February 14, 2018

How to Get Last Year’s Donors to Give More this Year

Showing donor love and asking for more money should not be mutually exclusive activities. Inspiring upgraded support requires both to work hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, for many nonprofit organizations, stewardship is the poor stepchild of the fundraising process. It is often ignored or poorly implemented. It is usually an underfunded activity. As a result, donor-retention rates for the nonprofit sector are pathetic.

Development professionals who think about stewardship usually believe that it is something sandwiched between when a gift is received and the next appeal. In other words, stewardship and fundraising are separate functions. However, Joe Garecht, President of Garecht Fundraising Associates and Editor of The Nonprofit Fundraising Digest, believes that the next appeal is actually an integral part of a robust stewardship process. An upgrade appeal will not achieve maximum success without sound stewardship. Done well, an ask is an extension of the stewardship process.

Joe’s thinking makes sense. If we love our donors, why would we want to deny them the satisfaction of continuing to support a cause they care about? Why would we want to deny them the opportunity to make a larger commitment? Helping donors to continue feeling good about continuing to do good is part of good stewardship.

We want our donors to feel important, feel needed. One way to do that, is to ask and to ask for more than they gave last year. However, we shouldn’t make an upgrade appeal in a vacuum.

It’s not just about asking. As Joe explains in his guest post below, it’s about incorporating the ask into a sound stewardship system so that the upgrade appeal is a natural evolution of our relationship with the donor. Stewardship and asking are not separate activities; they part of a cohesive system.

I thank Joe for sharing his stewardship insights and his four-step strategy for asking for donation upgrades:

 

One of the most important fundraising systems you can build at your nonprofit is an effective donor stewardship strategy. Donor stewardship starts with thanking your donors for their gifts… but is much more than that.

There are three main goals for your donor stewardship system:

  1. Donor Retention: You want to make sure that your donors keep giving year after year.
  2. Referrals: You want your donors to introduce you to their friends and colleagues who also might want to get involved with your organization.
  3. Donor Upgrades: You want your donors to give more this year than last year, and to move to major gifts and planned giving, if they have the capacity to do so.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at that third goal. We’re going to answer the question, “How can you get your current donors to give more this year than they did last year?” To understand how to best upgrade your donors, we’re going to first explore why donors make the decision to upgrade, and then review a simple, four-step strategy for getting your donors to upgrade this year.

Understanding Why Donors Upgrade

If you want to successfully solicit your donors to give more this year than they have in the past, it is important to understand why donors decide to upgrade their gifts:

Donors upgrade because they have been stewarded effectively.

The most important reason why donors upgrade is because they have been properly stewarded. This means that your nonprofit has appropriately thanked and recognized them for their past gifts, and has continued to build a relationship with them. Your donors want to feel like they are an integral part of your team. They want to feel appreciated, valued, and heard.

If you are treating your donors well, keeping them updated on your work, seeking their advice and input, and reporting on outcomes in between asks, your donors will be far more likely to upgrade their gifts. If your donors are investing their emotional energy, knowledge, and time in your work, then upgrading their financial investment will be the next logical step.

Donors upgrade because you are casting a big vision.

One of my favorite maxims in fundraising is this: Donors don’t make big gifts to small visions. Your donors want to change the world. They want to make a difference. If you are not casting a big enough vision, your donors will make their big gifts elsewhere, investing in organizations and companies that are.

Every nonprofit can cast a big vision…even small, local organizations working in one small corner of the world. Start by asking yourself, “How are we changing the world? How are we changing lives? How are we saving lives?” Your answers to these questions will help you think through the real impact of your work. If you want your donors to give more this year than they ever have before, you need to cast a bigger vision this year than you ever have before.

Donors upgrade because they are asked to upgrade.

Donors only upgrade when you ask them to do so. Very few donors will upgrade their gifts without being asked.  Thus, if you want your donors to give more this year than they did last year, you need to go out and ask them to do so. While the majority of your stewardship system should be focused on cultivation, asking for donations from current donors (including renewals and upgrades) is an essential part of the fundraising cycle.

In order to be successful, the upgrade process should be systematic. This means that you shouldn’t ask for upgrades here and there, whenever the whim strikes you. Instead, you should have a defined plan in place to review your donors’ capacity and ask them for upgrades as often as appropriate.

How to Ask Your Donors to Upgrade Continue reading

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February 6, 2018

We All We Got. We All We Need.

How would you like to be a champion fundraising professional?

It’s simple. Not easy, but simple.

The Super Bowl LII Champion Philadelphia Eagles provide us with a great example of what it takes to be the best in any profession. While Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins — he’s also an entrepreneur and philanthropist — didn’t originate the sentiment, he articulated a statement that became a team slogan and nicely sums up the champion creed:

We all we got. We all we need.”

Let me explain.

To succeed, we need to recognize that all we truly can depend on is our team and ourselves. Furthermore, that’s often enough. More specifically, in the fundraising world, here’s what it means:

Build a strong team. Hire, or encourage your organization to hire, talented staff who believe passionately in the organization’s mission. Such people will almost always enjoy greater fundraising success than a hired mercenary who only wants a job and a paycheck. Remember, not only does your organization rely on the people it hires, so do you.

James Sinegal, Co-Founder of Costco says:

If you hire good people, give them good jobs, and pay them good wages, generally something good is going to happen.”

Enhance the team’s skills. Even talented, experienced people can enhance their skills. As professionals, we must never stop learning. We must always strive for improvement. This will make us more effective, and heighten our self-esteem. It will also keep us from getting bored.

Will Smith, an accomplished television and movie actor, continues to hone his craft and refuses to simply walk through his roles. As he says:

I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent, [but] what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation.”

Recognize you can only control what you can control. As an example, you could have angst about whether the new tax code will have a negative impact on philanthropy. Or, you could examine the new code to see how you can leverage it for greater fundraising success. In other words, you can choose to worry about something over which you have no control, or you can decide to take steps to adapt to the new fundraising environment.

Self-help author Brian Tracy puts it this way: Continue reading

January 30, 2018

Russell James: Three for the Price of FREE!

One of the nation’s leading philanthropy researchers provides us with helpful insights about the new tax code and its impact on charitable giving. He also offers valuable information about planned giving.

Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP® articles, books, and videos will benefit any fundraising professional. Here are just three that will be a big benefit to you:

1. A Donor’s Guide to the 2018 Tax Law (video)

In just nine-and-a-half minutes, James explains how key provisions of the new tax code can benefit donors. With his insights, you’ll be in a better position to inspire more donations and larger gifts to your nonprofit organization. Simple illustrations and great examples will help you easily grasp the concepts.

Do you know?: Just one of the things you’ll learn from the video is that donors can contribute appreciated stock to avoid capital gains tax. Even non-itemizers can benefit from this. While this provision of the tax code remains unaltered, what has changed is that the new code makes this provision even more valuable for donors. James explains how in the free video:

2.Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning (e-book, updated January 2018)

I’m honored that James has allowed me to offer you a free copy of his 433-page e-book Visual Planned Giving: An Introduction to the Law & Taxation of Charitable Gift Planning. James designed the newly updated book for fundraisers and financial advisors seeking to expand their knowledge about charitable gift planning. This introductory book addresses all of the major topics in planned giving law and taxation in an accessible way.

Do you know?: Wealth is not held in cash. It’s held in assets. James has found that only one percent of financial assets are held in cash! So, if you want larger donations, you need to talk with supporters about making a planned gift from non-cash assets (e.g., stocks, personal property, real estate, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc.).

If you want to learn more about planned giving or help a colleague gain a fundamental understanding, you can download your free copy of Visual Planned Giving by clicking here. Continue reading

January 26, 2018

Are You Making the Same Mistake as Whole Foods Market?

Whole Foods, a supermarket-industry leader recently acquired by on-line retailer Amazon, has received some bad publicity this month. Consider the following headline appearing in The Boston Globe:

Empty Shelves at Whole Foods Have Customers Going Elsewhere”

The Globe reports that many customers are beginning to shop elsewhere because of empty shelves and declining quality:

Whole Foods customers in Bellingham have been struggling to find English cucumbers and sweet onions. In Newton, shoppers have been disgusted to realize that the organic celery they purchased was mostly rotten. Shoppers in Hingham have complained about half-rotten bags of clementines, while those in Newtonville say they were unable to purchase tofu all last week.”

My wife and I shop at a Whole Foods Market just a few blocks from our home in Philadelphia. We’ve experienced similar problems with out-of-stock or poor quality items. Now, we shop far less often at Whole Foods, despite its convenient location. Instead, we increasingly shop elsewhere. For example, MOM’s Organic always has a great selection of high-quality items. In addition, we’ve found that our local Acme Market, a traditional supermarket, has a better selection of high-quality organic items than our Whole Foods.

Whole Foods is making a number of serious mistakes:

  1. assuming it can rely on brand loyalty and its now outdated reputation.
  2. being unresponsive to customer needs.
  3. ignoring the fact that customers have options of where to shop.

Sadly, those are three mistakes that many nonprofit organizations also make. As a result, donor-retention rates are pathetically low. The average overall donor retention rate is approximately 45 percent, according to the 2017 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project is a partnership between the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Urban Institute. The FEP website provides a variety of reports and helpful tools for enhancing donor retention.

Many charities think they can rely on their reputations to achieve strong donor retention rates. Unfortunately, while that might have been the case with brand-loyal Baby Boomers, it’s no longer the norm. Donors want to know that their gifts are making a difference. Moreover, they’re not willing to assume you’re using their money wisely. They want evidence of your effectiveness.

Nonprofit organizations need to be responsive to donor needs. Every member of your organization’s staff, not just fundraising professionals, should be trained to meet the needs of donors. You can read more about this in my post: “The Most Important Part of Any Grateful Whatever Campaign is…

If you don’t provide a meaningful experience for donors by providing them the information they demand and by meeting their varied needs, they will stop giving to your organization. However, that does not mean they will stop giving. They will simply give elsewhere. Continue reading

January 19, 2018

Charitable Giving Threatened by Drop In Volunteerism

On Monday, the USA celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national day of service. From April 15 to 21, the nation will mark National Volunteer Week. Clearly, Americans value volunteerism.

Unfortunately, the volunteerism rate has been steadily declining for years. This trend has disturbing implications for philanthropy.

In 2003, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 28.8 percent of Americans volunteered. By 2015, that rate had steadily fallen to 24.9 percent. This is a huge problem for the nonprofit sector for a number of reasons:

Volunteers Provide a Valuable Resource. Volunteers do a great deal of work that might not be done otherwise. 62.6 million Americans volunteered 7.8 billion hours. Independent Sector reports that a volunteer hour is worth $24.14, over $180 billion of total estimated value. Sadly, with volunteerism on the decline, charities are forced to provide fewer services or incur greater labor costs.

Volunteers Serve as Ambassadors. In addition to being a valuable labor resource, volunteers are also fantastic ambassadors for an organization. The typical volunteer serves only one or two organizations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. When volunteers share their experiences, they also talk with friends, family, and professional colleagues about your organization and its mission. This could lead to additional volunteer and philanthropic support. With a drop in volunteerism, there are now fewer ambassadors for charities, which will inevitably lead to less future support.

Volunteers are More Likely to Donate. Volunteers are twice as likely as non-volunteers to make a charitable contribution, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Even planned giving is affected by volunteerism. As I’ve reported previously, researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP states in his book, American Charitable Bequest Demographics (1992-2012):

Among those with [estate] planning documents, those who both volunteer and give ($500+) are dramatically more likely to plan a charitable estate gift than those who only volunteer or only give ($500+). Those who only volunteer, plan charitable estate gifts at approximately the same rate as those who only give.”

Those who only volunteer or only donate ($500+) are more than twice as likely to make a legacy gift than those who do neither. [For a free electronic copy of James’ book, subscribe to this blog site in the right-hand column. You’ll receive an email confirmation of your subscription that will contain a link to the book.]

With a decline in volunteerism, we can expect fewer people to make current and planned gifts. This is already happening according to an analysis by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

There are many likely reasons for the decline in volunteerism including: Continue reading

January 12, 2018

Hang-on to the Holiday Spirit with FREE Gifts and Resources to Raise More Money!

For most of us, whether we observe Hanukkah, Christmas, or just the New Year, the holiday season is an uplifting time full of joy. However, the same cannot always be said of the post-holiday period, according to Linda Walter, LCSW. Her article in Psychology Today cites many reasons for the post-holiday blahs, for some, even depression.

As an antidote for the after-holiday letdown, I want to share several free resources with you that just might help you keep the holiday spirit going while also helping you raise more money in 2018.

The Donor-Advised Fund Widget. For starters, let me tell you about the Donor-Advised Fund Widget created and offered free-of-charge by the generous folks at MarketSmart. This useful, free gift will help you continue to celebrate the season and raise more money for your nonprofit organization.

When it comes to fundraising, a general rule is: Make it easy for people to give your organization money. You probably already do this in a number of ways. For example, your organization probably allows donors to place gifts on their credit card, mail a check in a business reply envelope you supply, give online, or contribute when they buy products (e.g., Amazon Smile).

So, why not also make it easy for someone to recommend a donation from his or her DAF account?

Rather than viewing DAFs as enemies that divert vitally needed funds away from charities, nonprofit organizations should view DAFs as a great fundraising opportunity. Unfortunately, the problem is that nonprofits have not made it easy for people to donate from their DAF accounts…until now.

Greg Warner, Founder and CEO of MarketSmart, says:

Amazon is successful primarily because they make it easy to buy stuff. Similarly, if nonprofits just made it easy to transfer DAF money, the bottleneck would get un-clogged. But no one was stepping up. So I did!”

The DAF Widget goes on your organization’s website. Your donors with DAF accounts then can easily find their account management company from a comprehensive list of over 800 service providers. Then, they simply click to go directly to their DAF management company’s website where they can enter the relevant information to make a donation recommendation for your organization. To see the widget live, visit the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society website by clicking here.

DAFs are an increasingly valuable source of donations for charities. Consider the following market-wide insights from The National Philanthropic Trust 2017 Donor-Advised Fund Report:

  2012 2016
Number of DAF Accounts 204,704 284,965
Total Assets in DAF Accounts $44.71 billion $85,15 billion
Grants from DAF Accounts $8.5 billion $15.75 billion
Ave. DAF Asset Size $218,413 $298,809

To put the above figures into context, non-corporate private foundations gave $45.15 billion to charities in 2016. By contrast, donations made from DAFs totaled $15.75 billion that same year, equating to roughly one-third (34.8 percent) of the estimated amount granted by non-corporate private foundations.

In other words, DAF donations represent a significant and growing source of gifts for nonprofit organizations. However, to get your share, you need to make it easy for people to recommend donations from their DAF accounts. That’s why MarketSmart created the free DAF Widget.

You can learn more about the DAF Widget and claim yours by clicking here.

There is just one catch, if you want to call it that. The DAF Widget is in its Beta Edition. So, MarketSmart is looking for feedback, either directly or through comments below. Then, Greg promises to invest more time and money to make the DAF Widget even better. So, if you use the DAF Widget, please let us know how you think it could be made easier to use and more effective.

Here are seven additional resources for you to help get 2018 off to a great start: Continue reading

January 5, 2018

How Bad is the New Tax Code for Your Charity?

If you’ve been reading the mainstream press, or even some of the industry media, you might believe that the future is all doom and gloom for charitable giving thanks to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. But, how bad will things really be for you and your nonprofit organization?

As a former newspaper editor, I know that the media lives by the axiom: If it bleeds, it leads. In other words, negativity attracts readers and viewers, which in turn attracts advertising dollars. So, it’s no surprise that the media have put the new tax code in the most negative light when it comes to charitable giving.

Fortunately, reality is something quite a bit different. Let me explain, using figures from 2016 (the most current numbers available).

Overall, charitable giving totaled $390.05 billion. US Gross Domestic Product totaled $18.6 trillion. Therefore, total philanthropy in 2016 equaled 2.1 percent of GDP.

As a result of the new tax code, charitable giving could decline by approximately $21 billion, according to Patrick Rooney, PhD, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University.

However, is that number accurate? Unfortunately, we have no way of truly knowing as Rooney himself states.

For example, the estimated philanthropic decline of $21 billion does not take into account the impact of a likely increase in Gross Domestic Product.

Because philanthropy closely correlates to GDP at the rate of approximately two percent, we can expect a rise in GDP to result in a rise in giving.

So, how much will GDP rise? Again, no one knows for certain. The estimates vary greatly from 0.08 to 0.35 percentage points. The Tax Foundation provided the latter estimate. Applying that percentage to the 2016 GDP, we would see GDP increase by $651 billion. If two percent of that increase goes to charitable giving, that would be approximately $13 billion. So, Rooney’s prediction of a $21 billion decline in philanthropy could be mitigated partially by GDP growth resulting in just an $8 billion drop in giving. However, even that number could be further offset by growth in foundation giving resulting from robust growth in the stock market.

Simply put, the new tax code could increase GDP and stock values leading to more charitable giving that could, at least partially, offset any potential decline in giving resulting from the new tax policy.

For the sake of discussion, however, let’s assume a $21 billion drop in giving, as Rooney outlined. That would take philanthropy as a percentage of GDP from 2.1 percent to 1.9 percent, using 2016 numbers. This is still within the 40+ year historical range.

The bottom line is that the new tax law could result in a decline in charitable giving. However, we don’t know for certain if that will be the case and, if it is, how much the dip will be. Even if there is a dip, giving will still remain at historically typical levels, around two percent of GDP. Furthermore, there is the possibility that the pundits are mistaken and that charitable giving will actually increase. Time will tell.

While the new tax code may change how and when people donate, history teaches us that changes in the tax code have only a short-term impact on the amount of giving though the methods and timing may vary. For example, the Reagan tax cuts resulted in greater year-end giving in 1986 before giving normalized thereafter. Furthermore, while a dip of billions of dollars is a big number, the reality is that it is not massive in the context of overall philanthropy.

Here are some of the relevant items you need to know from the 500+ page Tax Cut and Jobs Act signed into law on December 22, 2017 by President Donald Trump: Continue reading

December 29, 2017

Do Your Colleagues Know Something You Don’t?

Keeping on top of all of the latest fundraising, marketing, and nonprofit management information can be a real challenge. After all, you have a full-time job. Your boss expects you to raise a lot of money, probably more than last year. It keeps you busy.

Unfortunately, having a hectic work life could mean that you’ve overlooked some useful information that actually could help you achieve your goals more easily.

So, what’s the information that your colleagues found most interesting in 2017 that you should be sure not to miss?

Here is a list of my top ten most read posts published in 2017:

  1. Here is the One Word You Should Stop Using
  2. Delivering More of My Own Bad News
  3. 5 Mistakes that Could Cost You Year-End Donations
  4. What is the Most Important Thing a Donor Can Give You? … It’s Not What You Think It is.
  5. The Best Fundraising Blogs You Should be Reading
  6. Your Charity is Losing Big Money If It Ignore This Giving Option
  7. What are the Obstacles to Improving Donor-Retention Rates?
  8. What is the Special Ingredient that Leads to Fundraising Success?
  9. Philanthropy Will Increase in 2017 and 2018
  10. Do the Numbers Tell the Full Story?

Here’s a list of five of my older posts that remained popular this year:

  1. Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs
  2. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?
  3. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls
  4. Special Report: Top 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants Identified
  5. 16 Tips for Crafting a Powerful Postcard Campaign

I invite you to read any posts that might interest you by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

Over the years, I’ve been honored to have my blog recognized by respected peers. This year was no exception. I’m pleased that I was once again recognized in Bloomerang’s list of “100+ Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2017.”

To make sure you don’t miss any of my future posts, please take a moment to subscribe to this site for free in the designated spot in the column to the right. You can subscribe with peace of mind knowing that I will respect your privacy.

To make finding interesting blog posts by others a bit easier, you might want to join the LinkedIn Discussion Group I created: Blog Posts for Fundraising Pros & Nonprofit Managers.

This is a LinkedIn Group for blog authors and the fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers who read them. Bloggers can promote their latest posts and readers can easily find those that interest them most and engage in thoughtful conversation, all in one place.

The site provides a welcoming environment for blog authors where they can freely promote their posts. It is also a safe place for readers who may not want to subscribe to multiple blog sites but who want to easily scan the great information that is available across blogs.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank you and all of my readers. I appreciate that you stood by my side during what was a profoundly challenging year for me. A fierce battle with cancer forced me to take a lengthy leave-of-absence this year. Now, I’m delighted to be back. You can read about my battle in the following posts: Continue reading

December 20, 2017

The Secret You Know but Do Not Know You Know

There’s a powerful fundraising secret you know. Unfortunately, you probably don’t know you know it. Yet, knowing it is essential to your fundraising and career success. 

While scanning year-end articles, blog posts, and webinar offerings about fundraising, you might be overwhelmed by the huge volume. You might also suspect that all you have to do to become a great fundraising professional is master the numbers and techniques involved in the development process.

Even my recent blog posts have focused on how-to information. However, your fundraising efforts and career are about more than numbers and skills. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you some questions. When you woke up this morning:

  • were you excited to get to the office so you could generate that report your boss asked for?
  • were you thrilled that you’d soon be listening to a webinar about donor retention?
  • were you energized by thoughts of the upcoming staff meeting?

When you accepted the job offer from your current employer, I suspect you weren’t thinking of reports, webinars, and staff meetings. Instead, you were probably thinking about the organization’s mission. You likely thought about how fun it would be to join a great team to help fulfill that mission.

That feeling might now be somewhat buried. You might not think about it much. However, at a deep level, it’s that feeling that probably gets you out of bed and to the office each morning. Passion for your organization’s mission is easy to forget when facing day-to-day demands.

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to reduce our jobs to a set of numbers. How many donors did you acquire? Renew? Upgrade? How many major donor prospects did you visit? How many of those prospects became major donors? How long does it take to send out a thank-you letter? How much money did you raise this year? You get the idea. It’s easy to get caught up in the process and begin to lose sight of what is most important.

You will never be truly effective unless you constantly remind yourself of why you really do what you do. You won’t be able to inspire prospects to give, and you’ll likely experience premature burnout.

So, if you want to more effectively inspire people to give and if you wish to have greater career satisfaction, spend more time focusing on what the money you raise will accomplish. For example: Continue reading

December 15, 2017

Avoid a Big Misstep Now to Raise More Money in 2018

Fundraising can be complex and challenging. We need to consider strategies, tactics, technology, staffing, budget, and so much more.

What if I could help you cut through all of the clutter, so you can avoid a big misstep now and raise more money in 2018?

Well, here you go:

If you want to raise more money, do not fail to send a proper thank-you letter.

It’s pretty simple, right? I think it is. Unfortunately, so many nonprofit organizations mess up this important step in the development process either by not sending a thank-you letter at all or by simply dashing off a letter with little thought. While professional fundraisers expend considerable effort to master the complexities of the fundraising process, many stumble when it comes to something as simple as the thank-you. Don’t be one of those fundraisers.

The thank-you letter is an essential part of a sound stewardship program. Every donor should receive a thank-you communication. It amazes me that some organizations still refuse to send thank-you letters to lower-level donors. Sending a simple receipt is not the same as a thank you.

A wise person once observed that the most important communication a donor will receive from you is the first thank you after the first gift. At that point, many donors will decide whether to ever make another gift to your organization.

So, what are the three essential principles of a great thank-you letter?

1. Immediacy.

The first rule of effective thank-you letters is: Be sure to send them. The corollary is: Be sure to send them immediately, within three to seven days of the gift coming in. If you delay, donors will likely think that you do not need their money or that you do not truly appreciate them. Wise organizations that don’t have the infrastructure to do this will outsource the gift acknowledgment process recognizing that it’s a worthwhile investment.

2. Caring.

Let your donors know you care. You can do this by sending a thank-you letter out on a timely basis. In addition, make sure you spell the donor’s name correctly, acknowledge the amount received, encourage the donor to contact you with any comments or questions, include an appropriate gift receipt and tax information. If your organization hosts events or programs for the public (i.e., a theater company that has a new stage show about to open), take the opportunity to share this information with your donor. These are just some of the things you can do to show you care.

You should also remember that a thank-you letter is not another solicitation piece. So, don’t appear ungrateful by asking for more money or enclosing a gift envelope. I know this is a controversial issue so, for more about this, read “Can a Thank-You Letter Contain an Ask?”

3. Meaningfulness.

Don’t just send a simple thank-you letter that shows you didn’t spend much time thinking about it or drafting it. One way to force yourself to be a bit creative when writing a thank-you letter is to not use the words “thank you” in the first sentence. This prohibition will slow you down and force you to be more thoughtful when writing the letter.

Another tip is to remind donors of the impact their gifts will have. Better yet, tell them how their gift is already being put to good use.

Whenever possible, hand sign the thank-you letters. Even better, hand sign the letters and write a short P.S. This will go a surprisingly long way in building a meaningful relationship with the donor.

For her book Donor Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk reviewed hundreds of thank-you letters. Based on her analysis, she outlined 20 attributes of great thank-you letters. I felt so strongly about her list that I cited it in my own book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing: Continue reading

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