Thursday, February 9, 2012

Donor Relations and Follow Through

First of all I would like to take the time and space to thank those who do generously contributed to the stewardship report swap from across the continent. In addition to posting the results HERE, I have updated parts of my site with links to great videos, donor relations websites, vendors and resources I use and more, check it out!

Lately I have been thinking a great deal about what donor relations means to our organizations, and how we as professionals can better express that to both our internal constituents and our donors as well. Boiling down our profession into an elevator speech isn't easy so this week I wanted to discuss one of the traits of a finely honed donor relations shop, follow through. At the core of what we do is build and enhance relationships. But what does that look like? For me, a big part of it is doing what I said I was going to, never letting a ball drop or a donor slip through the cracks, going the extra step to make sure the circle is complete.

Y'all might be saying, this seems pretty basic Lynne, duh! It might seem that way so let me share an anecdote that happened to me.  Mr. X received a letter from his scholarship student and in turn, sent a letter to my VP asking for some more detailed information on the student and his fund. This in turn was handed over to me. I pulled all of the information together, read the student letter, a great one!, and worked on a response to the donor. Since good donor relations is in the details I also noticed that the letter came in an envelope from another university upstate. I mentioned it in my letter and off it went to Mr.X.

Four days later, I received another letter from Mr. X thanking me for my prompt response and a check for $4000. My favorite kind of letters!!! After looking up his giving history, we noticed that he gave $1000 faithfully to his scholarship every year, never more, never less. After giving a copy of the letter and gift to my VP, we decided that he should call Mr X to thank him personally for his increase. I sat in his office anxiously as he called him in his office at said upstate school. He was so gracious and warm, he hadn't had a call from a fundraiser here in a while because we believed he had made his last gift. In fact, this wasn't the case. Mr. X asked VP if he could come down for a visit and for Shabbat. He wanted to meet his student. No problem. And then the other shoe dropped, "Can I also talk to you about leaving my estate to you?" he had no children, was a professor, was about to retire, and had quite a nestegg!

You see, he had requested information from other places he donated by writing their VPs and we were the only ones to respond personally and with detailed enthusiasm. We made a difference simply through good donor relations and proper follow through. To be honest, a $1000 a year donor isn't noteworthy for us. But EVERY donor deserves the type of follow through he received. And that is good donor relations, it is also good for your metrics. Talk about tangible outcome of a stewardship effort! I can track every penny of that bequest and $4000 to our direct efforts, that isn't subjective.

So when you are evaluating and measuring the effectiveness of your program, is follow through one of your metrics? Conversely I have many stories of the reverse as well, what will your story be? I'd love to hear about it!



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