Never one to shy away from being inspired by my own life experiences, today’s blog is about the end of my 7 year relationship. It recently came to an end and I, like many people going through break ups, convinced myself I was all alone.
This was not the case.
My friends gathered by my side on the day it happened, bringing gifts of wine and chocolate. They gave me encouraging words and have called me and fed me and been my comforters multiple times since that sad day.
When I thought the love was gone from my life, it materialised in people who have been there all along. Their small but generous acts of kindness and care showed me that you don’t need big gestures to show someone you love them and that they are important.
How does this relate to fundraising? Well, when it comes to donor care, small acts can often mean the most. A hand-written card thanking someone for their donation. A phone call after a meeting to say how much you enjoyed it. Small gestures that show the donor that their presence in your organisation is valued, appreciated and important.
Show your donors that love is everywhere with real, human, kind-hearted interaction. You never know who needs to hear that they are valued.
This time last week, I was enjoying a glass of wine, surrounded by some of the most inspirational fundraisers chatting all things charity! I was in Dublin for the first time, attending the Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School.
If you were there, then you know what a wonderful conference it is. If you weren’t then I implore you to attend next year! It really is worth it.
I was labeled a ‘fundraising nerd’ due to my feverish note-taking and tweeting throughout, but you know what, I’ll take it! I love this profession, I love being a fundraiser and I will proudly nerd-out over my thirst for knowledge!
So, here are some of my highlights from the positively awe-inspiring list of speakers…
- Use an unexpected voice when writing to donors… no-one expects a truck to write to them
- ASK, THANK, REPORT, REPEAT
- Do the ‘you circle challenge’ when writing to your donors
- Give something to your donors that they didn’t expect and make them feel amazing
- Be Dale’s favourite charity (Featuring my number 1 fan, John Lepp)
- Don’t claim the hero role – congratulate the donor
- Don’t talk about your org like this
- Make your issue the donor’s issue
- Make your story the donor’s story
‘The thing is, you don’t want this charity to become one of those charities sending begging letters through the post, that’s not who we are’
Whether it’s your CEOs spouse, Trustee’s friend, or the fairies that live at the end of your Chairman’s garden, if they are not a fundraiser, don’t let them influence fundraising. In the words of Jeff Brooks ‘The problem is the director’s spouse carries a toxic combination of ignorance and authority’.
The above quote actually convinced a charity CEO that maybe Direct Mail wasn’t right for their charity. A charity that desperately needed regular income. That desperately needed to develop individual donors because it relied heavily on corporate and Trust support that was slowly drying up. A charity that had a huge audience that had attended events and received newsletters that had never been asked for money before. It was the perfect time to approach and make an ask.
But, because of one statement from a contact of the charity, this was all put on hold. The CEO started to question if Direct Mail really works, started to question if anyone would even give to the charity if it ‘begged’ for donations, started to question if the experienced fundraising professional really knew what they were doing. Because surely, if someone as warm to the charity as this person had been didn’t think it would fit with the charity ethos, they HAD to be right. Right?
These people are not your donors. They are not your target audience. They have not been cultivated in the way that your donors have. Do not let them influence decisions over fundraising. They are not a fundraiser.
*Disclaimer – to avoid confusion, I am not saying don’t listen to donors, service delivery staff, beneficiaries, or even your CEOs spouse. By all means, take on board their comments, understand why they think and feel what they do. But remember that they are not speaking from a place of understanding what works for the majority of your supporters. Look at results rather than one-off opinions. If you send a Direct Mail appeal and you get a fantastic ROI, but one donor comes back and says they didn’t like it, would you stop sending Direct Mail to everyone? I doubt it.
This is an actual sentence I heard last week.
From a fundraiser.
So, I got to thinking, how many fundraisers are there that read about donor retention, and host events and have donations coming into their wonderful charities that claim they ‘don’t have time to hand write thank you letters’.
Maybe you are even one of them?
My response to this is simply, if you don’t have time to hand write thank you letters, then you don’t have time for;
– Higher ROI
– Higher income over time
– Longer lasting donor relationships
– Better donor retention
– Higher lifetime value of donors
– More ambassadors
– More volunteers
– A more secure charity
If ANY of these things are aims for your charity then you should MAKE time to hand write thank you letters.
If your handwriting is poor, at least put a personal note at the bottom and hand top and tail your letters. Invest in some unbranded thank you cards, get a nice pen and monitor income over time. You will see a much higher return from doing this small act than you will from spending the same amount of time on social media, or writing an article or coming up with the next ‘big’ thing in fundraising.
Trust me – make time.