You Don’t Have to Thank and Report IF…

thank and report.

We talk a lot around here about how the three core functions of Asking, Thanking, and Reporting are necessary for fundraising success.

But there’s an exception.

There are some organizations out there that can succeed without Thanking and Reporting.

Here’s what those organizations have in common:

  1. They’re working on a cause or with a beneficiary group that a LOT of people care about. Think “kids in poverty” or “pets with large cute eyes” or “diseases that touch everyone’s lives.”
  2. They’re skilled at Asking. They have great offers and great stories.
  3. They have donor acquisition down to a science.

Why is this true? If a lot of people care about what you’re working on, there are always more potential donors out there. And if you’re great at donor acquisition, you can replace all the donors you lose each year – and more. And if you’re skilled at Asking, you’ll raise a lot of money from your donors before they move on.

These organizations don’t need to Thank and Report because they don’t need to keep their donors.

These organizations don’t have to worry very much about keeping their donors because it’s so easy for them to get new donors.

Story Time

We did a website project years ago for an organization that worked on a “brand name” disease.

Something like 40,000 people each month are diagnosed with this disease – which affects not only the patient but all of their loved ones.

Each month, many of the 40,000 – plus untold numbers of concerned family members – would go online to research their disease.

Many of them would end up at this organization’s website. Thousands would give a gift.

This organization was acquiring several thousand new donors every single month just by having a semi-capable website.

Meanwhile, the rest of their fundraising was atrophying. Their Thanking was rote and organization-centric. Their Reporting was nonexistent (though they did brag occasionally). Their donor retention rates were abysmal.

But they worked on a disease that a lot of people care about. And they were good at donor acquisition. Even though they were only adequate at Asking, they still raised increasing amounts of money each year as more and more people came online and made donations.

They “succeeded.” But they sure could have raised a lot more money (and done a lot more good) if they knew what you and I know.

What You Should Do

If your organization is one of the lucky few, who don’t need to Thank and Report while still raising more money each year, congratulations! You’ve won the fundraising lottery.

But if your cause is smaller, if your Asking could improve, if new donor acquisition is a struggle – then keeping your existing donors is paramount.

You have to get great at Thanking. Not simply acknowledging a donor’s gift, but making her feel like a meaningful part of your organization. And you have to get great at Reporting. Show your donor the outcomes of her gift, and give her the credit.

Do those things well, and you’ll keep more of your current donors, and raise more money every time you Ask them!

Thank Your 2019 Donors Meaningfully Right Away

Thank you.

We recommend to all our clients to send a meaningful Thank You to their donors in January.

It should be a non-normal Thank You. It should stand out from the rest of your donor communications.

We believe in this so much we invented “Thankuary” several years ago to help an organization do this. (That organization, by the way, just DOUBLED their year-end fundraising from 2018 to 2019.)

Because here’s the thing:

If you want to have the best chance of keeping your donors,

You have to Thank your donors well

Then later Report back to them on the effects of their gift.

Make It Meaningful

It’s January, which means you just Asked your donors quite a bit at the end of the year. (At least I hope you did). Which means it’s time to Thank your donors.

Here’s what to do:

  • Make it stand out in her mailbox. Send it in a larger envelope. Say “thank you” in audaciously large type on the envelope. Use a bold, exciting color.
  • Make it emotional. It should read like a personal note of incredible gratitude. Your ED might not like to sound emotional, but emotion is exactly what’s called for.
  • Do not initially thank your donor for supporting your organization. Instead, thank her for making a difference for your cause or beneficiaries. Thank her for her generosity. Thank her for her attention. Then, after you’ve done those things, you can thank her for supporting your organization.
  • Tell a couple short stories to illustrate donor impact. I’m talking two or three paragraphs each.
  • Send it only to donors who gave in the last twelve months.

This mailing doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. You don’t need photos. You don’t need charts, graphs or graphics.

You just need a letter that makes your donor feel thanked, like an important, valued part of your organization.

If you can’t send out a letter, do as much of the above as possible via email. But know that fewer people will read it, and it will feel less meaningful to them.

Ideally, you can do both. And in a best-case scenario: we have clients send an email to their donors to let them know the letter is coming.

The Effects

Can you imagine a better way – from a donor’s point of view – that you could start the year?

She’ll feel meaningful to your organization. She’ll know she’s appreciated. She’ll know that her gift made a difference.

She’s then more likely to donate when you send your next appeal.

She’s then more likely to donate next year-end.

She’s then more likely to keep you as one of her charities.

Seems like a pretty good return for the investment of time to send this letter, doesn’t it?

A System to Thank the Right Donors the Right Ways at the Right Times

Envelope with a thank you note.

I want to share some simple best practices for your Thanking system.

Think of these as our recommended “default settings” for a system that thanks the right donors the right way at the right time.

And I want to acknowledge right away that you don’t have to do exactly what I suggest below. But in my experience, you want to be close.

There’s no magic to any one of these things. But there is fundraising magic to doing all of them on a regular basis.

Here’s the list…

  • Mail out a printed receipt letter, within 24 to 48 hours, for all individual gifts.
    • You don’t need to do this for monthly donors.
    • Include a reply card and a reply envelope. Here’s why.
  • For gifts received via your website, your system should send out an immediate autoreply.
    • For smaller organizations, I recommend sending a printed receipt even if you send an e-receipt. For those smaller organizations who struggle to find new donors and keep their existing donors, being “extra thankful” to a donor is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.
  • Make sure the receipt letter (printed or electronic) directly reflects the donor’s intent when they made the gift.
    • This means you want to have custom receipts for each piece of fundraising you send out. For instance, if your appeal asks donors to “give to help during the summer slump,” the first paragraph of your letter should say something like, “Thank you for giving a gift to help during the summer slump” and then reuse words and phrases used in your appeal. Why do this? Because when your donor gives to the summer slump (or to your event, or whatever) and you send her Thank You that talks about your 14 programs and how effective your organization is, she thinks you did not do with her gift what you said you were going to do. You want to avoid that!
  • The text/letter portion of your receipt should be more about the donor and less about your organization.
  • All gifts over a certain amount should receive a call and a hand-written note from your Executive Director/CEO within 48 hours. You get to decide what that amount is, based on how much time your ED/CEO will allot to make those calls and write those notes. In other words, if your ED is willing to call five donors a week for this program, lower the gift threshold so that she gets to make about five calls a week.

Thanking Systems can get super complex. This one should get you started. Tweak it as necessary per your organization.

But remember: build your system to Thank and retain the donors who are giving the highest amounts!

Two Easy Steps to Cultivate Your Major Donor Relationships

cultivate majors

This is more of a reminder than a blog post.

The reminder: spend more time on your major donor fundraising!

Here’s why this is so important: the latest research I saw said that the average nonprofit receives 88% of their “individual donor revenue” from just 12% of their individual donors.

In my experience, disciplined major donor fundraising is the biggest-impact / least-used fundraising tool for most nonprofits.

At this moment, let’s not talk about the reasons why that is. Instead, let’s talk about two simple things you can to do start doing a better job today.

Do These Two Things

Here are two really simple things you can do to “go a little deeper” with your major donor fundraising:

  1. Subscribe to the blog from Veritus Group. They are the best at setting up internal systems to do major donor fundraising well, and at understanding what major donors want from your fundraising.
  2. Call one top donor today just to say “Thank you.” The donor you call should be one you haven’t spoken to in a while. And to make it easy, here’s a simple script for you:

“Hi [DONOR NAME], this is [YOUR NAME] from [YOUR ORG] and I’m calling just to say Thank you. Don’t worry, I’m not calling to ask for money. But we haven’t communicated 1-to-1 in a while, and I want to make sure you know how much you are appreciated. You and your generosity have done amazing things! So thank you, and are there any questions you have that I can answer, or anything you’d like to know about what your gift has accomplished?”

I’m pretty sure you can take it from there.

But the trick is to call at least one top donor today. It’s a small step. But a BIG step for that donor.

And you’ll be on the path towards a better relationship and better future fundraising results!

Why You Should Thank and Report

Why You Should Thank and Report

This month I’m sharing the things that we saw working really well for nonprofits in 2018.

I talk about these ideas a lot, but they bear repeating as you begin your year…

You have to Thank your donors well,
and Report back to them on the effects of their gifts,
if you want to have the best chance of keeping your donors.

Here’s the power of Thanking and Reporting, in the simplest possible terms:

  • Thanking your donor well tells her she’s important and that her gift is going to make a difference. Almost no nonprofit clearly tells their donors this! If your thank you letters, receipts and emails clearly communicate her value, she’s more likely to give another gift to your organization.
  • Reporting back to your donor on how the world is a better place because of her gift shows her that her gift made a difference. Again, almost no nonprofit does this. And if your newsletter shows your donor that her gift made a difference, she’s more likely to give another gift to your organization.

It really is that simple. It’s not magic.

But it IS why organizations spend money and time on Thanking rapidly and well. And it’s why organizations with good donor-focused newsletters have higher donor retention rates.

Remember: each of your donors is giving to several organizations. Some of them make her feel important. Some of them make her feel like her gift makes a difference.

If your organization is one of the organizations that makes her feel important, and makes her feel like she made a difference, she’s more likely to stick with you.

And give more gifts.

And give higher gifts.

So “close the loop” by Thanking and Reporting.

Keeping your donors for longer is one of the primary keys to successful fundraising. And Thanking and Reporting will make you a pro at keeping your donors!

How Your Board Can Help When Raising Major Gifts

Active board.

If your board is like most, they don’t like asking donors for gifts. They fear rejection. They fear the negative connotations associated with fundraising. They don’t see it as their role.

If this describes your board, then I am here to share some good news with you. There are other powerful things your board can do to help your major donor fundraising.

What Your Board CAN Do

Here’s just a short list of things we’ve had real, measurable success having board members do:

  1. Write thank you notes. Most board members have the time to write thank you notes. Give each board member the names of the donors that need to be thanked, provide thank you notes and mailing addresses, and tell them what to say. The trick is to make it as easy as possible for them to just do it. Make it as easy as filling out a form!
    • Pro Tip: have them write two notes at the beginning of your next board meeting.
  2. Call donors to thank them for their recent gift. Most board members have a phone and can find the time to call and thank donors. Same process as above: make it as easy as possible for them to do it by providing the donor’s name, last gift amount and phone number, and telling the board member what to say.
    • Pro tip: like writing notes, these calls can be great right at the start of a board meeting.
    • Invite their friends to attend an open house or a “non-ask” event. This is a relatively simple request since there isn’t an expectation for their friends to give a gift. The board member is just asking their friends for time and an opportunity to learn more about the organization they serve.
  1. Invite friends to sit with them at your next gala fundraising event. This is the easiest way for a board member to encourage their friends to give a gift without actually asking them directly for a gift.
  2. Write a check! It is very important that each member of your board make a significant donation to your cause every year. Hopefully they can give at a major donor level, but if not, my advice is to require each board member to give a “significant” gift – and they get to determine what “significant” means for them.

How to Help a Board Member Who is Willing to Ask

If you have a board member who is actually willing to ask donors for major gifts, congratulations! You have a rare species of board member – cherish them and thank them like crazy!

Also – help them succeed! Here are a few things you should equip them with:

  1. A clear fundraising goal and offer. They need to know how much you are trying to raise, why the gift is needed now, and what the donor’s gift will accomplish.
  2. An emotional story (or two) of Need. The best resource you can provide to your board members involved in fundraising are short stories that present a problem for the donor to solve. Tell your board member that if they only share stories about people who have already been helped, they will raise less money!
  3. A deadline. We all work better, faster, and with more urgency when we know we have a deadline. This is true in fundraising too. Your board member will work with urgency if she knows she has a deadline to meet. And the same can be said for the donors she is talking to – the donors will be more likely to respond if they know there is a deadline to the request.
  4. Response forms and reply envelopes. If your board member has fundraising success and can secure major gifts, then it is your job to make it easy for the donor to send in their gift or pledge.

Your board members should be actively involved in supporting your major donor fundraising efforts. But you and I both know that not all of them are willing to ask for gifts.

To encourage board members to help you, be sure to tell them that what you’re going to ask them to do does not always need to be asking their friends or your current major donors for a donation. But be clear that if they aren’t willing to do that, they can still help in valuable ways. And they need to!

So get them actively involved in the Thanking and Reporting portion of our ‘Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat’ fundraising system for major donors!