Thanking your donors is not a choice. It is a must.
If you have not already prepared your thank you letters for your organization’s year-end appeal - you are late. What? You don’t write special thank you letters for your Year End Appeal? Hmm... well, you are missing an opportunity to connect thoughtfully with your donors and to help ensure a renewal or second gift.
Yes, thank you letters are that important, but you knew that. What you may not have realized was that a timely and relevant thank you letter (or email) is the first step to more gifts. So let’s look at what you still have time to do.
Typically, I have a bunch of different letters ready to go as soon as my appeal drops. The letters should correspond to the type of donor and the amount of the gift. The breakdown might look something like this -
1. Renewals below $250*
2. Renewals above $250
3. New gifts below $250
4. New gifts above $250
5. Recurring gifts below your Major Gift level
Your letters should use the same themes you used in your year-end appeal. By using the same themes, you are reinforcing the ideas put forth in those materials. It also makes it clear that your donor is supporting a specific discrete appeal. Most importantly it shows that you put as much thought into thanking people as you did in soliciting them.
Your letters should also reflect the donor’s relationship with your organization. Renewals should get a shorter letter that assumes they know something about your organization. It could seem a bit insulting for a long time donor, even a small donor, to get a letter that welcomes them and explains the organization. That would not be very thoughtful.
What these letters should do is thank the donor and tell them about something new or unique that is happening with your organization. Think “Insider” information. It should also be no more than ¾ of a page. I would also recommend that as many as possible of the letters for new donors above $250 have real signatures. In fact, if you have 1,000 donors or less, I would make sure every letter has a real signature. It will make a difference.
You should use the same breakdown I suggested in the last BLOG to decide who gets a letter with a live signature. A good rule of thumb is that if the ASK letter had a live signature then the thank you letter should as well.
Thank you letters to new donors give you a second chance to educated the donor about your organization. You can assume that something about your organization resonated with the donor. In a single page, build on one or two aspects of your year-end appeal materials. If you spotlighted a specific program, then go a little more in-depth.
Now, if one of your letters was very specific then your thank you letter for people who responded to that letter ought to be very specific. I once did a letter that was highly specific to a single program and only mailed to a list that had an affinity for the program. Donors to this letter got a thank you letter that was equally specific.
An aside –
By the way, I am assuming that you are coding all of your reply devices. Coding will allow you to know to which list and the letter a donor is responding. If you are using a mail house, they can help you to create a code that is pre-printed on all of your letters. This type of tracking is VITAL if you want to the ability to do any real analytics on your mailing. Look for a blog post on this subject in the future.
*The cutoff amount should be below your major gift amount and above your average gift. Also choosing a single cutoff amount will make your life much easier than having a number of different cutoff levels.
It Occurs To Me
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What's up with GIVING TUESDAY!
So what are you doing for GIVING TUESDAY (#GivingTuesday)? In case, you have somehow missed this event/movement over the last few years here is what Wikipedia says about the day – “It is a movement to create a national day of giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season. GIVING TUESDAY was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season.”
Some major companies and non-profits nationwide participate in GIVING TUESDAY each year and the numbers are growing. Even credit card companies and TV networks have taken to promoting the day. So what can you do?
1. You can gear your Annual Appeal to the day.
2. You can add an extra note to an already prepared Annual Appeal.
3. You can create a #GivingTuesday online and social media campaign.
Let ‘s start with #2. Assuming you have completed design and pre-production for your appeal, and it will drop before Thanksgiving but you didn’t include a #GivingTuesday ask – no worries. Have a quick insert created that simply says something like “Make it a great Tuesday. Make your gift on Giving Tuesday –December 1, 2015“ and you are done. Short, easy and thoughtful.
I believe that #3 is the key to the day. So much of the promotion for Giving Tuesday is geared toward online giving so why not go with the flow. Initially, I would create a thoughtful pre-Thanksgiving e-news blast that ideally builds off of the design of your annual appeal. Reuse some of the images or the language from your appeal so that it matches and reinforces your Annual Appeal. If your Facebook Page and your Twitter account are a part of your campaign (and I hope they are), you should build a series of tweets and post to go out starting on Thanksgiving Day. Obviously, the Thanksgiving Day one should emphasize the holiday and thoughtfully give a nod to #GivingTuesday. The rest of the series can be more direct.
Remember to talk about “Why” a gift to you is important not just what you can do with the gift but why your organization should get the gift. Be sure to include photos or graphics. These will reinforce your message and typically increase your reach. Plan on sending out some posts/tweets on #GivingTuesday. Maybe these tell a single story, or they are designed to encourage people to tell their story about your organization or cause. Check out this "Shared Article" on social media.
On GIVING TUESDAY plan on spending a good portion of the day sending and responding to post and tweets in real time. It is very important that your posts are pre-planned, but you cannot pre-plan for new opportunities that come from your followers. Be ready to respond quickly.
Also, be sure to send two or three emails that day to your email list. Build them off the same themes as your Appeal and your social media post/tweets.
The next day use both email and social media to thank everyone for donating and commenting. That is the only thoughtful thing to do. In fact, be sure to track your Likes, Re-tweets, and hits for the next few days. Using the hashtag will tell you how well your GIVING TUESDAY campaign did.
And remember to use the #GivingTuesday and your organization’s hashtag in all your post, tweets and even emails to be a part of the movement.
P.S. As for #1 Next year start early and include GIVING TUESDAY in your Annual Appeal planning. Fundraisers today must thoughtfully take advantage of every reasonable opportunity we can to increase support.
Tips to taking control of your Year-End Appeal
Hopefully, you completed most of your donor mailing pieces last month. And your acquisition piece was finalized months ago – right? Your internal lists were created, the mailing pieces were designed and the letters written weeks ago – right? Don’t worry if you are behind there is still time to catch up and to do it thoughtfully.
The letters I’ve started receiving in the mail are the “general” kind that are written in the third person using generic terms to describe the organization’s work. The letters use phrases like “ your support will helps us to whatever for whoever that is in need of whatever.” You get the idea. That language is not very thoughtful, appealing or clear.
A good yearly appeal is a marketing piece, support piece, and a personal letter. It has to be more than a list of what you want from the donor and what you will give the donor. It has to explain why your organization is the best suited to do the work it does. It should be based off your vision of the world if the work of your organization is nolonger needed. That is the “why” a donor will support you. “Why” should be a thread that runs through all of your materials. Does your material live up to this standard? (If you have not seen Simon Sinek's TedTalk on "Why"- I highly recommend it - watch it here.)
We have gone off on a bit of a tangent so let’s get back to the nitty-gritty of end of year appeals.
Your Annual Appeal, Year End Appeal, or Holiday Appeal - it does not matter what you call it should be almost finished. What is left are the portions of the mailing that are personalized beyond just a name and address. Especially since some of the letters will need to be printed on-site and hand-signed – right?
Personally, I believe that the stronger a person’s connection is to your organization the less material the person needs to receive. Think of it this way-
It may seem like this is a lot of work and it is. But if you have a good CRM with clean data it shouldn’t be that hard to create the list you need. Don’t forget if you use a major CRM/Database program you are probably paying for customer support – USE IT!
Where many people get bogged down is the personalization piece. I always set myself realistic goals of how much I can actually do. I know from experience that 500 is the maximum number of letters I can sign the Executive Director’s name to before my eyes bug out and my hand permanently cramps.
I also have to know how many I can reasonably ask the Executive Director to sign personally. This will obviously vary by person but most max out at about 50. Though, I did work for an Executive Director who insisted on signing 350 letters. That only happened once!
So what to do if you are not at this point in your appeal process? Well, don’t panic – ok, panic just a bit. First, I would rank my appeals based on how many donations and what the average donation was from each appeal category last year. I can tell you that it should have been renewals. And just dive in and start writing. You will get it done. Just remember to tell your donors “why” and to be thoughtful.
P.S. Don’t go it alone. Find a good printing company to help with the letters. They can do much of the general personalization for you. Leaving you just the hand cramps.
It Occurs To Me
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