Are you thoughtful in your acknowledgment process?
Every year at this time I like to remind people that this is the perfect time to review your acknowledgment process. Do you do enough? Is it possible to do too much?
First and foremost every donor should get a letter that acknowledges their gift. At a minimum, it must include the amount of the gift and a statement telling if any "goods or services" were exchanged for the gift. That isn't my rule it's the IRS's rule.
We produce seven different letters; New Gift, $.1 - $99, $100 - $249, $250 - $499, $500 - $999, $1,000 and up, Special Letters.
Every new donor gets a welcome letter that also serves as their thank you letter. Ideally, this would be two different letters, but for the sake of expediency, we combine those letters. This system works out ok because mid-level and major donors get additional contacts via phone, email or a handwritten letter.
A different letter is sent depending on the gift's level. Each letter is different and each one emphasis the donor's role in helping the organization fulfill its mission. Also the higher level donors get live signed letters. The lower levels get digital signatures on their letters. We also try and put personal notes on as many of the letters as time allows.
Donor's giving $1,000 or more get a totally different letter that is signed with the board chair's name. This one is the most personal. Finally, we have special letters these are written when a gift is exceptional, unexpected or different in some way.
We produce over 10,000 letters a year the largest number during the year-end season. We could not do this if our CRM / donor database didn't allow us to automate the process. But even if you don't have full automation you can still do a great deal with a spreadsheet and a word processor.
What else do we do? Well as I mentioned before we send personal notes and make phone calls to donors. Besides their thank you letters, donors who give at $250 to $999 get a personal phone call, and donors at the $1,000 level and above get a handwritten note and possibly a special letter.
Every individual giving program is different, but one thing that should be the same for everyone is thanking your donors.
What does 2018 hold for individual giving?
How will the new tax code affect charitable giving in 2018? I wish I could tell you, but no one knows. The charitable deduction is still part of the tax code but with the individual and married couples deductions being doubled who knows what will happen. I like to use data to figure things. I crunch data, I look at historical patterns, and I create graphs. None of this is a help in this particular case.
There are so many variables I just don’t know. Mainly how many of my donors itemize their taxes now that won’t need to in 2018. We are counting on people merely being charitable, wanting to use what resources they have to make the world a better place and not expecting anything tangible in return.
2018 begins a new chapter for all non-profits who depend on donations for middle-income individuals. It would seem to me that we might slip through 2018 since most people won't know exactly how the new tax law will affect them until the end of the year, which is problematic since year-end is when we count on the majority of our donations coming in.
If you have any ideas or techniques, you are using to estimate changes in your individual giving goals; please share them here. I, for one, am going to double down on being donor-centric and telling thoughtful and compelling stories. I believe that though we will see some shrinkage in gifts in 2018 that overall people will continue to support the causes in which they believe.
I just wish I could crunch some data to back up that belief.
Our Success Depends On Our Ability To Communicate, But Are We Any Good At It?
Here is a TEDtalk video by Celeste Headlee the author of the new and very good book We need to talk : how to have conversations that matter. The talk is described as follows: When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations — and that most of us don't converse very well. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. "Go out, talk to people, listen to people," she says. "And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed."
It Occurs To Me
If your fiscal year ends on December 31st how long do you keep the books open so that you can collect every dollar that is meant for the previous year? I usually hold the books for three weeks. If a check comes in dated after December 31st then we count it in the new year.
Do you have your thank you letters ready? If not you had better get started. Acknowledgement letters are just as important as your solicitations. Do you put as much thought into them?
What do you think? Will the deserved generosity being shown to victims of Harvey affect year-end giving to none hurricane related charities? My thoughtful opinion is that those who have supported your organization for a couple of years will still support your year-end appeals. I do believe there will be weakening in the renewal rates of your newest acquisitions. As for this year's acquisitions, these will be soft. How soft is the question? Some of the softness may depend on how close to the affected area you are located. But I will certainly thoughtfully adjust my goals with all of this is mind.
August is a great time to review your stewardship program. We all know it is important to thank our donors but do you have a strategic stewardship program. What I mean by "strategic" is one that thanks, donors appropriately based their donor level. It should also acknowledge things like a first gift, increased gifts, and multiple gifts. Does yours do this? I also recommend handwritten notes and phone calls for donors at certain levels. Here is a link to a post last year about thanking donors for your review.
Fundraising Day New York (FRDNY) is only a couple of weeks away and it looks like it will be another great day. I will be blogging from the event. I anticipate writing about 4 sessions. The goal is to pick sessions that cover a few specific topics - cultivation, planning and, of course, technology.
This is always such a great conference and one of the great resources of the day is the exposition. I always get great ideas and if a vendor you use is presenting at the conference it is a great time to meet them in person. Don't let this opportunity pass you buy. If you are in the New York area I hope you get a chance to attend FRDNY.
It was great being a part of today's AFP Workshop on Direct Mail. It is always a pleasure to share advice and ideas with other fundraisers. During the workshop, we talked about everything from acquisition to thank you letters. Yes, Thank you letters. Sometimes when we think of direct mail we only think of the "Ask, " but the "Thank-You" is just as important. Don't ignore the second part of any ask the thank you. You can not thank people too often or in too many ways. So take a few minutes today to review your thank you process.
We will be live blogging from the AFP International Conference in San Francisco. Last year, this was one of the most popular blogs so don't miss it. It should be a great conference there are a lot of great sessions. The first post will hit late on Sunday, April 30th. I'll be sending a reminder on Monday, May 1st so look out for the email.
How did your year-end appeal turn out? What was your retention rate and attrition rate? These two rates are just as important as knowing how much money you raised. If you don't track these you might want to do so. You will be surprised by what you find.Or hopefully, you won't be surprised.
So the election is over. We have a winner and a loser. Putting basic politics aside will the results change your Year-End giving results? So far the markets are looking like they will stabilize and millions of people are happy about the results. Well, millions are also scared.
I wonder if your results will depend on where your charity is located. I work in a very Blue part of my state and my charity only works in that area. What if you work in a very red part of the country. Will you do better or worse?
Also, will the election change average donors,mid-level donors or major donors more? What do you think? I don't have any answers myself and unfortunately, I won't know until January when the year-end result are tallied. Please click on the comments section of the site to leave your thoughts.
October is half over so I hope your Year-End Appeal is past the planning stages. By now you should have at least updated your base Acquisition Appeal materials and be well on the way with your renewal appeal. List should be have been chosen and the process of renting them should be underway.
If you are not this far along - no worries- take a deep breath and dive in. You'll get it all done but why not calendar out 2017 to give yourself more time to plan and write.
So you made it to September. I know it seems like August is the longest month in the year. It precedes what is the for all practical purposes the shortest two months - November and December. So much of our fundraising year depends on the out come of those two months. So Sepetember and October are all about prep work. In fact, I would say that September is the most important month because by the time October gets here all your year-end work needs to be complete. If those "Giving Tuesday", Year-End Appeals and follow-ups are going out on time your September is going to be quite busy. What do you think?
I'll be live blogging from FRDNY so tune in. As always, this is a great day.
We will be blogging from the AFP International Conference in Boston starting on March 20. The Thoughtful Approach to... blog will be updated daily after the last session but we will be tweeting during the conference. Be sure to follow us at @thoughtfulappro and to check the main blog each day.
Just 11 days and counting until the fun begins.
December 2, 2015
So you survived GIVING TUESDAY, now what? Well, it is not the time to start planning for next year. Nope, it is time to take a page from retail and follow up with people.
Let us assume you sent and email to all of your prospects, constituents and donors. If you used any of the primary email systems like Mail Chimp, Raiser’s Edge, Patron Mail et. al. you can pull a list of people who opened your email but did not click on the donate link.
I’d recommend emailing all of those people today to thoughtfully remind them that they can still make a gift to your organization. Rather like the "Your Carts Not Empty" emails some retailers send when you pick out times but do not complete a sale on their sites.
Try it you have nothing to loose. Just don’t be obvious about how you know they visited your site. Treat the email as a reminder ask. Sell the "why" of your organization.
Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.
Well, the feed back on my two part series on videos has been great. I know that a lot of people were interested in the subject but I had no idea just how many. I look forward to hearing more from people who decided to add videos to there annual appeal and those who changed their mind.
But what about those annual appeals? Are you ready and where are you putting your emphasis on acquisition, renewal, lapsed or what exactly? I have decided that renewal should get the bulk of your time as for money acquisition always eats that up.
So in a little more than two months your annual appeal will drop- right? We'll have you thought about how to use videos as a part of the overall appeal. The right video can be embedded in your website and tied to a Google ad, posted to your Facebook Page and on Twitter. You should even be able to add it right to your email appeal. Just about the only thing you can not do with it is mail it. Unless you create a QR code for the video and include that in your mailing. Just a thought.
But what qualifies as a successful video. I would say like many things in fundraising you won't know know if you have gotten right until the appeal is over and you look at the analytics and crunch some numbers. But you can see what like agencies are doing and take a chance pick up the phone and call a colleague. In fact, my thoughtful tip isn't really about videos it is when in doubt call a colleague. That and read my September post about best practices concerning videos.
-How ready is your Annual Appeal? Yes, I know it is August but if you want them to drop before Thanksgiving you should have already gotten started. Remember acquisition, renewal, lapsed donor, major gift and e-solicitations need to all work seamlessly - don't you think?
Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.
-The shared articles section has gotten the second largest number of hits of any area on the site. Thank you. If you have article suggestions please leave it in a comment.
I have gotten a lot of great feedback on the TedTalk video on pecking order. What were your thoughts?
Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.
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