Because it’s December, here’s the best-case scenario – your year-end fundraising program is in full gear and the gifts are rolling in.
You’ve invested lots of time writing, designing, and sending letters and email appeals. Perhaps you recruited board members and other volunteers to write notes on all those fundraising letters, which will improve results. Maybe you’ve even scheduled a few December visits with your most important supporters.
That’s all great – but what about after they give? Have you given as much thought to your appreciation strategy?
Love them or lose them
In his latest (and essential) book, Retention Fundraising, Roger Craver includes a lot of sobering statistics.
Here’s one from a recent study by the Association of Fundraising Professionals: for every 100 donors acquired, 107 were lost to attrition.
In other words, if you’re like many organizations, you may be hemorrhaging contributors faster than you’re recruiting them.
Donor retention rates have been sliding downhill for years.
Why? There are many reasons, but here’s one variable you can control immediately. Make your donors feel appreciated – really appreciated – and they’re more likely to stick around.
Thank them more thoughtfully
Here’s an exercise, Your Favorite Thanks, you can use to ramp up your thanking in a big way.
You can facilitate this exercise with any group – staff, board, or volunteers. You could even pull together a focus group of donors.
It’s simple to set up.
- Organize small groups and have people brainstorm their favorite experience of being thanked (for anything, not just charitable gifts). It’s the usual list – personal notes, phone calls, flowers, food – but expect a few surprises, too.
- Reconvene the full group and collect the responses.
- Talk about what you might implement from this exercise to create a donor thank you plan for your organization.
- If you want to go deeper, provide profiles of a few significant donors and brainstorm how to customize your appreciation strategy to better meet their needs.
The 30 minutes you invest in this exercise can make a huge difference in keeping your donors.
They thanked me for thanking them
Here’s an example that worked really well for me.
I just finished chairing what felt like the world’s longest capital campaign – it lasted eight years. Over the course of the campaign, I sent hand-written, personalized thank you cards in response to every gift.
We had 300 donors and perhaps one thousand gifts, since many people gave multiple times. In a few cases, I wrote a dozen cards, over several years, to the same donors. My hand hurt!
You know what? People literally stopped me on the street to thank me for making the effort to thank them. One donor introduced me to his spouse as “the guy who writes all those thank you notes.”
This is one reason they chose to give again and again.
Invest the time, see the results
For most fundraisers, there aren’t enough hours in the day. As you triage your work life, you look for shortcuts – we all do.
Don’t shortcut your donor appreciation. It’s far easier and more cost-effective to strengthen relationships with current donors, rather than trying to recruit new ones.
As you’re wrapping up the current year – and planning for 2017 – commit to creating a donor appreciation plan, and carving out time to implement it. You’ll be grateful you did.