I’m not a genius. So I will try to give credit where memory allows. It was a colleague who once told me there aren’t any great new ideas – just people who know how to borrow well. I believe he was right.
Over the next few posts, I’m going share a few of my favorites with you. These are the ideas I’ve happily swiped and put to work over and over again. I keep using them because they keep working.
Stolen idea number one
Pair your board members’ influence with direct mail.
I don’t remember where this idea came from. I’ve been doing it for decades now. It takes some planning, but it’s not difficult. And it always results in increased contributions.
It works like this:
Have your board to review your donor lists. I print lists with donor names, town and our usual salutation. This makes it fast and easy for board members to review, so don’t be afraid to give them a lot of names! It also keeps your lists from inadvertently being shared.
Ask them to initial any donor they know or would be willing to sign a letter to. Also ask them to provide a salutation if it’s different from what’s on the sheet. People have all sorts of nicknames that are known only to their friends. And you do not want the letter to sound false right from the start because it’s got the wrong salutation.
You’ll find this process is also useful for updating information on your lists. Suddenly, you’ll know about changes of marital status and of deaths you may have missed. It’s a good double check on your meticulous data processes.
Next write a great letter. Remember as you write that it’s coming from a friend to a friend. Include the personal reasons that a board member has for supporting your organization. (And if you have a small enough board and can collect their personal reasons here, you can use some variable text to really personalize each letter!)
Add a merge variable for the name and include space for the personalized salutation. Print the letters and mail them to your board signers. Oh, and here’s something I learned the hard way: don’t ask them to mail it! Make sure it gets out in a timely fashion by sending them a stamped envelope to return the letters to you. Then you mail them.
Experiment with this idea. There are lots of ways to add to it. I usually put the board members’ names on the outside envelope above the organization’s return address. That adds one more incentive for your donor to open the envelope. I’ve even scanned board signatures and then used those signatures on the outside envelope.
(There’s a way to include images as a merge field in excel. Let me know in the comments if you need that, and I’ll try find the article explaining it for you.)
One final step to really make this process succeed: report back often to your board members. When they start hearing from you about the gifts that they’ve raised, they’ll be much more likely to help in the future. Ask them to send donors personal thanks for those gifts and you can really close the loop.
This process makes it so easy your board members almost have to participate. Donors feel personally recognized. Board members have a tangible and effective way to help. And your organization benefits from the power of personal relationships.
Next time: Fix your thank you letters!