Posts tagged ‘year-end 2020’

December 15, 2020

Listen to The Whiny Donor and Raise More Money

If you want to raise more money, you need to listen to your donors. Unfortunately, many of your donors do not feel comfortable giving you feedback about your fundraising appeals. Or, if they do feel comfortable, they won’t put in the time and effort to tell you what they think.

Fortunately, The Whiny Donor can help you. “The Whiny Donor” is the name of a Twitter account belonging to a woman who, along with her husband, is a significant donor and who has served on a number of nonprofit boards. Whiny is passionately committed to the philanthropy world making her a fantastic resource for fundraising professionals.

“The Whiny Donor”

Whiny lovingly tweets about charity issues, especially what works and what does not when it comes to fundraising. She provides meaningful, often actionable, insights from the perspective of the donor that she is. She’ll give you feedback that your organization’s donors won’t. Also, she’ll answer questions you would never dare to ask your own donors.

Recently, Whiny and her husband went through the year-end appeals that have inundated them. Then, she shared her thoughts in a valuable Twitter thread. With her kind, thoughtful permission, I’m going to share her helpful insights with you now.

Despite the name of her Twitter account, Whiny seldom whines. Instead, she provides insightful critiques, positive and negative. Here are 10 insights about some year-end appeals she has received recently:

COVID-19 Pandemic: Fundraisers should not be afraid to honestly tell prospective donors about the challenges their organization faces. Whiny says, “A couple of the appeals make a very clear case for their need for funds during the pandemic, and we are increasing our donations to them over last year’s amount. I am actually dumbfounded by appeal letters that DON’T mention anything about being affected by the pandemic. Where have you been all year?”

Mission: When a nonprofit organization has a well-articulated mission that is meaningful to donors, missteps will more readily be excused. For example, Whiny says, “There’s one local cultural nonprofit that always sends a reply form  with no appeal letter at all, and I’m so offended by that, I want to cut them off, but my husband insists that we continue to support them.” Whiny had this reaction to another appeal, “We keep donating to them, but I never read the very long, small-print, no-margin, weird-font appeal letter from a small local nonprofit. I simply don’t have the fortitude to tackle it.” Just be aware that, for most organizations, a clear, powerful mission will work best when paired with a well-crafted appeal, particularly one that is easy to read.

Fake Deadlines: Many charities like to use artificial deadlines for giving as a way to create a sense of urgency, especially at year-end. However, donors tend to care little about your deadlines and more about when they want to give. As Whiny says, “I don’t know how long it’s been sitting unopened in my stack of appeals, but one letter mentions a deadline of December 4, which seems weirdly arbitrary. I think they’ll still accept my gift, though. Don’t you?” I suspect they will. So, what’s the point of the fake deadline? Arbitrary deadlines just come off as hucksterism. When a fake deadline is impractical, it can become downright annoying. As Whiny has observed, “Another one I’m just opening, and it says ‘Nov 30 deadline!’ right on the envelope. But the postmark is November 23! C’mon!”

Postage: Unless you’ve tested a postage-paid response envelope versus one requiring a donor to affix a stamp, you should opt for a postage-paid response envelope as your default. You’ll likely get a better response rate. When requiring the donor to affix a stamp, avoid being condescending in the envelope’s postage box. For example, Whiny doesn’t like statements like “Place Stamp Here” or “Postage Stamp Required.” Whiny says, “I do know how to mail an envelope, you know.” A postage-box statement she likes is “Thank You for Your Support.”

Gift-Amount Suggestions: It’s almost always a good idea to suggest how much you would like a prospect to contribute. If you’re asking a past donor, the amount you seek should be related to what the donor has given in the past. In other words, don’t ask a $5,000 donor for $25; conversely, don’t ask a $25 donor for $5,000. When presenting a gift chain, make it legitimate. “The four choices on this gift chain are $250, $260, $265 and $275, which has got to be the narrowest range I’ve ever seen. They had the good sense to add a ‘Surprise Us!’ box, just in case I want to bust loose,” says Whiny. Generally, your gift-chain amounts should vary by more than $5 or $10.

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December 1, 2020

Here’s What You Need to Know about Charitable Giving, 2020-21

This year has been one of great uncertainty and change for everyone, including those of us in the nonprofit sector. As 2020 comes to a close, and we’re poised to begin a new year, I had the opportunity to answer a number of questions from Mary Jane Bobyock, CFA, Managing Director of the Nonprofit Advisory Team, Institutional Group at SEI Institutions. Bobyock says:

One particular area that’s been different in 2020 is how nonprofits raise money. … Michael Rosen graciously answers my questions about the future of fundraising, the latest trends and considerations for fundraising post COVID-19 for 2020 and beyond.”

One of Babyock’s questions concerned Donor Advised Funds:

Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) have been steadily increasing as an effective fundraising vehicle but what are your thoughts about ways DAFs could change?”

My response is that DAFs will continue to play a growing role in the nonprofit world.

We will continue to see record in-flows and out-flows involving DAFs. While traditional DAFs have required the contribution of thousands of dollars to create an account, we are now seeing the rising popularity of micro-DAFs that allow even small donors to establish giving accounts with no minimum contribution required for creation. This means, in addition to the increase in money flowing through DAFs, we are seeing an increase in the number of individuals who have created a DAF account.

The CARES Act, adopted by the federal government this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, provides a number of tax incentives for charitable giving that will expire at the end of 2020. Not only will this encourage more donations directly to charitable organizations, it will likely encourage greater in-flows into DAF accounts.

Given the DAF trends, charities should let donors know they accept DAF gifts. For example, an organization might highlight a DAF supporter in a newsletter. Also, the organization’s website should remind donors that they can recommend a contribution through their DAF. While charities will provide a hard-credit for gifts to a DAF’s sponsoring organization, a soft-credit should be made to the individual recommending the gift. You should also thank that person. Later, when appealing to that individual, the charity should remind him that he can recommend another DAF gift.

Another way to encourage supporters to recommend a DAF donation to your organization is to include a DAF widget on your website. The free DAFwidget from MarketSmart makes it easy for individuals to support your organization through their DAF. As MarketSmart says:

You already make it easy for supporters to make donations online using their credit cards, so why not do the same for those with donor-advised funds? DAFwidget makes it simple and convenient to find theirs among over 900 funds in our system.”

When you visit the SEI Knowledge Center, you can read the full article containing my answers to the following questions nonprofit leaders are asking:

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