How Welcoming Is Your Donor-Welcome Package?
Competition is stiff — new mail solicitations arrive every day. Through the mailbox or the inbox, organizations must build a connection with their donors right from the start to begin long and fruitful relationships.
Below are seven ways to improve your welcome package ... and ultimately improve retention.
- Make it timely. The surest way to tell your donors you care is to thank them right away. An e-mail "welcome" should be almost instantaneous. In the mail, it should take no more than two weeks. Donors, and especially boomers, are all about instant gratification. Technology makes it possible to get that "welcome" out in less than two days at a reasonable cost. Imagine the warm feelings you'll create when that acknowledgment arrives promptly. Your mother would be so proud!
- Make it personal ... and not just the salutation. The welcome letter should be welcoming. This letter is about the donor and should sound like it was written by an individual, not an organization. Just think how that acknowledgment letter would read if this was the only donor that gave to you all year. A teaser on the outer envelope or the subject line in the e-mail that says "welcome" is not enough.
- This is not a test. The package should not rattle off a series of facts and figures about your organization as if there was going to be a quiz at the end — for example, "We have 27 regional offices, serve 250,000 individuals, had 1 million visitors." Instead tell the donor a story about how the organization has made a difference in one specific region. Tell about one person who you served and why that matters. Remind the donor what impact your organization had on one visitor and the rippling effect that is having. If you can capture the work of the organization in a story or a photo, you make it easier for the donor to connect with you.
- Offer a virtual tour. The welcome package should give the new donor a high-level "look around." Volunteer opportunities, giving clubs, monthly giving programs, upcoming events, opportunities to sign up for the e-mail blasts or opt out of list rental. All of these are ways to engage and promote a dialogue with the donor. Incentivize the new donor to check out your website if she joined through the mail.
- Credential yourself. Show the donors they selected the right charity, and remind them that it was a sound investment. Offer transparency — let them know where they can find your financial information, annual report and IRS form 990. Let them know how much money goes to program work. Include testimonials and other independent seals of approval, such as the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator or GuideStar, if your scores are worth promoting. Remember, just because donors sent you gifts doesn't mean they are convinced they should have.
- Encourage feedback, comments and criticism. You want to begin a dialogue with your donors, and to do that you have to engage the donor in a conversation. Ask donors to fill out a brief questionnaire to help you get to know them. Offer a low-cost premium like a calendar if you already have some in inventory or some other useful item that is branded. The response may be low, but you allow the most engaged donors to show themselves, which you can then segment for further specialized treatment.
- Be brief. Remember this is the beginning of a conversation, not a complete dissertation. Keep it upbeat and impactful, but don't exhaust the donor with too much. Make the package visually appealing and easy to navigate. If there is a lot of information that you need to send, break it up into two mailings — a welcome letter first followed by the welcome kit, or warmly welcome in a short letter and package the rest of the information in a folder or booklet.
When you send a welcome letter, you're fulfilling more than just benefits and IRS requirements. You're fulfilling expectations about the organization and the donor's desire to positively impact the world. Use the opportunity to remind donors that they made the right choice, and begin to build the relationship right — right from the start.
Craig DePole is a senior vice president at Newport Creative Communications. Contact him at 800.934.0586 x432 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for other fundraising-related articles and whitepapers from Newport Creative.