The Devil (and Second Gift) is in the Details
In the forward to his classic work, “The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It,” author Michael Gerber says of great businesses:
“The only way [for small businesses] to reach something higher is to focus their attention on the multitude of seemingly insignificant, unimportant and boring things that make up every business. … Those mundane and tedious little things that, when done exactly right, with the right kind of attention and intention, form in their aggregate a distinctive essence, an evanescent quality that distinguishes every great business you’ve ever done business with from its more mediocre counterparts. … Yes, the simple truth about the greatest businesspeople I have known is that they have a genuine fascination for the truly astonishing impact little things done exactly right can have on the world.”
And so in our business, it is the little things, the details, that can have a massive impact. This was something that Care Net — a national network of evangelistic, pro-life pregnancy centers — found out when it took a look at its thank-you note policies.
Like most other organizations, we sent out the thank-you receipt letters in a timely fashion, defined as a week or two after the gift arrived. This helped us adhere to the maxim that the quicker a donor receives the thank-you receipt letter, the better the odds are we would achieve the crown jewel — the second gift. And, the strategy, indeed, worked well.
Care Net’s thank-you letters include our standard logo across the top, along with three other donor brands running along the right side of the stationery — two representing monthly donor programs and one representing the high-dollar program. Because of our small donor base, we developed a one-size-fits-all thank-you letter that enabled us to save a few bucks on printing while keeping the donor brands in front of each donor segment.
Also included across the top of the letter is the slogan and three primary ministry initiatives. Under the masthead is the donor’s gift history, which includes “amount of last gift,” “date given” and the “year-to-date total.”
Beyond the standard copy and branding elements is the letter’s functionality. The bottom third is a detachable reply card, and donors are encouraged (ever so gently) to return it with a new gift.
The purpose of the back of the letter (no white space!) is to encourage regular donors to join the monthly partners program. Donors who are interested can sign up using checking/savings or credit card drafts.
All fairly straightforward, but we wondered how we might better employ this touch point to raise more money and connect more personally with our donors. We thought about how for-profit businesses interact with their customers, and the answer was clear: on the customer’s own terms. Customers are asked if they would like to receive e-specials, coupons, information from like-minded businesses, etc. The information they provide dictates the terms of the relationship, which are settled right up front at the very beginning of the relationship.
So why not ask first-time givers how they want to be communicated with, right up front? Not only did we do that, but we even blew the dust off of the organization’s Donor Bill of Rights and enclosed a copy of it, as well.
But the key was the letter copy. It asked, “Can we call you? Would you like to receive a receipt letter after each donation? Do you want to receive our monthly letter? Would you like to receive the magazine? Would you like to become a monthly donor? Please let me hear from you today.”
On the bottom third of the letter, containing the return reply card, are tiny boxes for the donors to check indicating their preferences, enabling them to dictate to the organization the terms of the relationship.
Thirteen percent of first-time donors are signing up to become monthly donors; 46 percent of respondents are making second gifts; 24 percent are telling us how to communicate with them; and 17 percent are telling us, “Remove Me.” Let me repeat: An amazing 59 percent are giving again; and 24 percent are continuing the relationship on their terms.
Some other numbers: Response rate is 6.46 percent; average gift, excluding future monthly donations, is $40.99; and average gift including future monthly donations is $78.34.
The next question is, “What other small thing can we do to improve revenue and decrease waste?” Stay tuned. FS