The Difference Between “Understanding” and “Feeling”

gratitude

A major donor can understand that their gift was appreciated.  That’s nice.  And pretty easy to make that happen.

Yet it’s also possible for a major donor to really feel that their gift was appreciated.

There’s a big difference. 

The blog post How to Thank a Major Donor So She’ll WANT to Give Again gives you a simple road map to making your major donors feel your organization’s appreciation.

I share that post today because the signs are pointing to donations from individual donors being down this year. 

If that holds true for the rest of the year, it’s more important than ever for your organization to make sure your major donors feel your gratitude.

Here’s what often happens in down years.  Major donors deploy a two-part strategy:

  • They reduce the number of organizations they support, and
  • They reduce the amount they give to each organization. 

But major donors usually have a couple of organizations – close to their hearts, where they feel their giving really matters – that they do not cut or reduce.

That’s the group you want to be in. 

But you must earn your way into that group.

So go read the post, then go make sure your majors feel your gratitude!

It’s Thankuary Time!

thankuary

A little over five years ago we invented “Thankuary” – taking the month of January and intentionally Thanking your donors with focus and emotion.

Your donors deserve it, and it will help you raise more money in 2023.

This post links to several free resources you can use to Thank your donors.

Start your year off by making sure your donors feel your appreciation. It’ll set you off on the right foot for the rest of the year!

It’s a Gift to Be a Fundraiser

It’s a Gift to Be a Fundraiser

Today’s the last day of sharing the stories behind my fundraising posts that got the most reactions on social media.

Here’s #7, #6, #5, #4, #3 and #2.

And #1 is…

The ability to do fundraising as a career is a gift.

I was gratified to see that this was the most liked tweet in my “51 fundraising lessons on my 51st birthday” thread.

Because if you’re like me, sometimes you find fundraising infuriating. It’s emotionally hard work, there are more tactics to know than ever before, sometimes organizational stakeholders have no idea what they are talking about but are still given equal voice, etc.

There’s a lot of complaining in the world of fundraising. Some of it certainly from me.

And yet! At some level I think most of us know how rewarding our work is.

Fundraisers get to help organizations do the work they were founded to do. Fundraisers get to help donors do good and powerful things.

All of us reading this blog could be in the “sales” business – chasing attention and profit. We could be in the “news” business – chasing attention and profit.

Instead, we’re in the Fundraising business. We’re certainly still chasing attention, but there’s a purpose behind our work that’s deeper and more valuable than pure profit.

This holiday season, I hope you’re thankful for your job in fundraising. I hope you’re thankful for the role you play in the life of your organization, your beneficiaries, and your donors.

In this season of giving, we remember that it’s a gift to do fundraising – we thank you for being a Fundraiser!

How To Get the Most Out of Your Donor Thank You Calls

Thank you calls.

I think we all know that calling your donors to thank them is important, but in the back of our minds it goes something like this…

“I don’t have time,” and “how much does it really matter,” and “they never pick up,” and “wait, what if they do pick up?!”

If you are an annual gift officer looking for leads, or a major gifts officer building relationships, or even program staff hoping to spread the word about an event, here are some helpful steps you can take to make sure your donor thank you calls are worth your time:

  1. Do your research ahead of time — Spend 2 minutes in their donor record prior to the call. What you find could be crucial to your conversation.
    • When did they start giving? Previous board member? Where do they live? Which funds or campaign do they typically give to? Who do they have relationships with? Do they attend your events?
  2. Ask Discovery questions — Don’t waste your time as a fundraiser; if the donor answers the phone, use the opportunity to thank the donor and gather some discovery information. Here are my Top 5 Favorites:

    a. What inspired your gift?

    b. Do you have any personal connections to <insert your organization>’s employees, volunteers, or events?

    c. Can you tell me about your charitable giving? Are we in your top 3 charities?

    d. Is our organization in your will or estate plan?

    e. What’s the best way to contact you? Phone, email, mail?

  3. Send an email or thank you card — No one picked up the phone? Didn’t have time to call everyone? Send a personal thank you email with a discovery question.
    • You might be surprised who responds to your email AND shares discovery information with you. Even if you write a handwritten note to put in the mail, add your business card. You NEVER know when they might call you back.
  4. Take notes — Was their gift in memory of someone? Did they mention vacationing on their family yacht? Are their kids in high school? College? Are they retired?

If you don’t take a few minutes to call a donor to thank them, you’ll never know what you might be missing. You could be surprised at what you learn – once I had a donor notify me of a $100,000 estate gift during a thank you call!

Each donor will be grateful that you thanked them, and sometimes they might share a bit more than you expected. You will have deepened the relationship and increased your chance of another gift in the future!

Six Tips for the First Sentence of Your Next Thank You/Receipt Letter

Heat Map

How you write the first sentence of your receipt letter (or autoreply email) makes a great deal of difference for whether your donor keeps reading… or not.

Let me give you five tips we live by at Better Fundraising.

Be Direct

The more direct and “to the point” you can be, the better. Here are two first sentences that I use all the time:

“Thank you for your generous gift of [GiftAmt]!”

“You are so generous, thank you!”

Using your first sentence to “send the main message” is an effective tactic in your donor communications. Your donor doesn’t have to read any further and she’s already received the message you’re trying to send.

Short and sweet

Think of the first sentence as the “on-ramp” to the rest of your note or letter. If the on-ramp is easy, your donor is likely to keep reading.

If the on-ramp sentence is long, with lots of clauses or jargon, your donor is less likely to keep reading.

Share the Outcome

Another powerful idea is to share the outcome of the donor’s gift. This isn’t always possible, but here are some examples:

“Thank you for your gift to put on this fall’s exhibit.”

“Thank you for your poverty-fighting gift!”

“Thank you for your generosity, your gift will fund vital research!”

It’s great if you can thank your donor and give her a sense of what her gift will accomplish – in one short sentence.

Start with the Beneficiaries

It’s always a good idea to mention the people or thing your organization serves! This results in first sentences like this:

“Thank you for your gift to protect endangered wetlands!”

“Thank you for your gift to help the children!”

“Thank you for preserving heirloom quilts for quilt-lovers to see!”

Use ‘You’

The word “you” is magical at getting your reader’s attention. It’s also a good way to signal to the donor that this piece of communication is about them – that they should be interested in this and want to read it.

“Your generosity amazes me!”

Use the word “you” early and often.

It’s Not About Your Organization

One of the secondary benefits of using the word “you” is that you’re not writing your organization’s name, or the words “we” or “us.”

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with those words or your organization’s name. Just remember that the best Thank You’s tend to be about the donor and their gift – and not about the organization.

Final Thought

You want to write something that your donor is interested in reading, and makes her want to keep reading.

If it helps, here’s an example of what not to do. It’s my all-time favorite bad opening line of a thank you / receipt letter:

“Recently, we returned from an all-staff retreat.”

Ask yourself, why would a donor want to keep reading?

If you want your donors to keep reading, follow the guidelines above. Your Thank You’s and Receipt Letters will improve in no time!

Act Yourself into Gratitude

Act Yourself into Gratitude.

Two simple quotes for you today about gratitude.

First, from Millard Fuller, the Founder of Habitat for Humanity:

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.”

Second, from yours truly, who stumbled onto the same idea on Twitter a few months ago:

“Most people think that it takes a happy organization to show real gratitude to their donors. In my experience it’s the opposite: the organizations who choose to show real gratitude to their donors become happier.”

Look, there are lots of ways a fundraiser can show real gratitude to their donors. Off the top of my head, look up @LeahEustace on thank you calls increasing donor retention, or @johnepp and @agentjenlove on their incredible “Gratitude Reports” (instead of “annual reports”), and of course @thattomahern on donor-focused newsletters that give credit to donors.

But I’m not talking about that now.

I’m talking about what’s holding your organization back from doing those things.

I have two words for you…

Just Start!

You won’t be great at it at first. But your donors will feel it.

You’ll stumble. But your future fundraising results will improve.

You’ll even shoot yourself in the foot by saying things like “Thank you for supporting us as we do incredible things…“

You can make all kinds of errors. You can be the most self-centered Thanker of all time – and still you’ll raise more money! Why? Because…

Donors Love to Feel Needed and Important

Showing real, emotional gratitude is one of the primary ways you can make a donor feel needed and important.

Get good at that, and you’re on your way to raising a lot of money.

So start! Start acting grateful to your donors, and sharing your organization’s gratitude, and you will become a more grateful organization.

Are your receipts and thank you letters dripping with gratitude, or filled with marketing copy?

Is your newsletter about what the donor did, or about what your organization has been busy doing?

Just start! And I suggest that this January, immediately after a lot of your donors have just given, is a great time to start!

We’re Having a Sale

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A team of experts from Better Fundraising can create your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters for you. You’ll free up a time to focus on important things that aren’t getting done now, and your fundraising will raise more money. It’s like an “EASY” button for your fundraising communications, and your first month is free – an average savings of $3,500. Wonder if it’s a fit for your organization? Fill out this super-short form and we’ll get in touch!