Thoughtless Mail Versus Thoughtful Solicitations
Over the last year, we received 18 solicitations from a single charity this included in mid-September a big 9x12 envelope filled with holiday material. We got name tags, gift cards, thank you cards and holiday cards. A week after the envelope arrived a letter came reminding us to donate to say thank you for the envelope of stuff we didn't ask for in the first place.
I should point out that the gift that started this whole avalanche of mail was a tribute gift. Now any direct mail or individual giving manager will tell you that a tribute gift is a hard gift to renew. The person gave for a particular reason to a charity that is probably not one of their charities of choice.
Over the next few weeks leading to the end of the calendar year, we received a reminder about once a week. Some of these were cards, faux handwritten notes, and even odd sized mailers. All rather expensive to produce but I wasn't sure, so I asked a friend who does premiums how much a package like this would cost. She guessed that initial stuffed 9x12 envelope cost at least $1.25 per piece plus postage depending on how many they mailed.
When the year changed, I naturally assumed that we wouldn't be getting any more mailings. Boy, was I wrong! During the following year, we received 5 or 6 more ask letters.
Now, it is September again and can you guess what we got in the mail - this year's 9x12 envelope from the same charity filled with stuff. It has now been almost two years since we made the gift that started this whole avalanche of mail. We have not had contact with the charity and are not likely to make another tribute gift or any gift to them. But we are still on their acquisition list. How does this happen?
My guess as to why they still consider us likely prospects is that either the organization isn't cleaning and updating their list on a regular basis. I hope they are at least removing the people who do make gifts it wouldn't be very thoughtful for an actual donor to receive this type of package. Or that they use a service to do their direct mail solicitations and that vendor is more interest in producing billable products than in the non-profits reputation and bottom line.
I typically, mail once maybe twice to tribute donors and then drop them for my list unless of course, they respond. But what I am really curious about is how many people on this charity's acquisition list are like us? How much money did they waste on households that were never going to make another gift?
Now, they must be having some success or I would assume they would keep doing the mailings. Maybe the number of households like ours is negligible? But maybe they are not? Many direct mail professionals believe that non-profit ought to mail as frequently as they possibly can.
My experience says you should mail thoughtfully. By this I mean you should clearly understand who your prospects are and then mail the appropriate type and number of pieces. I also you have to know when to as they say "cut bait." Some people simply aren't going to make second gifts - especially donors that came to you through tribute gifts. How thoughtful is it to them to keep soliciting them and how thoughtful is it to your non-profit's bottom line.
Working Thoughtfully with Mid-Level Donors
I am obsessed with thoughtful mid-level donor cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. But then again we all should be. These are our best donors they give a substantial amount, and they do it regularly. They may not give as much as your major donors, but you can count on them year over year. But who exactly are they? Statistically, you can figure out who these thoughtful donors are based on a few basic data points.
First, and most obviously, their giving level. This level is specific to your organization. At one organization the range could be from $100.00 to $200.00 at another organization, it might be 250.00 to 499.99. It could be 1,000 to 4999.99 at another organization.
So the first thing you need to do is figure out what is your mid-level donor range. Segmentation is the key. I suggest that you look at your donors in two ways and then chose the donors that fit both ways. I recommend running two reports to figure out your mid-level donors. For an average organization, you can create a "consecutive years given" report that pulls people that give between $250.00 and $999.99. I recommend three years as the number of consecutive years. Then create a "total year's given" report. I this report look at people who gave in at least 3 of the last five years for the same gift range.
You should be able to figure out from these reports the cluster that contains the majority of your mid-level gifts.
Now to cultivate and solicit theses thoughtful mid-level donors. Cultivating and soliciting these mid-level donors is, actually, pretty easy. These people already like your organization and donate to you. What I would do is up my game on how I communicate with them. They should get a different letter from you lower level donors. It should be more personal. Now I don't particularly, mean merging more in formation about the donor into the letter. What you should do is talk more in-depth and thoughtfully about how their support is affecting your programming. Give them some specifics about how their commitment is changing lives.
Let them know they are important to you. Prepare a stewardship plan just for these supporters. This means going a few steps beyond just sending them a single thank you letter. What about giving them a call or writing them a quick note. Also, sending them material about your organization that DOES NOT ASK FOR MONEY. Not even a soft ask. These are important for the donors at the top of your mid-level range. That is how you move them to major donors.
Also, don't forget these supporters are great planned giving prospects as well.
They key are knowing who your mid-level donors are and treating them thoughtfully like they matter - because they do.
Catch up on your reading!
August is the ideal time to catch up on your reading. Here are some examples from our shared articles section.
It Occurs To Me
At Blackbaud's Vision Marketing day I saw a great presentation by Steve MacLaughlin on may things including on Donor Pyramids and how we should be thinking about moving our donors from one level to the next. I plan on bringing my take on this concept and approach to the THOUGHTFUL APPROACH next month. Be on the lookout for it.
I am getting ready for the 2018 AFP International Conference in New Orleans. There are a number of great sessions that I want to recap for you. Look for the first one on Cases for Support the week of 4/23. I'll do my best to keep them coming after that one on a regular basis.
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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