You understand how important retention is.
And if you’re overworked and underfunded then it’s even more critical that your donors feel fiercely loyal to your organization.
And you’re already doing what you’ve been told:
- Communicate personally.
- Report back to donors about the impact of their generosity.
- Thank donors well.
All of this is about a mindset that puts donors at the center of your fundraising. It’s also not hard to put into practice.
But what it is that makes donors feel special?
It’s funny, but the nice tote bag from a large international organization doesn’t make me feel special.
I mean, they’re nice bags. But I don’t feel closer to the organization or the work.
But the printed-with-ink-that’s-running-out card, with personal signatures and a note from a small local organization? That does make me feel special.
It could be size – I’m one of millions to one organization and hundreds to the other. And it could be a certain amount of insider cynicism on my part – I know they rolled those nice bags out in a huge mailing.
But we all want to feel special.
So I thought we could all use some ideas that go beyond a thank you letter.
Psychology Today offers several ideas. (The headlines are theirs. I’ve added some thoughts on how this might apply to fundraising.)
1. Give small “just-for-you” presents.
The reason the badly-printed card felt special to me is because I’ve spent decades wrestling the last drops out of an ink cartridge myself. And because staff members took the time to sign the letter themselves. It was meant for me, not for everyone.
If you work with children, a hand-made card could make a donor’s day. Or you could simply take a photo of your work in action and send it to your donor with a quick note.
Major gifts pros learn and remember details about their donors. Then they’ll forward a link to an article that they know he’ll love. Or let a donor know about an event that she’d want to attend.
But you don’t have to be a major gifts specialist. I had one donor with whom I shared a love of chocolate. After a few events where we both found ourselves at the dessert bar, remarking on the sad lack of chocolate, I began bringing a chocolate bar to events. And even sent her one – just because.
The funny thing is, I still smile when I think of her. Hope it works the other way around, too!
2. Make it a point to slightly touch him or her often.
OK, this works better for colleagues or friends you see in person.
When you do meet face to face, I don’t recommend hugging a donor you’ve met for the first time. But certainly, shake hands and make eye contact. There’s a way of interacting that makes it clear someone has your entire attention. Don’t scan the room for someone more interesting!
As much as touch, we long for attention. So focus. Ask questions. Learn about her life and interests. When you ask about her grandkid’s hobby the next time, she’ll feel great.
3. Share a warm memory of the other person with him or her.
We all love nothing so much as to see ourselves reflected in a good light by someone else. Have you ever had a friend tell you that something you said or did years ago has stayed with her – even changed her life? You probably felt pretty special, didn’t you?
My oldest friend has a phenomenal memory. She’ll often pull something out of it that we shared when we were 7. It’s funny and it’s wonderful and it’s part of why I love her these many years later.
Next time you come across someone’s record and a nice memory pops into your head – send a note or an email and share it.
And don’t be stingy. If you admire something about someone, tell them.
4. Make something.
I had a colleague who was a great baker. When we had a meeting, she often brought something homemade to share with the committee. It was much easier to plan a gala or a fundraising campaign with homemade cookies or muffins!
Maybe like me, you’re not a baker. There are still so many things you can do. Pinterest has a wealth of ideas. Get a little creative!
When I left a long-held position at a theater, I was given two wonderful gifts. One was several production shots, framed together. That would have been very nice itself. But each of the two artistic directors I’d worked with added a personal note. It’s hanging in my family room so I can look at it every day.
In this case, the thought really does count.
5. Plan an event.
No, I’m not a big fan of fundraising events. So much work. So many details. So hard to make a lot of money, compared to the time invested!
But I’m a big fan of events for donors.
The goal here isn’t to raise money. No one needs to bring a check. The event is for them. It can be casual. You don’t need to splurge on a big meal. Wine and cheese, or coffee and dessert. Have a speaker (from your organization or outside) present on a topic connected to your mission. Something interesting to them. (So no, not a pitch for your next capital campaign.)
Do this for smaller groups, where they can mingle easily with one another. I love recognizing loyal donors this way. Your organization is the connection that makes socializing easier.
Or ask donors to come for a walk with you around your parks. Or invite them to a dress rehearsal at your theater. Or to pet the puppies. Or to enjoy a performance by the after-school kids in your program. You get the idea.
Or do several of these things all at once
My friend Rachel Ramjattan showed me her secret make-people-feel-special tool.
After connecting Rachel to one of my favorite clients, I found a package in my mailbox. It was a beautiful, personal card and a box of brownies! Pretty impressive. And tasty!
Rachel recently showed me how she does it. And all with a few clicks of the mouse.
It’s actually easier than buying or making a card, signing it and mailing it. There are thousands of options and you can even include your organization’s branding on the back. You can also schedule the cards for a future date – even create drip campaigns.
This could be a terrific tool if you’re short-staffed but want to reach out to your donors in a personal way.
Rachel told me I could let you try it – for free – on her. Go to the site, then click on “Send a card” on the top right of the page. Pick someone and let them know you think they’re special!
And one last thing – make connections for them.
It doesn’t always have to be about you or your organization. Maybe you’ve learned two donors to your homeless shelter both have an interest in model airplanes. Has nothing to do with your mission, right?
Maybe not right. Make the introduction at an event. Give them the chance to connect over their shared passion. Rather than pull them away from you, it will mean you and your organization come to mind whenever they spend time on their hobby.
And they’ll feel special because you saw them as people, with interests that extend beyond your mission.
Making someone feel special is about giving something of ourselves.
Attention, talent, time. However you do it, the key is to make it all about them.
I just read a piece this morning from Jay Love of Bloomerang. Donor retention is down. That’s sad news. But let’s recommit to fixing that problem. I think treating donors like valuable individuals, not statistics, is the key.
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.