Fundraising’s “Virtuous Circle”

the fundraising "virtuous circle": Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat

I had the privilege of teaching at the South Sound AFP chapter a few nights ago. The group was made up of young professionals, several of whom had been fundraising for less than 6 months.

We walked through fundraising’s Virtuous Circle. A “virtuous circle” is a chain of events that reinforces itself through a feedback loop. Here’s what it looks like in fundraising:

  1. Asking donors to solve a problem with their gift,
  2. Thanking them promptly and emotionally,
  3. Reporting back to them on how their gift made a difference.

Doing those three things well, one at a time, and in the correct order causes donors to trust your organization. This makes it more likely they’ll give to your next appeal, and stay donors for years and years.

I asked the group how many of their organizations Reported back to donors. **Only one person raised their hand.** Only one organization in the whole room was completing the circle.

I’ll do a longer post about fundraising’s virtuous circle later, but for now let’s focus on the incredible opportunity this presents for you and your organization. If your donor is giving to (on average) 7 to 10 different charities – but your organization is the only one does a great job showing her what her gifts have done, what do you think will happen? Here’s the short list:

  • Your donors will stick with you for longer
  • Your newsletters will raise money
  • Your response rates to appeals will increase
  • Even event income goes up

I think every fundraiser needs to learn (or be reminded of) this fundamental part of fundraising. Letting your donors’ know what their gifts have done is both honoring and a huge opportunity to raise more money to do more good.

Shower Your Donors With Love


Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to shower your donors with love!

Here are a few ways for you to love on your donors before February 14th:

  • Send your donors a Valentine’s card. Send the Valentine on behalf of your organization and staff.  Even better, have one of your beneficiaries sign it!
  • Send flowers to your top donors. During the December holiday rush it is common to receive gifts and treats from friends, family, co-workers and business associates.  What’s to stop you from sending flowers to your top donors? Include a ‘donor love’ note!
  • Pick up the phone just a few days before the 14th. Let the donor know how much you appreciate their giving. And how your beneficiaries LOVE knowing that your donor cared enough to send in a generous donation.

The big takeaway here is to leverage the holiday. This is a great chance for you to show your donors that you love and appreciate them.  And here’s the not-so-secret payoff; donors that feel loved and appreciated are more likely to give future gifts!

Major Donor Fundraising: Thank Your Donors Promptly and Emotionally


The 2016 fundraising season has come to an end. Your donors just gave generously at year-end and now are waiting to hear from you.

Specifically, they are wondering if their gifts made a difference.  And if your organization really appreciated them.

So if you want to raise more money in the next few months you need to do a great job thanking the donors who just gave a year-end gift.

Here are my simple rules for thanking Major donors; Thank them promptly, Thank them often, and Thank them emotionally. In our experience, doing this very clearly leads to more giving.

Not only will you see an increase in giving revenue, you will see an increase in donor retention because your donors will give you more gifts and will stick around for longer.

You may need a little nudge to think of ways to thank you donors. Here are few ideas.

  • Write a personalized thank you note. Send it separately from the standard receipt letter.
  • Make a quick thank you video. This video can be from you directly or even better, have one of your beneficiaries say thank you to the donor. This doesn’t need to be fancy. A 20 second video from your phone will do the trick.
  • Call first-time donors to your organization or donors who give their first gift of 2017.
  • Send your donor a Valentines Day card. Tell them how much they are loved and appreciated.

Use these and other methods you know to thank your donors. They deserve it!

Your “Giving Summary” letter should be raising money!


Yes. You read that headline correctly. You can raise money when you send your donors their 2016 tax summary letter.

Many organizations send donors a letter thanking them for their generosity and summarizing their giving in the previous year.

And many smart organizations raise a lot of money with this letter.  Here’s how . . .

Think of your letter as an appeal letter that just happens to have the donor’s previous giving amounts enclosed.  Put another way, their 2016 giving history is a conversation starter – and then you steer the conversation to why their first gift in 2017 will be so impactful.  Here’s what to do:

  • The outer envelope should say something similar to, “Your 2016 Tax Information enclosed” or “Your 2016 Giving Record enclosed.”  This is what causes the donor to open the letter.
  • The donor’s tax info can be in 1 of 3 places:
    1. In the letter copy (for instance, in a specially-indented paragraph)
    2. On 1/3 of the letter in it’s own little section
    3. On a separate sheet of paper.  This is most often done for donors who give several gifts each year and each gift is listed.
  • The letter should begin by emotionally thanking the donor for their incredible generosity, and tell them that a summary of their giving to [organization name] is enclosed.
  • The letter should then briefly summarize a need that the organization meets, and explain how the donor’s gift meets that need.  This might be something like, ‘there are too many homeless families in our neighborhood’ followed by ‘your gift of $X.XX provides one night of safe housing for a family.’

End the letter by thanking the donor again for their previous giving, and then ask them to ‘renew their support’ by sending in a gift today to help a family who needs help.

As is in most cases with direct communications, include a response card and response envelope. Make it as easy as possible for your donors to send in their donation.

If you don’t normally send out an appeal in January or February, this is a GREAT way to build trust with your donors.  You start by Thanking them for their previous giving, and then are honest that their generosity in 2017 is both needed and will make a difference!

Video: Make The Most of Your Thank You Process


The fall fundraising season has begun, so we would like to show you how to maximize revenue and maximize donor happiness by leveraging the “Thank” from the Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat rhythm.

Your receipts and thank you notes are the first sign to a donor that you received their gift and you appreciate them for giving. In this video you will learn how make the most of your thank you process so that your donors are ready to give another gift in December.

Watch this video right now! It will be the most fruitful 3-minutes of your day and will give you very specific things to do now to improve your thank you notes.