By now you undoubtedly know you’re losing too many first-time donors.
In fact, the most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project report shows you’re losing an average of 68% of these folks!
Today I want to talk about a subset of new donors who don’t renew. They’re called “third party donors,” and they come to you through a variety of portals:
- Guests of event ticket buyers
- Online auction purchasers
- Donors who give to friends’ P2P fundraising pages
- Donors who give to crowdfunding campaigns sent to them via a friend
- Donors who make tribute gifts in honor or memory of a friend or loved one
The good folks at Classy know most nonprofits are not doing a good job cultivating donors who come to them through third parties, so they’ve prepared The Guide to Courting Third Party Donors. You can download it for free (40 pages), but let me give you the highlights – along with some of my own thoughts.
If you like your blind date, do something to impress them.
Your friend set you up, but if you want a lasting relationship with your new connection you’re going to have to forge that on your own. The folks at Classy suggest these eight steps:
- Tell your story
- Have a cool factor
- Call them back
- Make them feel special
- Be available
- Be social
- Ask for a second date
- Go steady
I couldn’t agree more.
These seem obvious, right?
But my guess is you’re not doing these things. Or if you are, sort of, you’re not doing them very well.
So let’s take a quick look at each of these eight strategies.
8 Secrets: Impress to Get to Success!
1. Tell your story.
Human beings are wired for storytelling. It’s how we naturally relate to one another. So it’s the best place to start with your wooing strategy.
After your first interaction with a third party donor, what should you do to make sure they know your organization’s story?
How about sending a follow-up email that includes key elements of a classic story? Begin with appreciation for having met them, of course, but then move on to tell them something they don’t yet know about you – and give them a link to click that takes them to some compelling copy on your website (hopefully another story with an image or video) where they can learn more.
Here are the classic story elements:
- The protagonist. Your organization and the people you serve.
- The villain. What you’re up against.
- What’s at stake. What will happen if you do nothing?
- Your reactions to the point of conflict. What battles are you fighting? On what fronts?
- Your results. Where have you won? Where have you lost?
- Your long-term plan. How you’re going to win the war – with support from people like your new friend!
- The hero. Your donor saves the day!
Here are good online storytelling tips:
- Hook folks with an attention-grabber. It could be a one-liner such as “One in four children right here in our own community don’t have enough to eat.” Or a photo of a young mother passed out on a couch next to discarded wine bottles, captioned: “This is what 10-year-old Ali saw when she came home from school.”
- Show, don’t tell. Use visually descriptive, emotionally evocative language. Show the faces of those you help using photos and video.
- Be concise. Make content accessible and digestible.
- Be consistent. Showcase the heart of your mission across all channels.
2. Have a cool factor.
Just as you dress up for a date, you want to put your best foot forward with your new donors.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve refreshed your logo, website, color palette, typefaces and such, take some time to look at the image you project. Are you happy with it? Or could you use a quick make-over?
Also review the consistency of your look across various platforms. Do you look like a stodgy librarian on your website and a cool hipster on Facebook? It’s okay to use a slightly different tone of voice on different social media sites, but you don’t want to come across as schizophrenic!
Here are some tips to ramp up your attractiveness quotient when wooing new friends:
- Review design elements. Look particularly at color, which can send emotional messages. And in this day of mobile technology, make sure your website and email messaging are optimized to be responsive.
- Establish a tone of voice. Think about your core values, and ask yourself how you want to be perceived. If your organization were a person, what personality would you have? Serious? Clinical? Analytic? Welcoming? Hip? Humorous? Steady? Cutting-edge? If you drove a car, what kind would it be? Sporty? Family sedan? All-terrain vehicle? Energy-saving? Fast? Safe? Luxury model?
- Give little gifts. When I went on coffee dates with folks I met online, I brought a gift of home-baked cookies (I’m now married to one of these guys!). I used to do the same with donors. Gifts should be inexpensive tokens (Classy recommends branded items the donor can use, like a pen or socks, as something to remind the donor of their connection to you.) I’m a fan of creative tokens and gestures and what I call “gratitude experiences.”).
3. Call them back.
It’s up to you to make the first next move. Don’t leave your donors hanging. Show them you want to get to know them better. And, while you’re at it, put a smile on their face!
- Send them the best message they’ll receive all day.
- Put some thought into your subject line so it will make them feel good.
- Don’t be a pest or a stalker.
- Keep your message succinct and to the point.
- Give them some breathing room before you send another.
- Don’t ask for another gift right away.
- Offer non-monetary ways to engage with you. Ask for feedback. Offer experiences. Welcome them to your family by inviting them to an open house.
Be a giver, not a taker.
I suggest you send between three to seven non-ask messages before every ask message.
4. Make them feel special.
You’re still in the first impressions phase of your relationship.
Nothing impresses folks more than a prompt, personal, powerful heartfelt thank you.
There are many creative ways to say thanks (check my Attitude of Gratitude eGuide + 72 Creative Ways Thank Your Donors). Some of the simplest ways to pack a punch are using:
- A handwritten note.
- A phone call.
- A link to a 15-second thank you video on social media.
5. Be available.
Make sure it’s easy for a donor to get back to you and learn more about you.
If their call goes to voicemail, this won’t inspire them.
If your website is hard to navigate, this won’t impress them.
If it’s unclear how they can get more involved with you, this won’t encourage them.
Here’s what you can do to appear open and welcoming:
- Include an intriguing and/or inspiring story on your “About Us”
- Develop your website and social channels to serve as thorough resources for someone looking to find out more about you.
- Highlight staff on your website to humanize your organization.
- Be transparent about how contributions result in impact.
- Offer engagement opportunities such as volunteering and advocacy.
6. Be social.
In our post-digital age, social media is an easy way to stay connected with folks you’ve just met. It doesn’t take a huge investment of resources, and it’s a great way to stay top-of-mind.
To make this a viable communications option requires you to secure social media contact information, if possible, during your first encounter.
Always encourage folks to follow you on social channels.
Put this everywhere. On your website, e-newsletter, blog, email signatures and business cards. Create a space on your remit cards for folks to add this. Put it on your thank you landing page, and in your thank you emails. Put it on your letterhead.
CAVEAT: Don’t forget to have a real social presence. If your new friends go there and see you haven’t posted anything for a week, or a month, it’s a real turn off.
7. Ask for a second date.
If you go on a first date with someone, but then never ask them for a second date, what will they most likely think?
They’ll either think you didn’t like them, you’re flaky or you’re lazy.
That’s not what you want!
Even though you sent a warm post-date email, and shared other interesting parts of your story, they’re still (hopefully) waiting for an invitation to engage.
One of the best tools you have is good old positive reinforcement. “That was such a great date… I so enjoyed meeting you… let’s plan another one!” “Your attendance at our event meant so much… we hope you’ll join us at our upcoming event… can’t wait to see you again!”
To know when the time is right to ask, be sure to enter information about how and where you first met your donor into your database. Then segment your appeals accordingly.
For example, maybe everyone who attended your last event as a guest of someone else will receive a personal note on the next invitation they receive from you that thanks them for their past attendance.
It’s good to remind folks they’ve already had fun with you!
8. Go steady.
When it comes to keeping new donors, those who sign up for monthly giving programs hang around longer.
It’s a lot like taking down your online dating profile and committing to going steady. You stop looking around for other causes to support, and double down on the one you’re with.
So… when you ask for a third, fourth or fifth date, consider asking for a monthly commitment.
Showcase the benefits for your donor (it’s easy!) and for your organization (predictable source of revenue).
Shower the people you (might) love with love
Third party donors are less connected to your nonprofit than donors who find you on their own, so you have to go the extra mile if you hope to ever renew their giving. It’s well worth your effort!
In an annual Burk Donor Survey, veteran fundraising researcher Penelope Burk’s firm surveyed 15,900 donors who had sponsored someone in an athletic fundraising event sometime within the previous year. While their primary motivation for sponsoring was to support a friend, relative or colleague who was participating in the event, 50% said the organization behind the event also played a role in their decision to sponsor. When that 50% were asked whether they would make a direct, philanthropic gift to that nonprofit if asked, 17% said yes; another 14% said they might. That is much better than today’s typical acquisition rates, so it is certainly worth testing the potential for converting third party donors to ongoing, loyal ones.
Unless you show people you like them, value them and want to get to know them better, it’s easy for them to look the other way.
Your job is to make it easier for folks to look your way. And meaningful. And fun.
Remember, these donors came to you through someone else. Remind them of that primary relationship when you send your thank you, invitation to another event, and even your next appeal.
Rather than a “Thank you for your support of [name of your organization]” try “Thank you for supporting [friend’s name] in the run for a cure on behalf of [name of your organization].” Third party donors may not even remember they made a gift to you, but they will remember they supported their friend.
When you ask them for another gift, once again point out how and where you first met. They’ll be impressed, and appreciative, that you pointed out how you are connected to them. Better yet, ask the friend who they sponsored to write a personal note on the appeal letter.
Connection and caring – every step of the way — that’s the formula for success.
What have you done to renew third party donors? Please share in the comments, below!
Want to Learn More about Acing Donor Retention?
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