Thursday, November 30, 2017

2017 #GivingTuesday Secret Shopper Review

It's giving season again! For the 5th consecutive year, I spent Giving Tuesday in generosity, giving to organizations near and far. I wish I had better news for the nonprofit community after giving 47 gifts on Tuesday, but I'm afraid I'm a bit of a broken record. The donor experience matters, from the FIRST CLICK! But many nonprofits are still ignoring the experience for online donors. Here is the spreadsheet of this year's giving and their reviews. Out of 30 gifts documented on the spreadsheet only 9 of them allowed me to share my gift on social media- really? And two of them asked me to share my gift but when I did the share button was not even configured!

Other details were also overlooked that affect the donor experience-the response emails were underwhelming at best from many nonprofits here are some of those:

And some had some weird form requirements and suggestions-

Also- the WORST, one organization after I had given for the first time that morning, emailed me two more times that day to ask me for additional gifts, and one organization demanded a $10 minimum donation. SIGH

But let's focus on the positive, the two organizations that did the best Tuesday were The Halo Trust and FIT- check out some of their images

Here are some other highlights- from giving amounts that tie to common sense support to wonderful thank yous!!

You see there are folks out there who get it! FOlks who break free from the shackles of convention and boring confirmations that are organization centered and understand that giving is an experience, not just a transaction! We have a ways to go but we can get there together! Take one of these ideas and take a look at your online giving experience for your donors and fix it today before the year end avalanche begins!

Where did you give? What was your experience? How have you changed? I would love to hear it!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

6 Ways Donor Relations Can Impact Major Gifts

I hope you enjoy this brilliant guest post by my friend and fellow fundraising professional, Colton Withers.
Donor relations professionals are loyal, passionate about their work, and ardent advocates for all donors, be they annual fund donors or major gift donors. That said, in my experience as a donor relations professional turned major gift fundraiser, I've learned they are not always the best at making a case for their incredibly vital work.
In asking donor relations professionals “why do we have a donor relations program?” or “why should we invest in additional FTE donor relations staff?”, you’ll likely hear “because it’s the right thing to do,” “our donors deserve the very best,”or maybe “loyal and happy donors today are major gift donors tomorrow.”  All of which are true…but not very compelling in today’s increasingly metrics-driven fundraising landscape.
For those of you who don’t carry a portfolio and/or have senior management who have forgotten what it’s like to work in the trenches, listed below are some ways in which donor relations work directly influences major gift work. Instead of citing incredibly true but idealistic rationale for building your donor relations program, try some of these instead:
1.   Donors will ALWAYS ask me about their endowment reports. Nothing derails a well-scripted major gift ask faster than questions like “Why is there a balance left in the support account?” and “If you aren’t spending the money I’ve given you, why do you need more?” How much is that endowment report worth?  The next major gift being asked of that donor.
2.  If they’re on a board, they probably know the ask is coming, but they expect and deserve a rich, impactful experience. Nobody gave a major gift solely because they sat on a board. Conversely, resentment can build with donors who feel like the only reason they are on a board is their checkbook. Make sure you keep these folks engaged and feeling useful, no matter how hard and professionally trying that can be at times.
3.  They will let me know about the time that their gift was improperly allocated. Even if it was 10 years ago. Major gift fundraisers hear about these errors when a six-figure proposal is on the table. To re-tool a well-known idiom, “the ‘yes’ is in the details.”  Donor relations professionals are the keepers of these fine details. Is it John, Johnny, or Jack?  See below.
4.  They will call me fuming about their mis-spelled name or their improperly addressed letter. FUMING. Or worse yet, throw away a beautiful, carefully articulated solicitation without reading it. No gift made at all. Database friends, you are our only hope *cue Princess Leia/General Organa meme*. Your work may be the most vital in any fundraising shop. We hear you, we see you, and we love you.
5.  They want and deserve a personalized donor experience. If they don’t have to fill out their name and address on a yearly solicitation, they’ll have more time to think about increasing their gift, right?!  Maybe, maybe not. But donors who feel “known and loved” by your organization will feel more like part of your family, which definitely plays a role in major gift success. Pre-populated forms, personalized URLs (PURLS), coding preferences (of all kind) into the database, and addressing them as their closest friends address them all bring the donor deeper into the fold and increases the chances of a major gift proposal being accepted.
6.   They are going to feel donor fatigue more acutely and sooner than I think. As Lynne points out, donors need to be thanked SEVEN times for making a gift. Seven displays of gratitude before another ask can be made successfully. A major gift in this campaign (in a world where you are either in a campaign or preparing for the next one) is dependent upon the stewardship of the last campaign gift. Donor relations professionals are purveyors of gratitude and can stop donor fatigue dead in its tracks.
Donor relations is a value-adding mindset that impacts absolutely every part of your fundraising operation. It’s an investment that will pay the highest dividends. You’re the fixer. The keeper of little details that add up. When speaking about your work, be proud in knowing that you are adding value to your organization and not “just writing thank you notes” for the sake of writing them. Major gift fundraisers should love, honor, and appreciate your work. Tell them I told you so!
With gratitude,
Colton Withers, CFRE
Director of Development
Purdue Foundation

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Acknowledgment Excellence in 5 Easy Steps

Let's face it, we have amazing jobs. We work with some of the most generous people in the world. We get to experience their generosity in action and see lives changed for the better. And the donors feel it too. They love giving, and in return, their needs are simple. Most donors, want a simple expression of gratitude, a thank you note. I was reminded of this just the other day by a leader of our board. He was asked, what's the most meaningful thank you you've ever received? And he replied that it was hand written thank you notes. I often talk about how they are the gold standard in our industry, the one thing donors request more than anything else. But what makes a good thank you, and why do we muck it up all the time?

                                                 5 Steps to Great Acknowledgements

1. Personalized and human, with a warm tone and phraseology that is endearing to the recipient. It also doesn't have to be on fancy stationary with a seal at the top to grab a donor's attention. I like monarch or executive letterhead best - keep it simple - and PROMPT! Get their name right the first time and no names with strike throughs to make it look less formal - UGH!

2. Keep the minutia at bay. This is a thank you note, not a receipt - the two are separate and very distinct - so NO dollar amounts ever. They don't need pledge details and they don't need IRS language. It's a thank you, not a replacement for a form.

3. Brevity is best. Think thank you note, not acknowledgment letter - 6 sentences is just fine, more than two paragraphs and no one is reading it!

4. Focus on the donor, not your organization! No one needs to know your upcoming events, that the leaves have turned color, or what your ranking is - you never put that stuff in your thank you note to grandma - why bore a donor with it?

5. The hand written note reigns supreme. If your formal acknowledgment isn't the best, then emphasize to your leadership that the hand jotted note at the bottom is essential - let them know not to just sign, but to enhance!

What do you think makes a thank you special? I would love to hear your thoughts below. Also, we are now accepting submissions for our acknowledgment swap for this year. Submit your entries using this form or send them to