OK, I will admit it: I can be the El Exigente of donor communications.
Picky, picky, picky.
If a family member happens to be standing nearby as I open the mail, I drive them nuts.
“This is a thank you letter? It’s all about them!”
“My annual fund? And it’s enclosed How do you enclose an annual fund?”
“Another nickel to remove before I can recycle this thing…”
So I think we were all pleased when I opened a large envelope from Nothing But Nets.
The simple proposition hooked my husband: Please send $10 to provide malaria nets for kids in Africa.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the request came from a favorite sports columnist.
How could he resist?
And since then, we’ve been giving each year. Nothing extravagant, just an annual gift.
So I opened this large envelope.
Here’s what was inside:
- A letter, thanking my husband.
- Attached to the side with a paperclip is a piece of netting (probably not mosquito netting, as it’s too large, but a nice, tactile symbol.)
- And a certificate, printed on heavy paper and personalized with my husband’s name, acknowledging “the special role that you have played in helping to save countless lives from malaria.”
The thanks isn’t for a recent gift. It’s a “just thanks” thanks. And something I’ve suggested you try before.
It was recognition for years of loyal giving.
The first paragraph mentions the certificate and explains its purpose is appreciation for our continuous support.
The second paragraph notes we’ve supported the organization from the start. It explains how great the impact of our giving has been.
The third paragraph notes the severity of the problem, however. They make it very personal with a few story sketches: Agathe, a refugee in Central African Republic, and fears for her family’s health. Or Timothy, a young boy who survived a severe case of malaria.
The fourth paragraph nicely sets up the new challenge: The Million Nets Pledge. There’s no ask here, but it puts the challenge in front of people who will be likely to respond to it later.
The final paragraph is all gratitude and flattery. And a hope that we will continue to stand with the organization in this fight.
So with one letter, they’ve:
- Reconnected by reminding the donor of a long-standing relationship
- Showed the donor the results of that loyal giving
- Connected the donor to real people affected by the issue
- Placed a new challenge in mind – something concrete, and a next step in the relationship
- Told the donor who appreciated they are, how compassionate and admirable
Donor loyalty is crucial to your organization, whether you have 100 donors or millions.
Slowing or stopping the revolving door – you know, the one where you invite new donors in and then watch them walk out at the other end? – is much more cost-effective than acquisition efforts.
(Not that you shouldn’t be adding new donors. But if they’re just walking through, what’s the point?)
You can do this, too – regardless of your size.
Make it a priority: include this mailing in your annual communications calendar.
Send a thank you letter to your most loyal donors.
Fill it with gratitude and yes, flattery.
Show them, with stories if possible, what their loyal giving has accomplished.
(The certificate is nice, but I doubt it’s the most important part of the package. If the cost of producing it is a concern, I’d focus on really donor-centric language and personalization in the letter.)
When I tried this the first time years ago, I heard back from our donors. Handwritten notes, phone calls to me – and to my boss.
They were thanking us for thanking them! It was a love-fest.
Boring and meaning-free
Here’s the thing: so much of what arrives in your donor’s mailbox is generic, stale and impersonal.
For sure, most donors are nicer than I am about it.
But this is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. There’s room here for you to stand out.