Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Personalization Wins the Giving Day with Donors

Last week, I told you about the trend toward shorter communications with donors, and eliminating lengthy pieces because donors lose attention to our pieces when we warble on.  The other interesting takeaway for me from the Abila study was how donors respond to our thank you efforts vs. what we spend our time doing. Again, the personalized thank you note wins the day.
So it seems to be giving day season right now, with everyone launching one day campaigns to get donations and new donors in the door. I give to many of these campaigns, and would love to give to yours (consider it market research with a charitable bend). For years I've been mentioning those who thank via twitter and Facebook are above the crowd, but now I've seen the best donor relations thank yous this year. They come from Whitworth University and Purdue University. They've taken the thank you personalized effort to a whole new level.

Check out these personalized videos I received on Twitter (click on them to play the video): 

In 8 seconds, these students have transformed my day and the way I feel about my gift! How fabulous is this? Are you planning something like this for your giving day? The students are learning an attitude of gratitude and the donors feel like a million bucks! You see it's not about perfect video quality or making sure your "brand" logo is in the right place, it's about delighting your donor in a personal way.

This is something for you to aspire to folks. When I'm asked who's doing it well- they are! I hope you're inspired by their gratitude and seek to do this at your organization. Thoughts?



Friday, April 22, 2016

Brevity is Best with Donors

For years, I've been receiving wordy emails and long page filled letters from nonprofits. Every time I receive one, I wonder aloud, who reads this stuff? Well, turns out it's not your donors. Thanks to a great new study from Abila on donor loyalty, we now know that donors want us to stop overwhelming them with text. Same thing goes for those lengthy videos we've been sending them. There's a famous quote that says If I had more time it would have been shorter- Then why are we so verbose?

Is it because our missions are so important? Is it because we can't stop talking about ourselves and how fabulous our work is? Or is it because we've always written that way?!

Check out this great chart:

I'm often quoted as saying you have one screen to get to me, yup and that screen is the size of my phone. If it goes beyond that you lose your donors, we now have proof of that. The same is true in video. Check out this infographic:

These stats are from donors of all generations and giving behaviors, this crosses our entire donor spectrum. So why then as a digital donor am I constantly receiving 4 page letters in the mail? Are we blind to what our donors wants and needs are? Or is change too difficult in our organizations?

Your personality with your donors needs to change. You need to avoid the danger zones of communications. Here's what donors said drives them away from your organization.


Can you say, "the area of greatest need"? I don't know anything more vague and boring than some annual fund appeals. I often advise my clients to stay away from terms like these and discretionary funding. They're so vague and dull. What about changing lives or inspiring others? All of that is whitewashed in our jargon filled text that is uninspiring and we have to get to the 17th paragraph in the case for support to figure out why we should give or continue to support?

It's time for a donor revolution with our communications. We have to inspire people, incite them toward emotion and be originals. with 1.4 million nonprofits in the US alone, if we don't stand out, we're sure to become irrelevant.  What are your thoughts? More from the Abila study next week, for now I'm gonna go crank Prince in my headphones and let a true original inspire me.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nuts and Bolts of Thanking Your Donors

Your donor's experience starts with a gift and continues along with a thank you, multiple thank yous and expressions of gratitude for them. Then we tell them the impact. But first things first. Do your donor thank yous seem like a never-ending cadre of letters that seem like Mad Libs? Let's look at this example below:

Is this your donor thank you experience? Do all of your letters sound the same? When's the last time you spruced them up? These letters can make an organization seem mechanical, unfeeling and not understanding of a donor's core needs. It's true that any thank you note is better than nothing, but what does yours say about you? Does it make the donor the hero or brag about the organization? Thank yous are there to build the relationship, does yours inspire and make people feel closer to your organization? I would make some bets that this might not be the case.

How do we change this culture? First, we put in a system that doesn't make thanking onerous. Streamlining the process is the first step. Thanking people is one of the great joys of my life. When you write your letters, think, does this matter or is it white noise to my donors? Is the intent of this letter to express gratitude or am I trying to shove information and other things into the letter? You see a thank you has a simple purpose, don't cloud that with things you think they want to know. I can't tell you how many university thank you letters in the spring mention that commencement is coming. Yes, it happens every year so that's not new information, nor is it particularly interesting. The whole purpose of a university is to graduate students, why is commencement news?

Here are some of my best tips for writing acknowledgment letters that get to the heart:

  • Use words that evoke emotion: loyalty, consistent, humble, joy, etc
  • Have a personality, don't sound so clinical
  • Use action verbs, avoid any form of the verb "to be"
  • Start with a quote or hook sentence to draw the reader in
  • Keep it short! Think one screen or less
  • Think outside of the one page letter- notecards, monarch letterhead, postcards!
  • Be sincere, your only purpose is to express gratitude, not give info, ask for more, invite etc etc 
  • Use the word "you" more than "we"
I hope these quick tips and questions will help you inspire the readers of your thank you letters and notes. Have questions? Share your success below and tell us your dilemmas.

Thank you for reading.