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

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.

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.


Quick Tip, LinkedIn Edition

I have always felt guilty about not doing more constituent engagement through LinkedIn. It seems so obvious – there are our donors, board members, volunteers, and all of their networks! At one point I took over a not-at-all-utilized Friends of ZUMIX LinkedIn group with very lofty aspirations. I invited a bunch of new people, and then did nothing else.

This morning I got the one tip I have been looking for – a way to engage in a meaningful way that doesn’t require continuous maintenance – at a HandsOn Tech Boston workshop on social media for nonprofits.

Mike Byrnes, presenter and ESC consultant, suggested using the recommendations feature to acknowledge the work of Board members, volunteers, and active donors. By doing so, you can publicly offer a sincere thank you, give that person a professional boost to their profile, and also get your organization some added LinkedIn visibility. Triple win!

Well played, Future Chefs!

Future Chefs LogoEight months in, I have not abandoned my resolution to attend 12 fundraising events in 2013. Recently, I attended a pop up lunch at Future Chefs, a fantastic youth development and culinary training organization.  (I am so excited to be on their fundraising committee and you should check them out.) The event was fantastic, but the greatest learning point caught me completely by surprise.

This was not exactly a fundraiser – it was more of what the Benevon model calls a “point of entry” – but I am including it anyway because ultimately one hopes these events will lead to increased support over time.  I enjoyed the pop up lunch quite a bit. There was excellent food, a chance to meet participants and alumni, mini-presentations highlighting the program, and an opportunity to chat with some folks that I’d like to have better connections with. So, with that winning recipe, of course I was inspired to make a donation.

To make a donation online, the Future Chefs website directs the donor to a Paypal portal. The surprise came after I completed the transaction and was directed back to the Future Chefs website to a “Thank You” page  which illustrates the impact donations make by highlighting recent accomplishments. This is such a simple step to take, but for some reason most of us do not do it. I was able to experience this as a donor, and it really made me excited about the gift I had just made. At a point where I would have just moved on to my next task, redirecting me to this page at a time when I was already engaged was a clever way to build goodwill and pass on a little extra knowledge.

But…very quickly I switched to fundraiser mode, and so I called a colleague into my office to look over it with me. I am happy to say that we are in the midst of a website redesign at United South End Settlement, and we will definitely be adding this feature.

How do I thank thee? Let me count the ways…

I recently had a conversation with someone who commented that a nonprofit he used to be very involved with only ever reaches out to him when they want him to buy tickets to a major fundraiser.  Actually, I’ve had variations on this conversation with many people.  And this is an area where I am fully committed to making significant improvements in my new position.  With the recent launch of a major giving society, I have mapped out an annual communications plan will be applied to each major donor.  The overarching premise is that, in addition to the standard phone call and official acknowledgment upon receipt of the gift, we will reach out to them a minimum of four times over the course of a year where we are not asking for any type of support – and that we must do this before another request is made.    And so, this will require us to come up with some creative ways to share updates and give thanks.

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The Power of the Pen (or Pencil)

A handwritten note from one of your program participants can really amp up the impact of an acknowledgment letter.

A handwritten note from one of your program participants can significantly amp up the impact of an acknowledgment letter.

In my experience, most acknowledgment letters are pretty lame. It’s not that there is anything wrong with them, it’s that they are a wasted opportunity. The relationship between a donor and an organization has the potential to strengthen with every communication. Given that we  have limited opportunities to contact donors, before we get into the realm of annoying and/or creepy, it is important to make this one count.

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