Tell the truth: does your organization love them and leave them?
I’ve noticed a few situations where gifts to large, national organizations – even memorial gifts, no less – have resulted in truly bad donor care.
These are organizations that spend tremendous resources on acquisition and “awareness”. Like fancy television campaigns and a constant stream of direct mail.
But once you give, it’s like they’ve had their conquest. The next day, they don’t even know your name.
This doesn’t feel like love – or even appreciation
I made a memorial gift a few years ago after a dear friend’s mom had died. The national charity was the one she had identified for memorial gifts, so of course, we made one.
A few weeks later, I received a large envelope in the mail. I thought: “Nice. A whole thank you package.”
Alas, no. It was a short acknowledgment letter and a couple of organization-branded notecards. The letter informed me that they didn’t have enough information to let the family know about my gift. (They did; I sent it with the gift.)
So I was to write a note on their card and address and mail it myself.
I was not a happy donor.
It took a lot of work, but through a Google search, I finally found a phone number. It connected me to a telefunding center. But eventually I received word that OF COURSE the family was told. They don’t expect donors to do it themselves! (So why did the letter say otherwise?)
A couple of years later, I received a note card from this organization. Except it had my aunt’s return address. And she had written the card to let me know about a memorial gift made in my mom’s name.
Memorials gifts require a donor acknowledgment AND a letter to the family of the deceased. Asking the donor to do half your work probably sounded like a great time-saver.
This organization’s mail goes right into recycling now.
Donor’s need to know you care
Why do the work of acquiring new donors if you’re not interested in keeping them?
Why entice them, then leave them hanging?
Why would donors stay if everything you do says they don’t matter?
You’ve heard it before: retention stinks across our sector. We’re not paying enough attention. And if we don’t start, we certainly can’t expect donors to stick around.
So today, a gift to one organization, tomorrow another. No strings attached. Nothing long-term.
We have to make the commitment first.
You might snicker when someone talks about donor love. Maybe it sounds mushy and you’re all about data.
But the data is screaming for our attention: donors aren’t sticking around because we’re not giving them any reason to do so.
If you’re not working to make your donor feel as special before the fourth gift as before the first one, you’re missing something important.
Don’t settle for a one-gift stand.
Here’s a checklist for you. How is your organization doing?
1. Follow every gift with a prompt, emotional, grateful acknowledgment.
Every gift, no matter the size, matters. $2500 donors may start as $25 donors. Or they might always give $25. Doesn’t matter. Work to get this crucial step right.
2. Get the details right (names, for instance).
Data matters, too. You may see a list of names, but to each donor, their own name is important. It’s like being called by a former lover’s name. How would that feel?
3. Report to every donor about what their gift is accomplishing.
Print newsletters are such a great tool. You can also put together something even more simple. But you must connect the gift to the accomplishment – for every donor.
4. Make it easy to contact you should a donor have a question or concern.
I never should have had to hunt to find a development officer. You’re a fundraiser? Make sure your name and contact information is easy to find. No hide and seek if you want donors to stick around.
5. Ask for feedback often – and use it.
Donors give you signals all the time, if you’re looking for them. But even better is asking them what you want to know. “Why did you make this gift today?” “What’s important to you about our work?” Use surveys, use automatic questions after an online gift, use thank you phone calls and get to know your donors and their motivations.
6. Use your data to make donors feel like they matter and code for special gifts, like memorial gifts.
The thanks you send, the messages you send, even the way you ask for another gift, should reflect what the donor has done and said before. No generic thanks, please. And ask about things like preferred salutations and even mail or email preferences.
If you want them to stick around, make your donors feel like they matter.
Love your donors for as long as they’ll stay with you.
Photo by Myriams-Fotos