When organizations create their direct mail appeal letters, the remittance envelope is often an afterthought. Far too many organizations put little thought into how the envelope or reply device should appear and what it should say. Many believe that a generic reply envelope will do just fine for their purposes or others want to “use up” their existing reply envelopes and what better way?
Well, time to start thinking otherwise. Your direct mail appeal reply device can help boost your direct mail appeal returns.
If designed correctly, you can inspire donors giving sights and increase charitable income towards your mission.Below are a few simple steps to help you begin to segment your major donors and start to ask them more personally to support your calendar year-end appeal.
Below are a few simple steps to help you begin to segment your major donors and start to ask them more personally to support your calendar year-end appeal, just by making a few simple and easy tweaks.
1 – You want to be sure that your reply device mirrors the messaging of the direct mail appeal including using similar wording and themes.
2 – Ensure that even your reply device includes your mission statement and perhaps even a donor impact statement. One reply device that I created for my client states “She had nowhere else to turn…but, you gave her hope and a home.”
3- I long ago advocated against the use of Business Reply Envelopes (BRE’s). You know the ones where the organization pre-pays them up front and then uses them to entice donors to give. Do you think saving money on a postage stamp is going to make all the difference in the world to a donor? Not a big incentive. Save your organization money and have the donor place the stamp.
4- Include monthly/quarterly or any recurring donation option on your form by simply stating, “I/we would like to provide ongoing support. Please charge my credit card $ _________ per month until ________.” Or even better “continue indefinitely.”
5 – Include a section where donors can make gifts “In honor of/In memory of…”
6 – Ensure that all email captures are “permission-based.” If you have a line to capture email addresses and you plan on sending out newsletters or updates, be sure that you ask the donor permission. Consider having a check-off box that states something like, “Yes, I would like to receive periodic updates from the organization.”
7 – Consider having a check-off box to encourage volunteering, i.e., “I would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities at the organization.”
8 – Surely, have a check-off box where folks can indicate interest in making a planned gift to the organization and a separate one noting employer matching fit programs.
9 – Always have contact information on your reply device. If donors have specific questions, they need to know whom to contact, and your job is to make it easy and simple for them.
10 – You may also want to consider adding gift strings. Don’t leave the giving up to the inevitable “other” giving category. If you can do personalized gift strings, at least have suggested amounts that mirror the copy of your direct mail appeal letter.
So there you have the simple steps that you can immediately take to supercharge your reply envelope and increase your direct mail appeal returns to your calendar year-end campaign.
These are the same steps that I ensure I use when I create my client’s direct mail appeal package. And, they work!
Join me fora FREE webinar on Thursday, November 16 at 1 p.m. on “How to Develop a Gift Range Chart and Customized Gift Strings to Maximize Your Year-End Giving Efforts.” – Don’t delay register today! Registration limited to the first 100 registrants.
Many organizations when seeking to start their first development office do not which way to turn or where to start first.
Far too many organizations often start and end with grant writing. They don’t get beyond this particular strategy and never get to the point of having a diversified fundraising function.
If done correctly from the start, organizations can set themselves up for success both today and well into the future.
With a few simple steps taken right from the start of your new fundraising office, you can create a strong and impactful program that will support your organizations mission well into the future.
Let me share with you steps on how to set up your fundraising office for success
1 – Start by conducting an assessment of the organization’s opportunities and challenges including getting an accurate read on the culture in which fundraising will operate. Does the organization have different programs and functions that operate differently, perhaps off-site, or on other campuses?
2 – Research and obtain a Donor Management System. Excel and Access are not database systems that you can efficiently use for development purposes. Today’s software is geared towards building the most effective development program at simple pushes of buttons. Many provide dashboards with important metrics built in so that you can instantly gauge important development benchmarks such as donor retention and donor engagement. Many also offer wealth screening capabilities for modest fees. These days an organization does not have to go with the top-of-the-line software suite to have a substantial impact on its development program.
3 – Then I would determine what the leverage points are for your organization based on the prospective donor base demographics. At this point, creating an ideal donor profile would be helpful. After creating this donor profile, you can then use that profile to find donors that match up to the characteristics that you have identified. This profile will help you to define your strategies. For instance, if you are a senior housing program, a reasonable approach that your organization should consider is planned giving and what I have termed a “Grateful Resident” Program. If you are a domestic violence shelter, then perhaps a special event to bring awareness to your mission.
4 – One thing that you can immediately start doing is to conduct grant research. Most charities are eligible for some form of private and public support. With the lead time necessary both in conducting research and in the application process, it behooves organizations to conduct the research straight out. Some application deadlines are months away and in some cases, foundations take months to make decisions. So, this is one area that you don’t want to delay in starting.
5 – Start to build a culture of philanthropy that supports your development program whether that is one-on-one meetings or “Meet and Greet” events. The important thing is to dispel myths surrounding fundraising. Most Board members do not have clear instructions and expectations regarding their role in fund development. Most are afraid of it, given the fear that they are expected to ask for money or to ask their friends in a “quid pro” way. So, meet and speak with those closest in your organization so that they get an understanding of what philanthropy and development are in support of your efforts. From there, you can work with each of them to begin developing a prospect list with a new understanding of the important purpose.
So there you have the simple steps that you can immediately take to build your organization’s first development office to support and even supercharge your charitable mission.
These are the same steps that I use when setting up a client’s first development office. And, they work!
Far too often I see organizations using a blanket approach with their donor base. With a few minor tweaks in their strategy, they can increase their revenues by a third, sometimes even double.
What strategies do I recommend?
Well, what I often see is that one of the most overlooked areas of planning in small to mid-sized nonprofits is segmentation and personalization of their campaigns.
What do I mean, don’t send everyone the same letter for starters.
Let me share with you steps on how to segment and then personalize your year-end fundraising efforts.
1 – Start by determining all of your different donor segments and audiences. For instance, you may have Board members, Honorary Trustees, major donors, planned giving donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, LYBUNTS, loyal and consistent donors, staff, volunteers, etc.
2 – Once you have your “buckets” of possible segmented donors, then begin to think about your various approaches to them. For instance, with major donors “hold” their letters, and instead engage the Board of Directors in making personal visits and calls. Also, have designated staff members conduct an in-house campaign.
3 – Once you have determined your specific strategies for segments, you will move to creating your actual solicitation approaches. For personal and telephone solicitations, you may need a “pre-call” letter and a packet of collateral materials with the letter prepared.
4 – For the bulk of your segments, you will probably be utilizing some form of direct mail appeal. Do NOT use a “Dear Friend” letter. In today’s age, mail merging even in office is easy and simple to do.
5. I do NOT recommend using a generic, blanket letter approach. Instead, you want to custom tailor a letter for each segment identified. What do I mean? Well, in most cases, you are not going to create an entirely new letter for each segment. What I recommend you do is creating a paragraph or two of custom-tailored text that you will insert into a “base” letter. You may have loyal and consistent donors who have been giving to you for multiple years. In this case, you may have a paragraph front and center that thanks them for all their past support of the organization. For a sample of segments and custom tailored text, email me!
6 – You may also personalize gift strings. Personalizing gift stings helps to upgrade donors to a higher giving level. There are many formulas to use, but pick one and be consistent.
7 – Once you custom tailor the letter and the gift strings, then you need to determine if you will use a “lift” note or write personal notes right on the letters themselves and to what segments of donors are you using this technique.
8 – Determine how you are going to mail these letters. Major donors you may want to consider sending a personalized letter with a first-class stamp. Other donors you may want to use a non-profit pre-cancelled stamp or bulk mail indicia.
9. All of these techniques can be done for your online audiences as well. You can custom tailor segments in your email marketing provider program, create separate emails, and email out to them. Don’t forget when doing second or third emails to filter out all those who have given by using a dynamic filter.
So there you have the simple steps that you can immediately take to enhance your year-end fundraising campaign to inspire your donor’s sights to support your charitable mission.
These are the same steps that I use when designing and implementing my client’s year-end fundraising campaign. And, they work!
Each year, approximately 10% of your non-profit donor base will attrition naturally through death, moving, or just not giving any longer. Then you add lapsed donors on top of that natural attrition, and you are looking at an eroding donor list. Sound familiar?
In this article, I tackle the ever important question of “How to find new donors for your nonprofit?”
Here are some simple steps that you can take to combat this natural attrition and to begin adding new names to your donor list. These are the actual suggestions that I use with my very own clients.
1.) Conduct a fun exercise with your Board members such as a “Treasure Map” activity to help them to think of all those who they come into contact with in their networks i.e. people who they attend church with, volunteer on other Boards of Directors, friends, etc.
2.) Host a gathering or tour and have Board and staff bring those prospective donors to this event. This event should have a program that shares information about the organization and its mission, services, ways to get involved, and most importantly, a testimonial. Don’t forget to conduct follow-up with all those who attend these events to find out what they thought about the event and to determine further interest for engagement.
3.) Use social media as a way to find new donors. Consider having a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Don’t overwhelm yourself with having to manage and pay attention to too many networks at a time. Instead, be strategic, profile your ideal donor and then determine what networks that you are most likely to find them. Keep up to date on your competitor’s website and how they are managing their social media presence. Then promote, promote, promote and have your Board and staff act as “Social Media Ambassadors” sharing the page with friends, family, and other interested individuals. Keep content fresh, consider automating content with an automating app, and don’t forget to comment and interact with others. Keep content 80% of interest and 20% promotional.
4.) Take a look at similar organization’s annual reports, websites, and newsletters and compile a list of who is giving to them. Compile a prospective list of donors. Ask Board and staff if they happen to know anyone on these lists. If so, begin to cultivate them.
5.) Get the local voter or street records list, sometimes referred to as “Grand” lists and review this list with Board and staff based on property assessment, location, or other criteria that meet your ideal donor profile. From there pull together a prospective donor list and cultivate!
6.) Ask for referrals from your current donors. These donors already are giving to you and love you. So why not just ask them who else may they know who might be interested in becoming more involved in the organization.
7.) Be sure when you are doing outreach at events or speaking engagements to bring along a guest book so that interested attendees can sign up to receive more information. You have a captive, interested audience, so you want to be sure to get their names and contact information. Research them if possible, segment out those with greater interest and capacity for cultivation, and add all the other names to your mailing list.
8.) Identify new attendees to your organization’s fundraising events and create strategies that will take their transactional attendance to possible transformational engagement in your organization. One possible first step is to call those new attendees and find out what they thought about the event and if they see themselves getting more involved or interested in learning more.
9.) Capture interested website visitors with a website “pop-up” offering free information and resources. Send these folks a welcome and begin to send them relevant informational emails in cultivation. Ensure that your site is mobile-friendly as more and more folks are using their mobile devices to access content.
10.) And, of course, you can always rent and purchase mailing lists from a list broker.
So there you have ten steps that you can begin immediately taking to start to stem the tide of donor attrition by adding new names to your donor lists. These are the same steps that I use to help my clients build their donor lists. And, they work!
For a FREE half hour coaching session with me, email me now to schedule your complimentary time. Offer ends Friday, August 4.
You have just been offered a job as a Director of Development and now what?
Well, over the past twenty years, I have had my share of jobs and have started some fundraising offices within nonprofits as part of my consulting practice. As a result, I have gotten pretty good at figuring out what the first steps need to be when setting up your development office.
I am going to share with you some of these first steps on what to get started with immediately to make your first three months a success. These first three months are a particular time of “newness” that you can use to your advantage.
Step #1 – Get established on your working location and equipment. Ensure you set up your office area so that it will be conducive to your work style and habits and ensure that you have all of the hardware and software you need including training.
Step #2 – If you don’t have the required software, don’t skimp by using Excel. Start right out by determining what your current and future needs may be and begin to research and present options for a donor database/CRM system that will meet those needs. You cannot build a successful development program without this foundational component. It is the “brains” behind your program.
Step #3 – Begin conducting a development assessment of the past fundraising efforts of the organization.
Step #4 – To carry out this assessment and to get acclimated to the new organization, use this time to meet with
Key leadership staff
Board of Directors
Any past and/or current donors
Anyone else deemed important to the organization
Step #5 – Use the data that you obtain during this development assessment process to begin to put together a series of recommendations based on best practices that you can put into place during your tenure. Share these recommendations with key leadership and Board members to obtain approval and “buy-in.”
Step #6 – Begin to immerse yourself in the new organization’s programs and services.
Step #7 – Begin to craft a Case for Support if your organization does not already have one in place.
Step #8 – Determine the key projects that need attention in the immediate future and begin to manage them. Get a handle on your development calendar including your annual fund and grant application and reporting deadlines.
Step #9 – Begin to put into place some of the recommendations that you outlined after conducting your development assessment whether they focus on major gifts, planned giving, individual giving, direct mail, etc.
These are some easy and straightforward ways that you can get up to speed quickly and efficiently in your new role and have an immediate impact on your organization’s fund development program. Early wins=your success.
Often, I get asked, “What is the magic behind a successful fundraising campaign?”
Well, it is not all magic. There is some science. And, with over twenty years of experience, I am going to share the top tips that have made it all “seem” like magic so that you can too.
How to ensure a successful fundraising campaign
I am going to share with you step-by-step the formula that I use with all of my clients to ensure that fundraising campaigns are as successful as can be.
#1 – Ensure that you have the best fundraising team possible. Be selective in whom you choose, develop expectations and responsibilities in advance, and seek the chair of your fundraising effort first.
#2 – Once the Chair is in place, then have them assist you in the search for the rest of your fundraising team. Be sure that you only select folks who do what they say they are going to do. Test them with small tasks first. Be sure to select high-performing people to have a high-performing team. And, don’t be afraid to say “no” to someone who just can’t meet the expectations or pass the “test!” Never recruit as a group – always person to person. Ensure you have a good mix of influential and effective candidates.
#3 – Divide up your fundraising team into different divisions i.e. events, mail, personal solicitation, phone, prospect rating, etc.
#4 – Create a fundraising goal that includes the costs of the campaign in the total. It costs money to raise money so be sure that you calculate those costs into the overall campaign goal. You can estimate campaign costs at 10% of the fundraising goal i.e. materials, staff, events, donor recognition, etc.
# 6 – Develop a prospective donor list from both your current donors as well as by conducting overall research to find new ones. Once you have your prospective donor list, then you will need to rate and rank them. Get a committee together who will focus on rating prospects according to capacity, affinity, and interest.
#7 – Once you have rated your prospects, then you can tier them into an “A List,” “B List,” etc. This ranking will allow you to focus your efforts on those who have the greatest capacity and interest in your cause.
#8 – Modify the gift chart as your campaign progresses depending on the level of gifts that come in. If you have fewer major donors than expected than you need to adjust your lower tier of donors, etc.
# 9 – Employ a sequential model of fundraising. Classify prospects according to assessed giving potential and start solicitation with the Top Giving Levels and move down.
#10 – Start with your “Family/Nucleus” gifts first. Your Board, staff, and volunteers must demonstrate a commitment to the mission before you begin asking anyone else. If they are not committed, how can you expect anyone else to be committed? You should conduct all Top Giving and Family/Nucleus levels by personal solicitation.
#11 – Develop strategies to solicit the lower level donors i.e. direct mail, events, telephone, etc.
#12 – Be sure to develop a realistic month-by-month timeline to ensure that you keep the momentum of the campaign fresh and have key benchmarks to meet.
#13 – Develop ways to recognize donors of all giving levels to the campaign. Donor recognition levels can inspire donors to give more than they may usually give.
Sequential fundraising is THAT important. Once you violate the “Top Gift” solicitation sequence, your entire fundraising campaign is in jeopardy. Failure to follow this approach lowers giving standards across the Board.
If I could choose the number one reason why most campaigns fail, it would be that they did not follow this sequential model of fundraising including asking their “family” first. In fact, I have seen campaigns languish for years never reaching their goal.
An important part of any fundraising campaign is how you plan on recognizing your donors at different giving levels. While donor recognition opportunities do not motivate all donors, the fact is that some are. And, you need to be prepared to offer this valuable tool to inspire the sights of your donors who are motivated by public forms of recognition. Different things motivate different donors. So, always begin by knowing your donor.
Below I share with you a step-by-step method to creating Donor Recognition Opportunities that will inspire your donors to set their sights higher. And, public recognition inspires all donors from big to small and for all kinds of fundraising campaigns, not just capital ones.
There are several important guidelines that one should consider first before actually coming up with the recognition opportunities.
First, it is important that you have several recognition opportunities available for your donors to select.
Second, the top-level gift should be larger than the largest gift projected during the fundraising campaign.
Third, the cumulative values of the donor recognition opportunities should add up to significantly greater than the overall fundraising goal.
And, lastly, the donor recognition opportunity should be two to three times the costs of construction, furnishings, or overall costs of the opportunity.
Once you have given these guidelines consideration, here is how you can establish your donor recognition opportunities step-by-step.
Step #1 – Invite key staff and volunteers to a Donor Recognition Planning Meeting and review your building plans or fundraising campaign outline.
Step #2 – Brainstorm all of the possible named gift opportunity “places” or “things” i.e. main lobby, flag pole, endowed department, scholarships, staff positions, etc. Think expansively and creatively remembering that nothing is off limits.
Step #3 – Write each possible brainstormed building place on a sticky note and put them on the wall in random order.
Step #4 – Look at your campaign gift range chart and determine how many gifts are needed at each level to reach your goal.
Step #5 – Determine the “Curb Appeal” gifts. These gifts are those that provide value for the opportunity and are not necessarily just based on gift size. For instance, a lobby will hold more “curb appeal” than say a large industrial kitchen located in the back of a facility hardly ever seen by the general public.
Step #6 – Match the top “Curb Appeal” gift with naming opportunity that is the largest on the list, etc.
Step #7 – Be sure to present this Donor Recognition Plan to the Board to ensure that they approve of your plans. Ensure that the Board votes to approve this plan. Don’t skip over this step! You need the Board’s support.
There are also other ways that you can recognize your donors. For instance, you can recognize mid-level to lower-level givers with a group plaque, listing in the print donor honor roll, or on the organization’s website. You may also choose to run brick and pavers or wall tile program. And, inevitably, you will recognize all of your donors at a post-campaign celebratory event.
One thing that you do need to ensure is that you are consistent with how you recognize your donors. Everyone needs to be treated equally regarding what his or her gift will afford in a named gift opportunity.
And, now the organization is ready to begin asking for gifts from donors using these different named gift opportunities as a way to motivate donors to step up their giving to the campaign.
Do you mail a spring or fall direct mail appeal letter and hope for the best? Well, “a wing and a prayer” is not a strategy. A strategy by definition is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
Here are some simple steps that you can take to follow up on that direct mail appeal letter beyond just putting a stamp on it and sending it out in the mail.
About three weeks to a month after your appeal drops, determine what donors are about to “lapse” from the appeal.
Of these, donors determine how many are major donors at whatever threshold it is that you have determined a “major donor” is for your organization.
For those that you have indicated as “major donors,” determine if in-person visits or telephone calls are needed.
Determine if there are key relationships with some of the regular, loyal donors and perhaps segment these folks out to use a more personal approach i.e. visit, telephone call, or even (in some cases) an email.
Consider trying a telemarketing campaign to turn non-responders into responders. (Direct mail telephone follow-up generates two to 10 times more response than direct mail with no telephone follow-up.)
Create a series of social media posts and email blasts to send to your donor file. Do not send out emails to everyone on your list. You want to be able to segment out those email addresses of donors who have already given to the appeal.
And, there you have some simple “how to’s” on how to maximize your appeal results while working to prevent lapsing donors.
Now that it is development planning season for many with the start of a new fiscal year looming, I am often asked, where do you start first when putting together your development plan and calendar.
Well, for me, I start at the beginning. I tend to look at the key metrics and how past Return on Investment (ROI) has been for each fundraising activity including events, appeals, major gifts, etc., etc., etc. By looking at ROI, you will determine whether or not a particular activity is effective or not. It prevents that “well we have always done it this way” or “we hold this event every year, so we can’t stop it now.” It allows you to keep the proverbial “winners” while deciding to eliminate those activities that are not as effective or are not meeting best practices.
I should add a disclaimer before I go on that – not all activities have a sole purpose of raising money! So, specific metrics would need to be developed for those particular activities.
So what are some of those key metrics and how do you calculate them?
I start by gathering:
# of pieces – # of pieces mailed to select group of the database or number of direct requests
# of gifts – # of gifts received by mailing or number of donors responding with gifts
Gross income – Income without expenses calculated or values of gifts and contributions received
Expenses – expenses of mailing including copywriting, design, mailing services and postage or amount of fundraising budget spent
Then I calculate:
Net income – Expenses minus gross income
Participation rate – # of participants divided by total solicitations
Average gift – Divide revenue received by participants
Average cost per gift – Divide expenses by participants
Cost of fundraising – Expenses divided by revenue
Net ROI – Net income divided by expenses; multiplied by 100 for percentage rate of return
I put this all in a spreadsheet document with like appeals spanning a number of years together i.e. Spring Appeal 2012, 2013, 2014, 2105, etc. So that ROI comparisons can be easily made. If you would like a sample copy of this Appeal Comparison spreadsheet to use for your purposes, email me here!
Then from there, I evaluate all of this data against Industry Best Practices in terms of Solicitation Activity Reasonable Cost Guidelines as found below.
Solicitation Activity Reasonable Cost Guidelines
Direct mail (acquisition) $1.00 to $1.25 per $1.00 raised Direct mail (renewal) $0.20 to $0.25 per $1.00 raised Special events $0.50 per $1.00 raised Volunteer-led personal solicitation $0.10 to $0.20 per $1.00 raised Corporation and Foundation Grants $0.20 per $1.00 raised Capital campaigns/ Major Gifts $0.05 to $0.10 per $1.00 raised Planned Giving $0.20 to $0.30 per $1.00 raised
If an activity meets the Reasonable Cost Guidelines then it is a keeper, if not, then it is time to evaluate why. Don’t throw an activity out solely on not meeting these guidelines, especially if you have other “goals” in mind for the particular strategy, but do be conscious of this in your planning process.
Just this week, I was working with a client, and we were discussing Board member engagement in fund development. The assumption was, ho hum, “they just won’t participate.” It was then that I came across a blog article outlining all of the wonderful ways that you can engage your Board in fundraising. You know things like, make thank you calls, write notecards, etc., etc., etc.
To be honest, we have heard these over and over again. The reality is that even though you can talk about all the different ways that Board members can participate in the process of raising philanthropic dollars, it still doesn’t cause engagement.
So, my client and I stepped back and bit and talked about how some successful organizations ARE engaging their Boards in fundraising. And, what we noticed is that with very successful organizations, it all begins with how you recruit, screen, and bring on new Board members to your organization. And, here based on that evaluation are some simple steps that you can take to revolutionize your Board engagement.
Here is what I recommend:
As a fundraiser, become a member of the Board nominating or preferably governance committee, if not already a member. And, as an executive, advocate for your fundraiser’s participation on this important committee. It all starts here.
Develop a formally written and adopted Board recruitment process and procedure.
One you have identified an appropriate Board member candidate, schedule a screening interview. (Yes, a screening interview! Why would you not screen for one of the most important jobs in your organization?)
Send the prospective candidate information in advance i.e. things like your brochure, a list of volunteer opportunities, committee listings, relevant Board policies, etc., etc.
At the interview, first, review the process and purpose of the meeting i.e. “getting-to-know” each other interview.
Then review with the candidate the organization’s values, mission, and services seeking alignment. If the candidate does not align with those core elements of your organization’s identity that is a “red flag.”
Share with the candidate the major issues facing the organization both opportunities and challenges.
Share with the candidate the different ways that the organization uses volunteers i.e. committees, policies, meeting schedule, etc., etc.
Review skills, experiences, diversity, and network needs that the organization has identified. Discuss with the candidate which of these they desire using on behalf of the organization. Seek alignment.
Review Board member responsibilities and expectation, particularly around fund development seeking commitment to them
Close the meeting but don’t make any decisions yet.
Bring all of this information back to the nominating/governance committee to discuss and make recommendations. Remember the fundraiser must sit on this committee.
Once the candidate is voted on and accepted, bring them on and into an orientation process reviewing the organization’s values, mission, services, and goals. At this time, provide training on a “Culture of Philanthropy” and further reiterate the Board expectations around engagement in development.
Have all Board members sign a Board Member Contract agreeing to uphold this commitment regarding responsibilities and expectation and develop a Board Fund Development Expectation Form that the Board member must sign and date indicating how exactly what they explicitly commit to upholding. Email me for a sample Board Fund Development Expectation Form.
Board Chair reviews Board member’s performance throughout the year to ensure performance meets expectations and outlined contract. If the Board member’s performance does not meet expectations, the Board Chair MUST “thank and release” the Board member. Yes, this MUST happen for the whole process to maintain its credence. You must “thank and attrition” poor performers.
The key to Board engagement is truly about setting and managing Board member’s expectations BEFORE they even join your Board of Directors. This way, they know right up front what is expected of them as they perform their role. What I often hear from client’s Board members, is that “I had no idea that was what I was supposed to be doing.” So, out of fear of the unknown, Board members are hesitant about ever committing to fund development because the importance has never been relayed to them, training never provided, and the expectations never set.
So, while all these great articles can espouse how to engage your Board members in making telephone calls and writing note cards, you can’t even hope for them to begin to participate in your fundraising efforts if they are unsure of what you expect from them. This engagement all starts before they officially come onboard.
Follow the above recommended “How To’s” and watch your Board member engagement in fundraising and your organization soar!
And, rightly so, the weather is turning warmer and everyone’s thoughts seem to be on getting out after a long winter.
I am often asked by organizations who are holding galas or other fundraising events, what is the key to turning event attendees into loyal donors?
I do have to say that this is not an easy feat in and of itself. Most folks who attend a fundraising event are doing so because they have either been invited, they are attending because it is a social night out, or for a host of other reasons that are not necessarily about a measure of donor commitment or loyalty.
I believe that there are a number of things that you can do to stimulate interest both pre, during, and post-event to at least begin to develop a relationship with some donors who may be interested in supporting your charity in a more transformative way.
I will outline several steps below that you can take to steward your event attendees after the event.
Here is a possible post-event stewardship plan:
New attendees – Call preferred for all by Board member with a relationship or other assigned designee. Mention donation made, how the money will be used, and learn about their possible interest in the organization.
Repeat attendees that did NOT donate – Handwritten note by Board member with a relationship or Executive Director. Thank for continued support of the event and ask about their interest in learning more about the organization.
Repeat attendees that did donate – Call if a relationship or donated more than $1,000, note for everyone else. Mention donation made, how the money will be used, and learn about their possible interest in the organization.
Donated but did not attend – Call if a relationship or if donated more than $1,000. Mention success of the event and how the money donated will be used. Ask about their interest in learning more about the organization.
People who donated significant auction items – Personal call by the person with a relationship and letter of acknowledgment. Executive Director and/or Board Chair may send a note as well. Mention how the money will be used and ask about their interest in learning more about the organization.
While you don’t have to follow this post-event stewardship plan to an exact science, the one thing that you need to do is to have already developed your post-event stewardship plan before the event even happens so that immediately after the event, you can put this plan into action.
Think expansively and creatively about how you can recognize your donors. But, the important part is to put some thought in it, to begin with.
Key things to think about:
Who? To what categories of event attendees? For instance, Silent auction and raffle donors? First-time attendees, etc. And, who will be doing the follow-up? Board members with relationships, staff with relationships, etc.
What? What vehicle will you use to steward your donors? Will it be a hand-written note, a telephone call, or a visit, etc? Will you use e-mail and social media? And, how? What is the message? What do you intend to share with them?
When? When will this stewardship take place? Immediately after the event? A week or so later?
Other follow-up and planned engagement? What planned follow-up after the initial engagement will you schedule in?
The key piece again, please do not wait until it is too late. Think through your post-event stewardship plan, seek buy-in and ownership from the Board, and be ready to implement fairly soon after your event concludes.
While these are some of the hardest folks to take from transactional to transformative, it can be done with a bit of thoughtful planning and strategy.
Don’t let your event, just be an event. Use it as a way to cultivate potential new donors who may be interested in who you are and what you do.
So, maybe you have been operating without a plan up until now. And, that is ok, but it is not strategic, and to meet your goals, you need to have a plan that you follow, monitor, and correct if needed.
Here are some simple instructions on how you can quickly create a development plan if you have been operating without one.
Once you have your gift chart created, it will guide your strategies. Take that gift table and think about how you are going to raise your top gifts.
Then break out all the possible fundraising strategies into key categories. Those key categories may be major donors, individual donors, Board giving, special events, corporation and businesses, private grants, government grants, and earned revenue.
Plan on how many you are going to solicit from each category and how i.e. individual donors you may send out a lapsed donor appeal, an annual renewal appeal, and perhaps a prospective donors appeal using direct mail appeal and maybe phone follow-up. Your complete mail out will be close to 1,000. You can even go a step further and calculate the average gift amount if you are able.
From the numbers that you will be soliciting and the calculated average gift amount determine what your estimated income will be. Know or have any expenses, calculate those and subtract them from your expected income, and you have a net income number.
Then the last key element of this plan is to determine when you will complete each strategy by and who is responsible for the strategy i.e. development staff, executive direct, Board of Directors, etc.
Then implement your plan. But, most importantly use this plan as a monthly monitoring tool. Share it at your Management Staff meetings and with your Development Committee or the Board of Directors. If it appears as if you are “off” on projections, make mid-course corrections and adjust your budget.
But, don’t let this sit on a shelf. Get it in action.
You may want to consider putting all of the key plan information in a spreadsheet to have it all in one place. Or you can use a Word document table. Whatever format you use, start with the gift table, develop the plan, keep this plan in a prominent place, share it and monitor it, and make mid-course corrections.
You can’t operate successfully without a plan in place to drive and focus your effort
Then you will be on your way to reaching your yearly fundraising goals.