Over the Journey I have heard from many people as to what they believe are the fundamentals of Fundraising and the keys to success. For me an emerging Number one rule to successful fundraising is to "Create the Greatest Donor Experience" possible.
More donors are lost through poor stewardship than any other reason.
If you constantly strive to provide the donor with the most tailored and personalised
communication that meets their needs. If you engage and ask them to support the areas they are interested in. And if you make them feel valued, appreciated by acknowledging/thanking them with sincere gratitude, you are well on the way to a successful fundraising program.
Build relationships with your donors without being ‘transactionally’ motivated with authenticity, genuineness, and sincerity and the dollars will follow.
There are so many tips and tactics that you can do to improve a donor’s experience, increase retention, and in turn generate more income. In looking at a typical fundraising strategy there are a number of programs or areas of focus. (here are 5);
- Budget /Donor Development - Appeals
- Major Gifts
- Bequests / Gift in Wills
So here are just 5 ideas (there are plenty more - see the upcoming online session on August 20 below) which might help you improve your donor experience;
1. Budget / Donor Experience – Be prompt to thank and have your ‘thank you letters’ written by a copywriter
We all emphasise how important it is to be prompt to thank. The textbooks have stipulated 48-72 hours from receipt of donation is the goal to thank and receipt.
Sadly, the importance of back-end processing of donations is overlooked and this important task is often left to fit in with the organisations capacity ‘when they can get to it’.
If this remotely sounds like your organisation, hire a temp or casual and meet or even beat the challenge of the 2-3 day window.
Your donors will feel appreciated and you will be doing is what the majority are not!
On many occasions, I hear organisations talk about how they are restricted by space and format as to what they can do in their receipting letters.
My first response to this is to point out that they are ‘thank you’ letters (which happen to have a receipt included). A genuine heartfelt 'thank you' letter should be a natural extension to the original appeal.
Evoking the sincere appreciation and making the donor feel valued, appreciated and joyful about their decision should be the goal.
I knew that we had achieved this when a client had a thank you letter written by the donor in response to the original thank you letter sent to them (and it came with another donation!)
2. Major Gifts – Ask for Money, get advice ….. Ask for advice, get money
It is becoming an age-old saying but the value you can gain in reaching out to your donors for a one-on-one conversation to ask their opinion and get their feedback can be profound.
Whether by phone, video call or in person, asking questions about;
- the organisation’s future direction,
- projects/areas of funding,
- feedback on a ‘draft’ case for support
- the focus of an upcoming campaign
These all make a donor feel important and that you value their opinions. That is a positive step in building the relationship. What is even better, the answers they provide will tell you so much about what is important to them and what you should be asking them to support going forward. You will both benefit greatly from this and set the foundations of a long-term relationship.
3. Bequests / Gift in Wills – Videos
What has been prominent in the last 5 months is that the use of video in real-time and recorded has been an accepted replacement for face-to-face meetings. For those agile and willing to adapt, this receptivity has prompted the use of video for donor communications to be significantly increased. On the supporter side, their participation and view percentages are much higher as well.
As part of your “Bequest Fundamentals” – Collateral, Website, Welcome Strategy, Response Communications… the inclusion of both a general video about bequests and also a ‘thank you’ video from the leadership, is a real positive addition. Not only will you have a greater impact on those who see this, but you give yourself valuable content that can be edited and used in so many ways.
The one thing we have also learned in this time is if you are conveying an important message, the production quality does not have to be ‘ultra-professional’… content can be shot by phones and basic editing can provide a more than an acceptable finished product and in many ways can come across as more authentic.
4. Leadership – Board Top 50
The engagement and involvement in fundraising of Boards vary significantly from one organisation to the next. From a donor’s perspective, they will appreciate being acknowledged by the Leadership.
There are a few ways to do this, here are 3 quick options;
1. Make sure your top donors are known by the Board. Have your top 10,20 or 50 donors for the month, listed in the Board papers even with a photo if possible. Imagine the benefit of a Director thanking a donor impromptu at a non-related event. You will blow the donor’s mind! (far better than the alternative of the Director ignoring them because they have no idea who they are).
2. Have an annual ‘thank you’ Board /Executive calling session. Get your Board/ Executive members once a year to come an hour earlier and each makes half a dozen ‘thank you’ calls to your top donors. You will make the donor feel very special. You will show your Directors that the whispered “F- word” (Fundraising) is about real people and is a good thing for the organisation and not just a line item on their reports.
3. If they are an engaged and proactive group, assign each Board member half a dozen top donors each and develop ‘3-4 stewardship’ actions to take place over the year. i.e. -
- Phone call,
- personal thank you at event, ‘
- thank you card’,
- personal note on your most important appeal.
This will be a value-add to what your Major Donors Team is doing and be of real value to long-term retention and future gifts.
5. General - Fundraising Focus Group
Almost exclusively fundraising strategies that are devised are done in-house.
This is a little strange because as a general rule the people developing and implementing the strategies are very different people in age and attitudes of many of your donors.
So it makes sense, to develop a 'focus group of donors' including representatives of your cash appeal donors, Regular giving, Major Gifts, Bequest/Gift in Wills supporters.
These people can be a very useful sounding board for appeals, newsletters, brochures, case statements, stewardship activities. This is much more effective ‘market-testing’ before the implementation and the feedback and opinions you get might help you deliver a better product.
There are so many things you can do to create the ultimate donor experience. With acquisition being more and more costly. It makes both logical and economic sense to consider increasing your investment of time, resources, and dollars into developing the best donor stewardship you can.
The ability to retain and reactivate lapsed supporters is an opportunity not being realised almost universally across the Board. The impact of 5% better retention can equal five, six figures plus at a fraction of the cost to replace those donors with new ones.
The constant “go-to” for me in developing ideas and strategies for clients is, "will this make the donor feel valued and good about what they are doing". Very simple philosophy…it’s all about the donor. This may require a re-think on how you do some things but the benefits you will receive will be worth it many times over.