Do you work in a smaller nonprofit? Chances are you do – in 2010 75% of nonprofits had annual budgets under $500,000.
So you probably can’t turn to a well-oiled fundraising machine to coordinate complicated campaigns that cross multiple channels. We’re happy just to have a database, get the mail out on time, use email with some regularity and get those thank you letters out without too much delay, right?
Here’s the truth – we CAN’T do it all. There’s only us. We’re only human, and there are only so many hours in each day. We can and should study what those sophisticated campaigns are doing. But we have to make realistic choices.
One of the things savvy marketers do is turn a disadvantage into a big advantage. (Remember the car rental firm Avis? “We’re number two. We try harder.”)
So what’s our advantage? Our smaller number of donors.
No, I’m not joking.
When you have hundreds of thousands of donors, you might stop thinking of them as people and start thinking of them as numbers. Or segments. Neither is particularly warm and fuzzy. I get countless examples of this in my mailbox daily.
But we actually meet lots of our donors face to face. In a smaller community, we interact with them all the time. We know them – or we know people who know them. With hundreds or maybe thousands of names on our lists, we can offer what donors really want:
Personal connection. Genuine communication about their impact. Sincere thanks.
I explained this to my board recently. I said we were going to shamelessly exploit our advantage. That was how we could stand out in this busy season of giving.
I began by writing personal thank you notes to everyone who gives. Not everyone above a certain dollar amount – everyone. My hand hurts, but I’m smiling.
And when mailboxes quiet after the new year, I plan to do something I’ve done before – send “just because” thanks. These are warm letters full of gratitude. They’re not sent in response to a gift. I send them to all donors – or if that’s not possible, to donors who’ve been giving loyally – regardless of amount. Or brand new donors. The key is this is not transactional. This is purely about gratitude.
Have a board thankathon. I’ve had a hard time selling phonathons to boards. Let’s face it, being asked to come in and call people to ask for donations isn’t most people’s idea of fun. So my thankathon proposal met with skepticism. But once the hardy few started talking to donors, that all changed. Donors were delighted that no one was asking for anything other than their thoughts. Callers were walking on air, and recommitted to our work after hearing about it from our donors.
Here are some other ideas:
Ask for recommendations – then call and talk to everyone who responds. They’re raising their hand!
Use surveys to get feedback and learn more about your donors.
Hold thank you events – again, without ulterior motives. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive.
Invite people to come see your work first-hand. Offer tours or volunteer opportunities.
How else can you shamelessly exploit your advantage?