help your nonprofit. And that is a good indicator that they may want a deeper involvement.
  3. Look at your committee members. This is a tried and true method of identifying potential board members who are committed to the organization and do what they say they will do.
  4. Read your donor lists. Now focus in on the cumulative giving lists. If your nonprofit means enough to them to give year after year, they have already demonstrated their passion for your mission and vision.
  5. Perform a formal search. This will take time and energy, but if you think you have people who would get more involved, if only they were asked to do more than serve pancakes, offer them the opportunity to raise their hands. Put out calls on social media (LinkedIn could be incredibly valuable here), in newsletters or hand written notes to target specific people. List opportunities to join different committees that could use an infusion of new volunteers (read: all committees). Finance, development, events, governance, programs, marketing, and/or membership are all options.
  6. Ask your current board members who are not on the governance and leadership development committee for suggestions. This may seem obvious, but over time a strong committee might not be soliciting nominations from other board members.
  7. Look outside the box. Contact local organizations that train board members (e.g., United Ways) or look online to nonprofit board recruitment sites.
  8. Talk to your current volunteers. Some volunteers want to help a day here or there with no long-term commitment. But, if you ask your volunteer coordinator who the most reliable volunteers are, there will be obvious answers.

Of course, once you identify candidates, the next step is to research them. But I will save that for another article on board member recruitment.

Say Goodbye to a Board Member Without Saying Goodbye

Say Goodbye to a Board MemberA close friend, Alex, told me an all-too-common, disheartening story about a nonprofit board she left a few years ago.

She was a founding member of a small nonprofit’s board of directors. She was an active volunteer, and one of their major donors, for two terms before deciding it was time to step down.  She mentioned her intentions to the president of the board, and he asked her if she would stay on. She agreed to one more term, helping to plan dinners for 3 fellow board members who stepped off during that time.

When her term was up, with her last meeting on the horizon, there was no talk of a dinner. In fact, there was not even an acknowledgement at the meeting for her service to the organization.  She awkwardly walked out wondering if the door was going to hit her on the way out.

This was no way to say goodbye to a board member.

December rolled around, and she began to wonder whether she should continue to donate. She helped found, build and strengthen this nonprofit. She had been invested in the mission, vision and values. But she felt ignored and underappreciated.

If you were in her shoes, what would you do?

Now flip that thinking, and consider, what you can do to prevent this situation with your board members.

  • Treat all current and past board members as loyal, valuable donors. Whether they have been giving $500 a year or $5,000, they are supporters that should be prime candidates for lifelong relationship.
  • Keep in touch. If they have been engaged as volunteers, encourage them to continue giving their time, perhaps, in smaller ways. Use stewardship “moves” to engage them around the calendar – not just write a little note on the bottom of the annual appeal when it is time to ask for a donation to pretend you are personalizing the ask. In other words, say farewell to a board member without saying goodbye to the person.
  • Honor their time and energy during the off-boarding process. Is a dinner necessary? If you have done it for previous board members than it seems like the right thing to do. If you are changing the way you do things, explain that and honor them in a different way. It can be as simple as toasting them at a small event, giving them a special gift at a board meeting and publicly thanking them in a newsletter article. People don’t expect the same treatment year in and year out, but they do expect the same respect.

What happened to Alex and her donations? The first year that she stopped giving to the organization she felt guilty. But, then, she reminded herself that she is not a priority to them. If she was, she would still be giving.  Now, she is just one more statistic contributing to that organization’s low donor retention rates. And she is happily involved in two other nonprofit organizations.

Want to read more about Board Members Relationships with your nonprofit?

Why the Next Note To Your Donor Does Not Have To Be A Highly-crafted, Over-thought, Well-designed Piece Of Perfection

the Next Note To Your Donor In the past couple of weeks, I have written notes to two different people who are going through some medical issues. While I am not particularly close with either, they are people I truly like. And, in both cases, I heard about the issues from a mutual friend who had called to let me know.

In both cases I considered whether I should send something, buy a card, or pick up the phone. With back to school, a conference and the Jewish High Holidays, I realized it was a bit of a crazy time. So, I wrote a few sentences to each in an email, letting them know I was thinking of them. Each one took about 2 minutes to do.

In both cases, I heard from the mutual friend how appreciative the person was that I took the time to write. Not bad for less than five minutes in a crazy, busy week.

I am not writing this to pat myself on the back. I am writing this to say your personal outreach to your friend, your colleague or your donor will make a difference.

The next note to your donor does not have to be a highly-crafted, over-thought, well-designed piece of perfection. It just needs to get out.  And come from the heart.

Today, take the few minutes necessary to write to some donors or prospective donors. Maybe you can send them a funny article that you shared on Facebook because it poked fun at your nonprofit sector or let them know about a great thank you note you just received from a high school student who benefited from your program which they support.

Keep it simple and get it out.  You will be amazed at the results. 

The Key to Successful Fundraising is Stop Thinking About Your Nonprofit

Key to Successful FundraisingI have talked about this topic a bit when opining on annual appeal letters and solicitor training but after a recent conversation, I thought it should be said again. And said in a straightforward, no nonsense way.

The key to successful fundraising is stop thinking about your nonprofit. And start thinking about donor.

Consider

Finding out what motivates the donor to give.

Some people like their names on buildings. Others like the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they watch a video that includes the children who attend the community center thanking them for their support. Still others like to dress up and help create an extravagant gala. Very different motivations but all valid and all should be considered when soliciting a gift.

Discovering why the donor likes your organization. 

Is it because they feel that their child is having a good experience at your school? Or, because they think you are the best advocates in the area for animal welfare. Maybe they think their association with you is good for their image.  The key is knowing, what do they think?

Asking for the right gift

Someone who likes galas might not want to give to your annual fund. But, they may be willing to join the gala committee, increase their personal gift, and encourage their friends to join them. Another donor who gives to your annual fund may like to give to the December appeal, or they may be ready to learn how they can fund a new program.  Knowing your donors giving history/patterns, their interests, and how much they give to other organizations can help you craft the right ask.

Knowing the right time to ask

Your fiscal year end will not affect a major donor’s donation timing as much as their year-end bonus or their annual fundraising check writing session in December.  Your calendar is not as important as the donors.  No matter how much you wish it were different.

Thinking about who should make the ask

Your most successful fundraiser is not the best fundraiser for every donor. Consider who the donor knows, or might like to get to know. Create pairs of solicitors so that there is twice as much listening going on.  It is about the donor, and deepening their connection to your nonprofit.

Stewardship

If you want to retain donors and move then from entry level to mid-level, or mid-level to major gifts, stewardship is the key.  A planned approach that incorporates calls, emails, updates, invitations, thank yous, coffees, etc. takes time. But it is the path to a stronger relationship with the donor. Which, in turn, will help with donor retention and raising more money.

Refining your fundraising processes takes time. But if you start to considering fundraising from the donor’s perspective, you will understand it is a marathon, not a sprint. One bit of caution, if you wait another six months or year with excuses as to why you can’t start changing your fundraising yet, you are putting off your growth.  And probably losing quite a few donors along the way. Start considering the donors’ POV ASAP.