Now that it is January, you may think that it is time to relax a bit after that hectic holiday season. However, now is the time to ensure that you have strong follow-up to your calendar year-end appeal.
If you have closed out one fundraising year completely by doing the needed follow-up, you have established a strong base and set your organization up well for success in the upcoming calendar year’s fundraising efforts. As they say, it is not over until it is over! And so, I have outlined several steps below that you can take this month to ensure that you have appropriate follow-up to maximize your calendar year-end efforts.
Examine your largest donors who gave in 2018 and ensure that they made their gift by calendar year-end. If they have not yet made their gift, then it is time to contact them. You do not want your largest donors to lapse, as this will significantly impact the results of your campaign. Time to pick up the telephone or visit in person.
Consider sending out a follow-up mail and/or email to those who did not respond to the year-end appeal. You should send this appeal out no later than late January. Perhaps your direct mail appeal got lost in all the holiday mail or in the flurry of appeals that were sent in. Now, as things have quieted down, is the time to send out one last appeal. Be sure to segment out all those who did give, whether doing mail or email or even both.
Be sure that you send out all of your acknowledgements. Ensure that these acknowledgements are donor-centric and include the necessary updates and impact statements to demonstrate the impact a donor has had through their giving. Please do not mention that they helped you to reach your fundraising goal. This kind of wording will not inspire donors to give!
Begin to assemble a late winter/early spring edition of your newsletter. As we all know, fundraising cannot be all about asking. We must share important updates, especially on the impact that a donor’s gift has made. Now is the time to get this newsletter ready. I urge that you send out both a print and online version. Many donors still read print!
Prepare a Valentine’s or other such stewardship greeting to be sent sometime between now and the next appeal. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to send a simple greeting of thanks “from the heart” to all of your donors, letting them know what they have made possible. This is a great way to engage clients in creating messaging for donors, whether it is through video, handmade cards, or notes. Use your creativity and be sure to connect messaging to your mission.
Consider holding a phone bank around Valentine’s Day to call donors who have given to your calendar year-end appeal to thank them for their support. Again, “major” holidays are important stewardship times that you can use to have a significant stewardship impact.
So, while your thoughts may be on the new year ahead, let’s not forget the importance of doing a thorough clean-up job on last year’s appeal efforts. Now is the time, when mailboxes have “cooled down” and donors are back from their holidays, to ensure that you have maximized your efforts. Follow these steps above and you will set your organization’s development up for success in the coming year.
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Giving Tuesday, the Global Day of Philanthropy is on Tuesday, November 28. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is partnering with Facebook again this year to provide a match up to $2 million to donors who give during that day.
Here are the specifics of this match:
Donations made to participating nonprofit organizations through Facebook’s charitable giving tools beginning at 8:00 am EST on November 28 will be matched — up to $50,000 per nonprofit, or $1,000 per fundraiser or donate button — until the matching funds run out. Facebook and the Gates Foundation are contributing $1 million each for the campaign, and all matched funds will be paid out to nonprofits through Network for Good’s donor-advised fund.
So, what can your organization do to prepare?
Here are some simple steps that I have been recommending to nonprofits to take advantage of this match:
1 – Determine what your Giving Tuesday monetary and non-monetary goals are. How much do you want to raise? How many new donors do you want to attract?
2 – Ensure that you have activated your Facebook “Donate” button first and foremost. Ensure that you are using Facebook’s full scope of charitable giving tools. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for the match. You also want to ensure that your pages are branded so that folks can recognize the Giving Tuesday campaign.
3 – Ensure that your website and online donation portal are up-to-speed and ready to go. Make sure that you rigorously test them. Your website and donation portal should be easy for a donor to use and navigate. Donating should not be difficult.
4 – If you have work to do on your donor lists, now is the time. Make sure that they all get uploaded into your Donor Management System, particularly your email addresses.
5 – Draft your social media and email messaging now. You will want to announce this match opportunity in advance as well as send out reminders the day before, the day of, and an acknowledgement the day after. Use key days such as “Black Friday” as messaging points. Be sure to use photos, videos, and testimonials. Consider integrating into your current calendar year-end campaign.
6 – Be sure to recruit ambassadors as social media messengers for your cause during this campaign. You may want to enlist your Board, staff, and volunteers to help spread the word about your GIving Tuesday by sharing your social media messages with their family and friends. If you are using Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, then get your folks set-up and engaged in advance of the actual day.
7 – Develop a plan to steward these Giving Tuesday donors once Giving Tuesday is complete, and you begin marching into December.
These are some simple steps that you can take to begin to plan for your Giving Tuesday campaign.
Now, I want to hear from you. What steps is organization taking to prepare for this day of giving?
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!
A lapsed donor is one who has lapsed from giving at least a calendar year. They are the most significant donors to focus your efforts on re-engaging since they have already demonstrated an interest in your organization.
There are several ways to re-engage these lapsed donors. Here are some suggestions that you can implement within your organization.
Identify those donors who gave last year and yet have to donate this year. Those are your lapsed donors.
Add up the total giving from these lapsed donors. Surely after seeing this number, you will want to spend some time trying to recapture them.
Segment out the major donors from this list. A major donor giving level will vary from organization to organization i.e. $250, $500, $1,000, or even more.
Share this list with your Development Committee of the Board and discuss the plan of action.
Have Board members identify those major donors that they can personally call on.
Intend to call on these donors either through personal visits or telephone to secure a gift commitment.
Plan to send a specialized segmented direct mail letter to all others not identified as major donors.
You could also use this same strategy for each appeal that you send out to be proactively trying to prevent lapsing from occurring in the first place.
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.
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.
One may think that the content or copy of a direct mail appeal letter is King (or Queen), but studies have found that there is something else as equally or maybe even more important than what the letter says.
What is that one thing?
Typesetting. And, typesetting does matter when it comes to direct mail appeal letters.
Typesetting refers to how one presents information on a page. Eye-motion studies have found that readers don’t read word for word all that is on the page. Reader’s eyes are drawn and attracted to what is on the page through the strategic use of photos and captions, liberal uses of white space, and formatting emphasis such as bolding, underlining, and italicizing. Today, this is becoming more of the case as we rely on social media such as Facebook and Twitter for 140 characters and snippets of information.
Here are some of my top tips to help your direct mail appeal be the best that it can be.
Readers skim. So, photos with captions (and a caption that points out how the donor is making a difference), and underlined and bolded text all help to keep the reader skimming and highlighting the key points you would like them to learn. Ensure that photos are of high quality and show faces, especially emotive eyes. People connect to one another, even on paper, with eyes.
A two-page letter does test better than a one-page letter. Since donors are skimmers, repetition is essential. It may seem redundant to keep repeating things over and over, but, donors do not read all that your write. So, keep repeating your core message and “ask” throughout the body of the letter with again using formatting for emphasis.
Keep letter format consistent regarding type size, font usage, etc. Anything that makes it difficult or confusing for the donor to read, decreases readability.
Keep your paragraphs short and concise. The reader may lose their place, focus, and tend not to finish a story that they are in the process of reading if there is too large of a block of text. And, you certainly do not want to have the reader miss important stories and other critical letter components.
Make sure it is as easy as possible for the donor to give to you. Odds are they will not go too far out of their way should they wish to donate. Include the direct link to donate or make it as streamlined as possible.
Lastly, don’t forget a P.S., invite the donor to speak with you directly, remind them that you are available for questions, or welcome their suggestions. Direct them to give online here. Just make it compelling with a direct ask, a deadline, and a call to action. Research shows that no matter what is in the body of the letter, the P.S. draws one’s eyes in.
So, though you may think that what you say is key, think again, a well-typeset letter has the power to get your letter read especially in this day and age of 140 characters of less.
For your next direct mail appeal letter, why don’t you take the six items listed above and incorporate them into your writing? Doing these six things alone has the potential to significantly increasing the response rate of your letter. And, don’t we all want letters that speak to our donors in ways that they will read them?
One might think that gift range charts are just for large projects such as capital campaigns or for significant fundraising efforts. And, while, yes, there is some truth to that, gift range charts can be used effectively in even the smallest of fundraising shops.
A gift range chart will tell you exactly how many gifts AND prospects you need at each giving level to reach your goal. And, it also shows you the potential to reach your fundraising goal.
So, first, how do you create one?
Well, you can use any online calculator to do so. I highly recommend the simple and easy to use Blackbaud gift range calculator. You can find that tool here.
A gift range chart calculator is only going to provide you with an estimate. If you want to be more accurate, you may want to create the chart on your own using the given realities of your organization. So, how do you go about creating your own? Well, you will want to identify the highest level gift to your fundraising efforts. That will probably be somewhere in the area of 20% of goal. Estimate 3-5 prospective donors per gift. Fill in your chart downwards based on what you know about your donors and their capacity. Gift amounts go down, and the number of donors increases.
So, here is what a $100,000 fundraising goal would look like: https://www.blackbaud.com/nonprofit-resources/gift-range-calculator
How do you now use this information to inform your strategy?
I would first look at the top gifts needed. Here in this example, you would need 1 – $10K, 1 – 7.5K, 2 – $5K, and 3 – $3.5K for a total of $38K. There are several options, right? You could write several grants. In this case, you would need 28 grant possibilities, or you could approach a few major donors.
Then if you look at your next tier of gifts, you would need $34K in gifts. Perhaps you have a fundraising event, or maybe a direct mail campaign or a series of direct mail campaigns. Or perhaps you continue to ask for gifts at this level.
Maybe you look even further down and realize that you have a series of direct mail appeals, or that one appeal will do it for the remainder of the $28K or so.
The fact of the matter is that any possibility of a strategy will work, as long as it is realistic and fits for your organization. The key thing to remember is that you want to secure the top gifts first. If you don’t raise those, then you need to readjust all the lower levels of the gift range chart below to “make up” for the difference.
Then, you can use this gift range chart as a monitoring and reporting tool. Let’s say that you are not hitting your “lead” gift targets. Well, you can certainly adjust this gift range chart mid-course and make the necessary adjustments to your strategy BEFORE your fundraising efforts get too far off track. And, this would be a great tool to share with your Board of Directors to educate them on the process of raising money and how your particular efforts are progressing towards projections.
So, though you may think that gift range charts are for the “big shops,” think again, a gift range chart can provide even the smallest campaign with focus and goals based on actualities and realities.
So, this next fiscal year why don’t you first start by creating a realistic gift range chart for your annual fund campaign and develop strategies to get you to your goal.