Setting a Course for Growth, Part 2

No two organizations are alike, and each one has to discover and develop its own “fundraising voice.” However, there are some things that work for nonprofits — big or small — that can help grow income and, therefore, program output.

Last week, this column discussed three things that growing nonprofits do: work hard to retain donors, invest in acquisition and take calculated risks. Here are three more “best practices” that propel organizations to be fundraising giants, no matter what their size.

Successful nonprofits make new donors feel welcomed
We’ve all had that experience — going into a restaurant or store for the first time and being genuinely welcomed. That’s the feeling every donor deserves, but first-time donors demand.

When you receive a first gift, no matter the size, thank the donor promptly. The receipt you send should be accurate — the donor’s name and address entered correctly, the gift designation as the donor intended, and the letter or note that goes with the receipt acknowledging that you are aware this is her first gift. Welcome the donor warmly, and be generous with your gratitude. Your goal? Donors who feel truly appreciated because they gave.

After the receipt is mailed, send the new donor some additional information about your organization. This should be informative and visual, not dense and exhaustive. Explain the work you do, how you invest donations and what particular amounts can do. Invite him to your website, and mention some specific content that is most appealing. Don’t send annual reports (unless requested) or other materials that look expensive. You don’t want donors feeling their entire gifts just went to pay for the first few mailings they receive.

The “welcome” can continue for a series of three or four mailings or e-mails, and the first few appeals they receive may be specially chosen because they are your “best of the best.” But at the very least, have a special welcoming receipt and a follow-up mailing that offer more information in an inviting format.

Pamela consults with nonprofits in the United States and internationally, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations, getting hands-on experience in everything from direct mail to DRTV, and major gift solicitation to event management. Pamela is a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and has a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.

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