Let your guard down & let your donors in!

Let your guard down & let your donors in!

What walls are you putting up between your organization and the donors who support you? 

You might be thinking, “None!” But I challenge you to really think about it.

I was lucky enough to be part of a session Derek Humphries did yesterday for the clients of the company I work for, Blakely. Derek talked about his background as an artist; he used to design books and they were on display at a gallery. The gallery staff wanted to put his books under glass, but Derek wanted people to actually be able to touch them, read them, interact with them.

The gallery staff were worried people would rip the pages. For Derek that wasn’t a problem! It meant deeper engagement; people could change the book, and therefore be part of the art themselves.

The compromise was people being provided with white gloves to flip through the book…

Derek was brilliantly using this analogy yesterday for our fundraising and the way we interact with donors.

So again, I challenge you to think about this: what do you put between your organization and your donors?

Do you make a point of keeping donors far away from the work that you do? Do you sanitize the problems you’re solving in the world so that donors don’t hear the dirty details?

Or do you offer opportunities for donors to get their hands dirty?

Do you invite donors to meet the people their gifts are impacting?

If your organization changes lives in other countries, are there ever opportunities for donors to travel there? To see the well their generous donation built?

Sometimes the walls we put up are more subtle. By now you know the importance of using the word “YOU” in your direct mail appeals. Any time I’m editing a solicitation letter, I’ve got Jen Love on one shoulder and Tom Ahern on the other encouraging me to make the donor the hero of the story.

That’s another great example of the walls we put up; why must we say “WE” so often? We accomplish this, we change that… Why can’t we say that the donor did it? Why do we have to put some sense of formality in our appeals? Something between the work and the donor.

Why can’t we give donors opportunities to feel more a part of our organization? To allow for deeper engagement… even if they get their hands dirty!

I’ll finish this post off with a story from when I was working as a mid-level gift officer at a school. As often as possible, we would try to create opportunities for bursary/scholarship donors to meet the recipient of their award. It was a great chance to let our guard down and really let the donor see the impact of their generosity.

However, it was also a risk. How could we be sure the student would act appropriately? Would they represent the university well? Would they be professional and courteous and grateful?

Well, I invited a donor to meet the recipient of his award over coffee on campus one day. This donor had had a few negative experiences with the school; having to reach out to find out who the award recipient was rather than the school telling him, feeling ignored, not stewarded well… the works! So I was determined to make him feel better about his giving, and make sure he knew how much it mattered to the school, and to the students.

So we were waiting in my office for the recipient… and we were waiting… and we were waiting… and then finally – a good 45 minutes late – the student arrived.

The donor didn’t seem too shaken, so we went to have coffee, had a great time, and then I walked him back to his car.

Let me also say what this award was. It was an award in honour of the donor’s son who had tragically committed suicide years before. His son had a passion for writing, so it was an award for a student with the best short story submission, judged by the English faculty. It meant a lot to the donor, understandably, and he loved meeting students who shared his son’s passion.

On the way back to his car, he said to me, with tears in his eyes, that his son would’ve been late for the meeting, too.

Letting your guard down is a risk… but the reward is deeper engagement, and that is well worth it!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: [INFOGRAPHIC] 5 reasons (that aren’t Christmas) to send a donor a handwritten card

5 reasons

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Written by Rory Green

roryRory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter

Guest Post: 3 Ways to Use Stories to Provide Donors with Better Stewardship

3 Ways to Use Stories to Provide Donors with Better Stewardship

You’ve probably heard that donor stewardship is one of – if not the most – important parts of fundraising. Donor stewardship is the process of thanking and following up with donors after they have made a gift. It is also what helps increase the chances that they will stick around as donors for years to come.

There are many ways that you can steward donors. Thank you letters, special reports, newsletters, phone calls, and events are just a few of the options available. But what is more important than the option you choose is the content you use.

You see, not all donor stewardship content is created equal.

Just sending a thank you letter is not enough to improve donor relations and retention. If that were the case, our sector’s retention average would be significantly higher!

Donor stewardship content needs to inspire, demonstrate accountability, and show impact. Stories are the best way to accomplish these things.

Here are 3 ways that you can use stories to provide donors with better stewardship:

Idea #1 – Go beyond “your gift is making a difference” in thank you letters

I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of uninspiring thank you letters. I know I have. My biggest pet peeve with thank you letters is when there is a broad, general statement like, “your gift is making a difference,” or “you’re making an impact in the community.”

What’s the difference or the impact? Don’t just tell donors this. Tell them a story to give them deeper peek at their impact.

Here are a few tips for finding a story to tell in thank you letters.

Idea #2 – Refresh your thank you call script for volunteers

If volunteers or board members help your organization make thank you calls to donors, be sure to refresh their script at least twice a year. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure that they are telling current, interesting stories of impact.

Alternatively, you can also empower your volunteers to tell their own story during the call.

Idea #3 – Rethink your event program

Spring is when many non-profits start planning fall events. Rather than having the same old boring speeches at your donor appreciation event, think about how you can make the event experiential for donors. Maybe you can recreate a common experience your clients have, or you could have a client share their story. This is a great way to make a story literally come to life for donors in a way that deepens their connection to your organization.

What stewardship does your organization typically provide to donors? How can you incorporate storytelling into one of your touch points? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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Do you like what Vanessa has to say? Then register for her upcoming #DonorLove webinar! Vanessa will show you how to seamlessly incorporate stories into your non-profit’s stewardship touch points. You’ll learn how to use stories in impact reports and thank you letters. This webinar will discuss key ideas for telling stories that delight donors and helps them feel more connected to the work.

Learning outcomes:

  • Why stories are essential content for great stewardship
  • 4 keys to telling a great story, plus the most important element every stewardship story must have
  • How to tell a story in a thank you letter
  • How to tell a story in an impact report

Steward Your Donors With Stories
With Vanessa Chase Lockshin
April 12th: 10:00 EST / 1:00 PST (You will also be sent the recording)
Recording Available April 23rd
$24.99

REGISTER TODAY!

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Written by Vanessa Chase

VanessaChase15Apr2014-5-3198824182-O copy
Vanessa Chase is the President of The Storytelling Non-Profit – a consulting group that specializes in helping non-profits raise more money through communications. You can find out more about her and non-profit storytelling on her blog.

Guest Post: [INFOGRAPHIC] What we measure… and what’s missing

whatgetsmeasured

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Do you want to show your donors more #DonorLove? Well according to Vanessa Chase Lockshin, it’s all about storytelling. In her upcoming webinar (info below), Vanessa will show you how to seamlessly incorporate stories into your non-profit’s stewardship touch points. You’ll learn how to use stories in impact reports and thank you letters. This webinar will discuss key ideas for telling stories that delight donors and helps them feel more connected to the work.

Learning outcomes:

  • Why stories are essential content for great stewardship
  • 4 keys to telling a great story, plus the most important element every stewardship story must have
  • How to tell a story in a thank you letter
  • How to tell a story in an impact report

Steward Your Donors With Stories
With Vanessa Chase Lockshin
April 12th: 10:00 EST / 1:00 PST (You will also be sent the recording)
Recording Available April 23rd
$24.99

REGISTER TODAY!

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Written by Rory Green

roryRory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter

Guest Post: Thank You Letters — The Good, The OK and the Ugly!

How awesome is your thank you letter- (1)

The results are in!

A few weeks ago we asked you to put your thank you letter to the test – and over 650 fundraisers did!!!

Here is what we learned….

What we’re doing well: Personalization.

We all know it’s true: personal will win over corporate any day of the week! I was happy to see that:

  • 96% of fundraisers are addressing the thank you letter to the donor’s actual name – that’s great! Personalization like that matters.
  • 85% of thank you letters are signed by a real person! WOOT!

What we could do better: Making the donor the hero.

To inspire support, a charity needs to make a convincing emotional case based on the cause and the beneficiaries. But a recent study has found that the key to keeping donors is all about what the charity does for their donors.  In this area, we still have some work to do:

  • 80% of charities make the hero of the thank you letter the donor.
  • 70% of charities use the magic word” “you” more than the word “we” – meaning talking less about your organization and more about the donor.

Why does this matter? Well, as Jeff Brooks says: “The power of you comes from the fact that good fundraising is always about the donor.”

Make your thank you letters about what the donor has accomplished with their gift – not how great the charity is. Here’s an example of a truly terrific thank you letter that celebrates the donor – be sure to watch the video!

What we’re failing at: Being specific.

Stalin said: “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”

Mother Theresa said: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

And Jeff Brooks said: “Make your message about people, not statistics and facts. Numbers numb. Stories and pictures of people stir donors to action… Your donors likely feel powerless to put an end to poverty or injustice. But they can easily imagine reaching out to one person and making a difference.. The other crucial thing about the problem in your story is you must show it to be solvable. By the donor.”

For all those reasons, it is a bit heart breaking that only 47% of charities give a specific example of how the gift will be used.

That isn’t good enough, people!

Why? It’s not inspiring. It’s not emotional. It’s not memorable.

Here’s an amazing example of a charity who is getting really specific:  

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My name is Mr. Bungo and since the last time you read about me I’ve changed. I was extremely malnourished after living on the streets of East Vancouver by myself, covered in fleas, freezing cold and sitting in puddles. Thanks to you and my foster home, I’ve been able to get back on my feet. Little by little I gained weight and slowly regained my energy.

One day, as I was basking in the sun in my foster home, I had visitors. A lovely lady named Shawna and her husband Chris had come to meet me. They seemed very nice and I liked them straight away. I guess they liked me too because they adopted me. I finally have a forever home.

Now I love to sleep at the end of their bed, feeling safe by being close to the people that love me most. One of my favourite things is to lay on either Shawna or Chris and have a good cuddle. It’s good to be able to relax and not worry about anything.

Read the rest here…

As a cat lover, I find that WAY more touching than learning about that charity’s mission statement!

So come on, fundraisers! Don’t we owe it to our donors to make our thank you letters the best they can be?!

How can you improve your thank you letter? Feel free to take the test to identify ways to give your thank you letter a tune up.

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Want more #DonorLove? Check out our next webinar TOMORROW! Keeping the Donor Love Alive & Thriving

As fundraisers we are measured on the asks we make and the gifts we close. But that’s not how our donors measure our work. They pay attention to the thank you’s they receive and how they feel when they get them. Maybe that is why, as a sector, we have a big problem: donors are falling out of love with giving to us.

Spend an hour with Rory Green and Beth Ann Locke as they explore real life #DonorLove examples and creative ideas with one purpose: helping you keep the relationship with donors alive and thriving.

Be inspired to make #DonorLove a priority in your daily work and walk away with practical tips to help donors keep that loving feeling.

Sign up now!

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Written by Rory Green

rory

 

Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter

 

Guest Post: [QUIZ] How awesome is your thank you letter?

How awesome is your thank you letter-

The thank-you letter is the most important piece of communication a donor receives.
– Dr. Adrian Sargeant

I am going to repeat that: You want donor loyalty? You want to retain donors? You want a successful fundraising program? Then your thank you letter better be the best it can be.

Today I challenge you to take your organization’s generic thank you letter and put it to the test. This test is based on the awesome blog Think Thanks by Jen Love.

How did you do? Comment below and share your score.

If you need a tune up – why not check out these great resources:

Make sure to check out the next #DonorLove Webinar: 5 years of #DonorLove – Do you want to learn how loving donors led to a 143% growth in fundraising Revenue? Then join Jen Love for this webinar that will dive into a real-life #DonorLove case study showing you how loving donors not only feels great – it works! Sign up today!

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Written by Rory Green

rory

 

Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter