Are You Honoring Your Small-Dollar Donors?
You need more major donors, right? And lately it seems like mid-level fundraising and major gift fundraising are all the rage. The experts are hammering the point home that smaller nonprofits aren’t raising major gifts (duh), and there has seemingly been an influx of major gift fundraising classes too.
Of course, who wouldn’t want Oprah or Ellen to notice their organization and put them on the map? Or have the local billionaire step up, out of the blue, to write a check?
But you know better, don’t you? Fundraising isn’t about asking rich people for money.
Fundraising is about the systems that take your first-time donor…to lifetime donor.
Your organization’s major donors are, after all, right in your backyard. Yep, they’re already in your donor database, and you just have to know how to work them. Here’s the 411: If you’re not honoring your first-time or small-dollar donors and if your systems are broken, you’re going to have a hard time getting from here…to there.
What does your donor experience when he or she makes that first online gift? What if it’s “only” a $10 gift?
What systems do you have in place to understand your new donor’s motivations and to bring in the second gift?
Have no idea how to answer these questions? It’s prime time you take a walk in your donors’ shoes by making a gift to your organization and carefully observing what that process looks like to them.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Are you getting your “thank you” letters out promptly (even for online gifts)? Is it the kind of “thank you” letter that has the ability to really “wow” your donors, or are you half-assing it?
2. Are you making those donor “thank you” calls, particularly for your first-time donors, and are you doing it on the regular?
3. What does your "thank you" email look like? Is it a receipt, or is it actually a meaningful communication that reinforces the simple truth to your donors—that they are wonderful?
4. What do you know about your donor’s motivation for making a gift? What about including a text box on your donate form, like SolarAid? Smart move.
5. What systems do you have in place for welcoming new donors? Fundraiser Karen Fromel recently noted:
“I have numbers from our new donor welcome packet for January through October of last year. The welcome packet is a thank you letter, a bookmark and a brochure. There has been a 47 percent capture rate since Jan. 1, 2016. This has resulted in a 163 percent increase in donations from their first gift. Some donors have given as many as eight times since their initial gift.”
Get your board and staff involved in the gratitude process because it’s everyone’s job to be present when it comes to communicating gratitude to the supporters who make your wonderful work possible. Take a look at this "thank you" letter!
Remember, at the heart of major donor fundraising lies donor retention. Pure and simple.
Take a cue from Brittany’s Hope Foundation and run with it. Three years ago during a session of mystery shopping, I made several online gifts to a number of small nonprofit organizations, and Brittany’s Hope was one of them. Imagine my surprise and delight when I received a “thank you” phone call merely 15 minutes later from their executive director. The crazy good feelings and vibes didn’t stop there, though, and neither did my giving. I’m now a monthly donor at the $35 level. Though I’m far from being a major gift supporter by any nonprofit’s standards, Brittany’s Hope makes me feel like a major donor because they’ve cared about our relationship from day one.
Mai-Lynn Abel Sahd, MSW, executive director of Brittany’s Hope, explains the organization’s donor philosophy best:
“No matter the gift (large or small), all gifts are important and special to us here at Brittany’s Hope. Whether we receive a donation for $35 or $5,000, we make sure we recognize, thank and welcome all those who support us. Of course, a large donation warrants a detailed report and may be recognized with naming rights (i.e. project plague), but a continuous monthly support is just as valuable in our eyes. This may sound cliché, but our communication and place of importance are equally the same for all our donors regardless of dollar amount. The term “small donor” is never used here at our office when segmenting our donors; quite simply, we do not measure our donors based on the dollar amount, rather on their vested interest, time, talent, passion and resources.
In many cases, what could be considered as a “small” or “mid-size” donor typically gives a larger percentage of their income than a “large” donor. Also, at our organization, this group holds the highest retention rate and is our strongest advocate in spreading the mission. That is not to say one donor segment is more important than another, rather all donors represent a different quality and attribute. Therefore, all deserve the same time and respect.
I truly believe the secret behind our donor success lies within the personal relationship and authenticity with our donors.”
Do you see what I mean now? I’ll never stop hammering this one home: Your backyard, right there in your very own database, is chock full of gems. You’ve got to mine those acres of diamonds. A brand new $10 donor is not a $10 donor, so don’t look at them that way. A $10 donor is an opportunity for so much more if you take the time to reach out and nurture those amazing possibilities. Work with what you’ve got and maximize the potential of each and every human being your organization comes into contact with. Yes, human beings—not dollar signs and certainly not “dear friends.”
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.