How Your Board Can Increase Donations by 39 Percent — Without Asking for Money
Here's a killer strategy for increasing your gifts by up to 39 percent. What is the magic ingredient? It's your board members, who else?
It may sound impossible for one fundraising strategy to return such a large increase in gifts. But this strategy works, and there's solid data to back it up.
Thank-you phone calls
Your board members will like this job because they don't have to ask for money. All they have to do is thank. This is one of my favorite no-ask fundraising strategies for board members. It's a perfect place to put them to work, even if they are nervous about soliciting.
The next time you send out an appeal, go ahead and employ your standard thank-you processes — letters, personal notes, etc. But add a special thank -you element:
- Organize your board members to make thank-you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift being received. It's really important that they make the calls quickly.
- Ask them to talk to a real person if at all possible.
- After several tries, they can just leave a message thanking the donor.
- The phone calls are not about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only. If your board members are adventurous, they can ask the donor why he chose to make this gift. They can pull out the donor's story — and the donor will be even more pleased and honored.
Studies show — over and over — that donors who get thank-you calls give more than donors who are not called. In fact, fundraising guru Penelope Burk, who did the original research, found that these extra thank-you calls boosted subsequent gifts from donors by as much as 39 percent.
That should get your attention!
I know several organizations that have tried to implement thank-you calls to donors but could not achieve board member buy-in for the project. They found that board members would say, "Sure, I'll make some thank-you phone calls." But they failed to call, or they were not prompt. They took assignments but didn't follow through.
Here's how to set this project up for success.
- Share the statistics with your board members about the amazing results that happen when they make prompt, personal thank-you calls to donors. Be sure they understand the "why" of the project, the upside and positive potential from making these calls promptly.
- Have one board member take charge of the project and create a small committee to work with her. (Board members respond better to a request from a peer than they do to a request from a staffer.)
- Make sure the committee members are all focused and committed, understand that prompt timing is essential, and are ready/willing to do this. (Don't ask all board members to do this — only those who are willing to commit seriously.)
- Make specific phone call assignments to each committee member. Don't send out a whole list to the entire committee and hope that someone will make the calls.
- Have each board member report back weekly on the results of his or her calls.
One organization I know had all the board members post their thank-you call results on a shared Google document. That way each board member could see who was making their calls.
Word had it that a competition took hold, and each board member tried to outdo the others. One lawyer, the busiest person on the board, made sure his calls were as up to date — or more so — as all the others.
If you're not making thank-you phone calls to your donors, you are slipping behind your fellow nonprofits. This strategy is moving from "would be nice to do" over to the "must do" category. If you want to retain these donors and establish a long-term relationship with them, then start with the happy phone call to say thank you!