Product Plug, Not-So-Shameless

Avery Matte White Postcards have done wonders for my donor communication efforts.  Below is an example of a very simple “Thank You” postcard I send to donors during my weekly thank-a-thon when I don’t have a phone number or email address. I like that it feels a little more special than a formal letter, and I don’t have to risk that it will go into the recycling without the message being seen. I have also used these for house party invitations (inside an envelope) and program updates for giving society members. I always try to choose a photo for the front that someone might think is worth holding onto, hoping to make it onto a refrigerator or bulletin board. Since my office has been blessed with a high quality color printer, this has been a very cost effective way to increase donor touchpoints.

Thank You

Red Rover, Red Rover

One of my Core Beliefs of Fundraising (TM) is that successful stewardship turns donors from outsiders to insiders. Insiders are partners in your mission. With insiders, you come to the table as peers rather than as fundraisers. They are passionate about your mission, and they see their involvement as meaningful. So…how do we get there?

1.  Make them part of a group.

Whether it’s a major giving society, a monthly giving program, or something as simple as named levels in your annual campaign, invite your donors to join the club.  After they join, take advantage of it!  Now, when you communicate with them one-on-one, you are no longer a creepy stalker. This membership status gives you a natural reason to reach out from time to time with updates and words of thanks.

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Fundraising By Aristotle

“[Rhetoric is} the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.”  This quote is credited to Aristotle.  It seems doubtful to me that he ever said it, but I think he would agree.

This year, the spring Friend’s of the Children’s Art Centre appeal included a list of approximately 1,500 local residents with properties valued at $1 million or more that was purchased through a mail service.  While we have done our best to cultivate these folks for this ask by sending program brochures and event invitations – some actually bought tickets! – we knew that they would be much more likely to open something that isn’t obviously a solicitation letter.  I have opined further on this topic, here.

To make our case, I deferred to the expertise of Aristotle.  The ethos/pathos/logos approach has been successfully compelling people to do things for over 2,000 years.  As such, I believe that the narrative of our work is most powerful when it combines an image, a story, and numbers.

I am proud to show off the following piece, which was truly a joint effort between development and program staff.  I am also thrilled to report that the appeal has been successful, which several gifts coming from purchased list donors ranging from $200-350 and one for $5,000!

Let the stewardship begin!

appeal inner

There is no time like the present…

…to do the things that have been relegated to your Procrastination List.  Over the last month and a half, that has included things such as filing my taxes, cleaning the refrigerator, and blogging.  I DID run a half marathon though!   (Which is why I didn’t do anything else.)

In every organization that I have worked for or volunteered with, I have seen donor stewardship get cast onto the “next week” or “next month” pile.  It’s easy to do.  There are no deadlines, unlike grants, which seem to be due Every. Single. Week.  There is also no immediate return on the investment of your time.  It can be a struggle to make relationship building a priority for your staff and board.  If your team does not already have a stewardship plan in place, deciding when and how to start can be overwhelming.

My advice is to start now.

Find yourself reading this post on a Tuesday afternoon?  Then Tuesday afternoon will be the time that you make donor appreciation calls.  Pull up a list of all the gifts you have received in the past 7 days, call them, thank them, and listen to what they have to say.

But I don’t have a phone number!  I almost always get lucky with  But if you can’t track one down, or your donor is a young whippersnapper without a land line, an email is also a nice point of contact.  Thanks to the marvels of the interwebs, it is very easy to find out where someone works and to then find their work email if you don’t have a personal.

Deep in conversation with my new best friend.

Deep in conversation with my new best friend.

I don’t like to talk on the phone!  You might be in the wrong line of work.  That being said, most folks won’t answer.  Of those who do, I guarantee you that you will brighten their day, which will in turn brighten yours.  If you don’t want to wing it, use the following script:

Hi, I’m calling for Nikki…  My name is “me” and I’m calling from “my organization.”  We received your gift last week, and I am just calling to say thank you, so much, for your support.  [pause, let them speak]  It’s a really exciting time at “my organization.”  Last month, [accomplishment], and next month [upcoming event]  I just want you to know that your gift does make a difference, and I want to thank you for making these things possible.  [pause, let them speak]  Thank you, have a wonderful afternoon!

Just remember…

1.  Say “thank you” three times.

2.  Pause, and give them time to respond.  They will!

3.  Listen, listen, listen.  Don’t try to cram in too much information.  You have already made the sale.  Consider this a fact finding mission.

Kickass Giving Pages For Dummies

2013 data from Network For Good tells us that while online giving continues to grow, it still represents less than 10% of giving.  Of the giving that happens online, 58% is done through branded giving pages – pages that visually match and are integrated with the organization’s website.  The average gift size was $118, as opposed to an average of $80 through generic giving pages.  Fortunately, Cause Populi developed an amazing infographic that lays out the essential components of a kickass branded giving page:

How to Embrace a Challenge Gift

I think we can all agree that a challenge gift is both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing is that the gift will most likely leverage new money from new donors.  Challenge gifts can also be a much needed jolt for a board of directors that needs to step up their efforts.  The curse is that the process will be an awful lot of work.  When the challenge comes from a foundation, you can expect a lengthy set of guidelines that give a clear understanding of what is expected.  However, when the challenge comes from an individual donor, the details can get a little murky.  I have worked with several donors on pledges ranging from 2k to 20K and many lessons have been learned.

(This is what raising 20K from new funders in one night feels like.)

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Well Played, ZUMIX and Artists for Humanity!

Early on I wrote a post about how to get your annual appeal opened, which I consider to be a sizable hurdle in any direct mail campaign.  Basically, the appeal package should be interesting in both look and feel and also have some personal touches.  As an example of a mailer that does every single thing right, check out this appeal from ZUMIX: Continue reading

What’s in a name?

I must confess that naming opportunities is an area in which I have absolutely zero experience.  The idea has come up from time to time, but never under the guidance of someone who can lead the charge.  It all seems so tricky – if related to a capital campaign, the window of opportunity is short.  If you sell yourself short, you don’t get a second chance.  And what if the donor is a total jerkface and every day you go to work and you have pass by the Ms. Jerkface honor plaque?  I am pretty much the most decisive person you will ever meet, yet the prospect of a naming campaign causes me to prance uneasily.

However, my outlook has been completely changed by The Mütter Museum, which will allow you to adopt a skull for 1 year (technically that is a “foster,” but whatever).  For $200 you can pick out your specimen, fund a customized mount, and have your name displayed with your new friend for 12 months.  I sincerely hope that he/she would also send you a selfie from the new display.


I met this skull in the crypts under King's Chapel.

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Well Played, MSPCA!

I have been dabbling in donor involvement with USES publications, which began by starting a “letter from a donor” column in our fall newsletter.  I have always wanted to do a donor spotlight because it is obviously a great way to honor a long-term supporter while leveraging their engagement to inspire others.  However, my desire to walk that line graciously has prevented me from moving ahead.  To that end, I am sharing some good examples to inspire all of us.


Well Played, Brattle Film Foundation!

Annual appeal season brings a lot of inspiration if you take the time to read all the messaging.  I received an appeal from the Brattle Film Foundation, best known as The Brattle Theatre, presumably because I supported their Kickstarter campaign back in the spring.  I will admit that I had no connection and had never been there, but a friend shared the campaign on Facebook and $20 got me two tickets and popcorn – win/win.

As you can see, the letter tells a personal story about the Theatre.  I appreciate that this letter is a narrative, relying on a sense of nostalgia rather than a laundry list of statistics from the past year.  While I am not making a donation right now, I did finally go to their website and make plans to use my tickets.  And so it begins.