First, please know how very special my Clairification School students are to me, and how grateful I am to have this opportunity to share my experience and wisdom with you. It gives me a warm glow to know there are so many folks like you endeavoring to make our world a better and more caring place. If I can help you succeed, I’m happy.  So… on to this month’s tips!

This is a Great Month to Show Gratitude

Thanksgiving is around the corner (at least in North America), so giving thanks is on peoples’ minds.  This gives you an opportunity to set the stage for your upcoming asks, by taking some time to show your supporters how much they mean to you.

If you haven’t connected much with your donors since you asked last year, waiting until you ask again this year is just plain RUDE.

Send your donors something nice.

Don’t just think of this non-appeal communication as a nicety.  If you do, you’re likely to push it to the back burner.

Understand gratitude communications are an essential pre-condition to your “sale.” It’s called ‘pre-suasion’ – leading with a ‘gift’ or ‘favor’ to positively incline people to say “yes.”

Gratitude Comes in Many Forms

Shower the people you love with love! There are lots of ways to show supporters the way that you feel towards them.

I’m sure you know how to do the standard thank you letter or email, but how about something fun, interactive or just plain unexpected?  For example:

  1.  “Share your Story” pages. If you have stories and/or videos on your website, make sure your donors notice them! This is a way to get supporters to quickly connect with you and your mission, preparing them to to be “ready” when they’re asked for a gift. Check out 4 Inspirational “Share Your Story” Pages That Will Knock Your Socks Off.
  2. The wins blog post and/or infographic.It should be fairly easy to put together a numbered summary of the good your donors made possible in the recent past.
  3. Thank you video. Suggestion: Make a gift to Charity: water and see what you get in return. Also see my Pinterest board: “Gratitude, Nonprofits Say Thanks.”
  4. A pledge (e.g., “To End Hunger;” “To End Inequality;” “To Keep Health Care a Human Right”).  The food bank where I used to work made October “Hunger Challenge Week” and folks pledged to eat on just $4/day to see what it was like to live on food stamps. Of course, when they were subsequently asked to give, they could empathize with those they would be helping.
  5. A short quiz to get folks more familiar with your work – and have a little fun in the process.  You can even have a prize drawing for all who participate.
  6. Transform #GivingTuesday to #GratitudeTuesday. Stand out from every other nonprofit, and flip the tables. Don’t ask for yet another gift during what is already an over-crowded asking season. Give the gift of thanks instead! (There are some examples if you click on the link to the article). Also make sure you’re prepared to follow up and keep these donors loyal.
  7. Send personal emails to targeted donors you hope to renew and/or upgrade. Maximize every single day between now and the end of the year by sending out 5 emails/day to thank regular supporters. Begin NOW!

Don’t Forget to Also:

1. Shower your staff and volunteers with love.

This is a season when we’re thankful for our blessings, and who are you most blessed by in your daily work life?  It’s easy not to see the gobble-gobble waddle right in front of our faces.  Don’t be a turkey! Here are a few ideas:

  1. Hand-write personal cards and stuff them into your staff inboxes the day before Thanksgiving.
  2. Create a video thank you, and send it via email to everyone telling them the thing you’re most grateful for on this holiday is
  3. Bring in a platter of fresh fruit with bagels or muffins for the staff/volunteer lounge every day for the week preceding the holiday – pumpkin spice if you must!
  4. Put a sticky note on staff computer monitors, saying “thanks” and saying why.
  5. Ask a local café to provide free coupons staff and volunteers can redeem for a beverage, pastry or ice cream.
  6. Throw a lunchtime pizza party or afternoon ice cream social.
  7. Leave token gifts like gift cards, movie tickets, or even just a few Hershey’s kisses on employees’ desks with a note that says, “Thanks for all your hard work. I noticed!”
  8. Show an afternoon movie (choose from this list?), and make popcorn.
  9. Let everyone leave early the afternoon prior to the holiday.

2. Plan your year-end e-appeal series.

Your year-end online strategy is not only important, it’s critical. You don’t want to blow this year-end chance! Did you know many nonprofits receive as much as 50% of their annual contributions from October to December? In the U.S., roughly 30% of all donations happen in the month of December alone. As much as a full third (33%) of December gifts occur on the 31st of the month! 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year. 40% of online gifts are made in December. You simply cannot afford to make your online appeal strategy an afterthought. Even a majority of donors age 60+ give online. Here are a few articles I’ve collected you may find of interest:

Most nonprofits don’t send enough email. Plan to send enough online appeals to maximize your chances (three between December 26 and January 31 is recommended, with two to four additional in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas).

3. Take a hard look at your Home Page and Donation Landing Page.

Do they mirror your campaign?  Tell a story? Inspire?  What would a donor think, feel and/or want to do when she lands on it right now?

  • Is it intuitive to use?
  • Does the donor get taken off of your site with links to non-donation pages?
  • Do you make it easy and straightforward to give?
  • Are there too many fields to complete?
  • Are there too many options from which to choose?
  • Do you offer a gift string that makes the donor’s options clear?
  • Do you clarify what the gift will pay for?
  • Do you offer a recurring giving option?
  • Can your donor make a gift in honor or memory?
  • Do you let folks know how to give offline should they so choose?
  • Do you have a contact email and phone number should they have questions?

Make a donation to your cause and see what your experience is.  Better yet, ask a friend to do so. What needs to be changed? Look at some of your competitors to get a better idea of what works/what doesn’t. Decide what you like. Now’s the time to bring in your IT department, marketing department, web manager or an outside vendor to fix what needs fixing.  Then don’t forget to test your new pages before you go live.

4. Tweak your mail appeal to assure you’re putting your best foot forward, not leaving money on the table.

Here is a quick fundraising letter outline:

  • Compelling image with caption: This may convey the entire story you want to tell; some readers won’t look beyond this.
  • Opener sentence: Capture attention quickly; demonstrate why you’re writing to the donor.
  • Ask: Begin with something short and sweet (e.g., Will you lend your support?).
  • Describe a problem: Don’t make it too big or complicated.
  • Explain why the donor’s gift is needed now.
  • Ask again (e.g. Please consider renewing your support this year with an increased gift).
  • Tell a story: Demonstrate the problem with a narrative about one person, animal, place or thing as an example. (One to four paragraphs.)
  • Suggest a specific, realistic solution: Help the donor visualize the change that happen when they give.
  • Ask again with specificity as to amount and purpose (e.g., “Will you consider a gift of $500 to feed a family in your community for a month?”).
  • Remind the donor of cherished values their gift will enact.
  • Thank the donor for caring.
  • P.S. Ask again and include urgency so the donor is persuaded to act now. (e.g. “Your $500 gift made before December 31st will be doubled – making it possible to feed TWO families for a month!”).

All the best for a happy holiday and successful fundraising season!

To your success,