Sign: Thank You! You Are Essential

13 Top Secrets of Donor Thank You Letters Revealed

Sign: Thank You! You Are EssentialWhat do you spend more time on? Asking or thanking?

The lion’s share of nonprofits spend more time asking. It’s a BIG mistake. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not here to shame or blame you. Of course you have to ask. The number one reason people don’t give is they aren’t asked. And …

The number one reason donors don’t give again is they aren’t properly thanked!

Believe me, most donors aren’t sticking around. Your own retention rates may be better or worse than average (do you know them?), but generally only 19% of new donors give again. For ongoing donors, it’s just 45%.

The time to nip this in the bud is now.

Did you know a study from Charity Dynamics and NTEN found 21% of donors say they were never thanked at all? My hunch is some of these supporters did receive something from you, but it was so perfunctory they didn’t really take notice. Maybe you just send a receipt. Or took them to a thank you landing page; then called it a day. Or maybe they received a brief, formal email that confirmed the gift, but didn’t make them feel particularly special.

If you don’t have a killer thank you letter prepared to send to the folks you hope will be giving to you between today and the end of the year, now is the time to right this wrong.

If you thank well you’ll see retention rates increase significantly.

In fact, research from Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 70% of donors reported they would increase their giving if they received what they needed from you.

Brilliant, warm, authentic, personal communication stands out and leads to renewals. And this is a much less expensive strategy than new donor acquisition, which costs from $1 to $1.25 to raise a dollar. Whereas renewing a donor costs only 20 cents on the dollar.

By now you may be thinking: Sounds good, but how do we stand out? There must be some specific strategies that incline donors towards giving again, but what are they?

Today I share my top secrets with you. They’re simple and foolproof.

Ready?

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7 Strategies to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors

I hear a lot of complaining about donors.

They should do this:

    • Be more compliant.
    • Not make us work so hard to please them.
    • Treat us like we know what we’re doing.
    • Give just because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.

They shouldn’t do that:

    • Give any way other than ‘unrestricted.
    • Demand specifics on how their money was spent.
    • Act like they know more than we do.
    • Require reports that take us hours to complete.

What about what YOU should and should not do to build sustainable, fulfilling relationships with your supporters?

I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

I hear too much of “We already sent a thank you; that’s enough, and they shouldn’t expect more.”

Shouldn’t they?

Donors are people first, philanthropists second. And people need to know they’re important to you.

Let me tell you a true story.

A close friend of mine used to complain to me about her husband all the time. Why? Because he didn’t tell her he loved her enough. Understatement of the year.

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Do you wish you had a dime for…

… every time a nonprofit board or staff member told you “We’re the best kept secret in town; if people knew what we do, they’d give to support us.”

Nonprofits tell me this all the time! If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause.  And I would, if…

  • You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
  • You engaged me personally,
  • You discovered my values match yours,
  • You offered me opportunities to connect with your mission and supporters that involved something other than money,
  • You showed me you knew what most engaged my passions, and
  • Then you asked me for a gift!

You see, merely “building awareness” will not ipso facto raise more money for your cause.

Just because I care about something, and somehow learn you are involved in doing something about that thing, doesn’t mean I’m going to support you financially.

Why should I?  There are a lot of good causes out there, and making a decision to invest in you is something I need to act on.

I’m busy.  I’m overloaded with information. And inertia is just too powerful a force.

You’ve got to do better than just hope I’ll stumble upon your website, see your social media post, hear about you on the news, or even open your direct email if you want me to really sit up, pay attention, and actively engage.

Especially if you want me to engage as a philanthropist.

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Fundraising Appeal & Thank You Strategies Your Nonprofit Needs NOW

Heart with stick figureI know you’re working on calendar year-end fundraising right now.

And if you’re not, start immediately!

Per Mobile Cause:

  • 30% of annual donations occur in December
  • 12% of annual giving happens on the last three days of the calendar year
  • 53% of nonprofits start planning their year-end appeal in October

Before it’s too late, I want to share with you four almost magic strategies that have worked well for me for decades!

Yes, there are ways to tweak these strategies to conform to the current zeitgeist and recognize we live in a digitally revolutionized world. This can be super helpful, and I highly recommend you pay attention to the ways fundraising and nonprofit marketing are evolving. It means new skills are needed, more money must be invested to yield your most positive returns, and you’re no longer going to be able to rest on your laurels.

That being said, I don’t want you to get so caught up in bells and whistles you neglect the fundamentals. Nor do I want you to throw up your hands in despair, culminating in a decision that you just can’t compete or do a better job because… (fill in the blank).

No excuses!

The magic strategies below have worked for me, and countless nonprofits, over generations. They’ll work for you too.

Truly, I promise if you do these things you’ll raise more money this year.

Ready to get started?

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How to Rock Donor Thank You Calls

7 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors

You’ve got to make donor retention more of a priority to survive and thrive in today’s competitive nonprofit marketplace.

Research shows the average nonprofit in the U.S. loses 81% of donors after the first gift!!!!!

In and out a revolving door is too expensive to be sustainable.

To make matters worse, the probability a donor will make five consecutive gifts is only 10-15%. These numbers are just not sustainable for most organizations. By the time you’ve added a new donor most of your previous new donors are out the door.

And, by the way, did you know donor acquisition costs you money?  Yup. On average, it will cost you $1.00 – $1.25 to bring in a new donor dollar. So… the value of a new donor to your organization is wrapped up in the concept of donor lifetime value. Once you have a new donor, the cost to renew them is much less expensive than the cost to acquire them. Just like in for profit marketing, keeping a current customer is easier than finding a new one.  But… you have to actively engage in customer cultivation and renewal strategies.

If you don’t energetically renew and upgrade donors over time, you may as well never have recruited them.

Allow that to sink in a moment.

Might you effectively be wasting a lot of time, energy and money on acquisition? Could some of your resources be more effectively deployed to donor retention?

I’m going to go out on a limb and wager the answer is a resounding YES.

Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you do, there’s hope for you to improve it. Read on.

If you don’t, you don’t even know there’s something that needs fixing! Read on.

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So You Want More Major Gifts This Year? Here’s the Secret!

Dream anything, then think.All you’ve got to do is ask!

Seriously. The number one reason people don’t make a major gift – or any gift for that matter – is no one asks them.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Before you can ask, you have to know a few basics:

  • Who will you ask?
  • What will you ask for?
  • When will you know they’re ready to be asked?
  • Where should you ask?
  • How should you ask?
  • Why are you asking?

Let’s take these fundamentals one at a time.

Who will you ask?

Not everyone in your donor base is a major gift prospect. Even if they were, you probably don’t have the bandwidth to cultivate and solicit all of them right now. It’s just common sense to prioritize those donors with whom you’re most likely to succeed. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how to pick this priority group.

I generally advise starting with

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How to Supercharge Nonprofit Major Giving Using the Language of Love

language of love alphabetWhat motivates someone to make a major philanthropic gift?

Generally it takes one or more meaningful conversations with a donor who (you hope!) may contemplate a gift to your organization. At some point you’ll be ready to make them an offer you hope they won’t be able to refuse. But how do you develop their interest and passion to the point where they’re willing and ready to enact them?  Today I’m suggesting it’s actually pretty simple, as long as you truly understand the process of what the nonprofit sector has come to call “development.”

To get folks to “YES” you simply need to learn the language of gift planning!

It’s not just about HOW people give, but WHY.

Planning is the operative word. Alas, when many folks talk about ‘planned givingit’s a term that’s come to mean giving vehicles. Often it’s just about deferred giving vehicles. Most donors don’t think this way. Rather, they consider how they want to help. They concern themselves with the best ways to enact their values. This may mean an outright gift today or a deferred gift tomorrow. Or both. Form follows function. So thinking in terms of gift vehicles is a decidedly non-donor-centric way of framing things.

People making bequests or gifts in trust often visit legal and financial advisors. So we think of this more as “planning” mode. And we ask “planned gift officers” to work with these folks. This isn’t wrong, but it’s not as right as it could be if you approached the donor’s giving decision more expansively.

In othe words, major gift officers are also planned giving officers.

Anyone who contemplates a major, or stretch, outright gift plans ahead.

No one gets up one morning and decides spontaneously to give away $100,000.

Or let’s just stipulate it’s relatively rare.

Rather, would-be philanthropists consider how making a particular gift at a particular point in time may match their values and help them accomplish their objectives, personal and philanthropic.

It’s seldom a spur of the moment action.

For purposes of this gift planning article, let’s consider your audience to be prospective major (outright) and legacy (deferred) gift donors.

Let’s try an experiment.

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10 Common Nonprofit Major Gift Asking Mistakes to Avoid

When you’re not aware you’re making a mistake, it’s hard to avoid it.

So let’s get curious. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a minute to imagine a donor you’ve been wanting to ask for a major gift. I’m going to ask you to visualize a space where you’re meeting. Put them in your office, their home, a café or even a Zoom screen. Choose what’s comfortable, and where you think you’d be most likely to meet with this donor within the next month or so.

Okay… do you have your donor and your meeting space in mind? Excellent!

Now, before closing your eyes, commit to visualizing these four things:

  1. You’re in the room together.
  2. You smile. They smile back.
  3. Someone else is in the room with both of you. . Imagine you brought them with you. Who are they, and how does it feel having them there to support you?
  4. Bolstered by the smiles and good company, what do you say to open the conversation?

SELF-EXERCISE: Okay, are you ready to close your eyes? Even if this feels a little weird, why not give it a try? (1) Pick your donor… (2) your meeting space… (3) your additional person supporting you in the room… and (4) open the conversation. What are you saying to them? What are they saying back? Play this scenario out just a bit, until you get to a place of comfort or discomfort. Then open your eyes.

What did that feel like?

What felt comfortable to you? Uncomfortable? Did it feel more comfortable and pleasant than you may have imagined?  Smiling people, committed to the same cause, hanging out in a comfortable space together…. from such a space can come many good things.  What did you say to open the conversation? How did that feel?

If it felt good, why?  If it didn’t feel good, why?

Take a few minutes to journal some answers to those questions. I guarantee this will help you shift the energy for the next time you move into this space – in real time – with a donor.

A Mistake is Just a Misjudgment

It’s not fatal; you can correct it. But first you have to recognize it happened!

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10 Tools to Give You and Your Nonprofit Donor Space to Co-Create — and Change the World

Man pointing to ear and hearing aidI recently wrote about 4 Strategies to Listen so Others Will Talk, noting the secret to building authentic relationships is to use your two ears and one mouth in that proportion.

It’s a good start, but there’s more.

You can’t just listen passively.

Active listening, supported by powerful, succinct, to-the-point generative questions – that’s what will draw you and your donor (or anyone with whom you’re in relationship) closer together.

But not all active listening is created equal. And you may think you’re actively listening, when really you’ve listened for a hot minute; then gone down your own rabbit hole of reality. In that rabbit hole, you become the narrator. It thus becomes your story, not the donor’s.

Uh, oh.

Today we’ll explore how to draw your donor out so you truly hear their voice and sense their emotions, not your own.

1. Economy of language.

This is something I value, as an outsider looking in.

I’m not good at it.

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