Lend Donors an Ear
For Catholic Relief Services, the international relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community, donor intent is a serious matter. And communicating that it takes donor intent seriously is a serious matter as well.
“One of our No. 1 priorities is to make sure the donor’s money goes to the area that they want it to go to,” says Donna Adair, development officer for CRS.
She explains that donors are sent acknowledgement letters explaining where their money went as promptly as possible. In addition to the standard acknowledgement letter that goes out to all donors, CRS sends handwritten notes to mid-level and major donors.
“Sometimes a donation might be high enough to merit a telephone call from at least a major-gifts officer or another staff person,” Adair adds.
CRS currently is doing telephone surveys with mid-level donors, gathering information about why they’re giving to the organization, what they like about CRS, what it could do to improve its work and its relationship with them, what other organizations they give to, etc. Adair says that the surveys enable CRS to listen to what the donors are saying and learn about donor preferences, such as how their donations are used and how much direct mail they can handle.
“We’re really able to get a sense of how much mail people want and what they’re responding to and what’s the saturation point,” she adds.
CRS also has listened to its donors and recognized that the use of certain premiums -- such as gold crosses and chains -- in direct-mail campaigns is not as effective with its donors, “because the donors we have are looking to us to show good stewardship and ... they may feel that if we send too many little shiny objects that we’re not making good use of their money,” Adair says.