You’ll Be Treading Water If You Don’t Have These Systems in Place
Have you ever started a new job, only to discover that no thank yous had been sent for months?
I ran across that very situation in what I fondly refer back to as my last “job-job.” The organization in question had recently gone through a merger and was in the midst of a painful database consolidation as well. When I learned that our donors had not been thanked in 10 months, I brought it to the attention of the consulting agency we’d hired to get us through the merger.
And I was met with a blank stare and the response, “In our experience, donors are lucky to get a postcard.”
I then played catch-up, sending out hundreds of “thank you” letters every day—under my own signature and without approval—until we were caught up.
The organization may not have appreciated my work (I was laid off 6 months later), but I knew I’d done right by our donors.
I was reminded of that experience yesterday while chatting with a dear friend. But here, I’ll let her tell you:
“This morning, I emailed a donor (introduce myself, thanks for your gift, here are some student stories, would love to know more about your preferences, etc.).
She called me back to say after making her planned gift 12 years ago, she went 10 years without ever hearing from anyone at our organization. All she got were solicitation calls from the student-calling program and direct-mail asks. She even called the old PG director twice to complain that she was never being communicated to, but nothing changed.
Three months ago she took us out of her will.
I didn't know any of this when I emailed her this morning, and she liked my email so much that she said she will think about putting us back in her will. I asked her lots of questions, let her vent, said I'd take her advice to heart, etc.
But seriously, 10 years? Yikes!”
It happens—especially when our focus is solely on the immediate bottom line and when we don’t set out, as an organization, with an unwavering commitment to donor care.
It’s easy to get off track when you're in that space and even harder to get back on.
• What systems do you have in place to steward a first-time online donor?
• That individual who buys a ticket to your event?
• The donor who sends in a gift to honor the memory of their recently departed aunt?
• How about your monthly donors?
• Are you recognizing donor loyalty?
Here’s a simple tactic I’ve used for years, and I swiped it straight from Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s simply this: “Begin with the end in mind.”
What does that mean to you, and what could it mean for your nonprofit?
Well, it should mean this: After you’ve begun your #GivingTuesday campaign or sent out your spring direct-mail letter, it’s too late to start thinking about what your “thank you” letter will say.
Before the start of every appeal or event, have the processes in place for how you will steward—and engage—those supporters.
Retention fundraising is the most effective—and ironically, the least expensive—kind of fundraising you can practice.
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.