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How to Write Thank Yous to Donors (That Work!) | GPG

Here’s an important question: Did your last thank you note to a donor make your donor feel:

JOYFUL to know their recent gift made a difference?

ASSURED the gift they made was a wise investment?

PROUD to be supporting such a worthwhile organization?

Remember, a thank you note isn’t just a show of manners. It’s your first step toward retaining this donor for the long run.

That’s why feelings are important.

How would you rate your organization’s thank you letters to donors?

Are they warm and gracious? Or do they sound grand and lofty, like someone giving a speech?

We expect your thank you’s can use some brushing up. Invariably, as fundraising consultants, we find that our clients are struggling with lame, tired sounding thank you notes. And they always ask us for help to create a killer thank you letter.

Why are thank you letters so important?

Because this note is your first communication to donors after they give, that’s why. It has the potential to give them confidence, build trust and make them happy that they gave to your cause.

Your letter serves many purposes. It can:

  • Assure your nervous donor that they made a wise investment.
  • Make your donor feel like they did the right thing.
  • Help her feel joyful that they made the gift.

But remember – warm, wonderful thank you letters are essential: It’s the first step in determining whether your donor stays loyal and renews their gift, or if they drop off and never give again.

Today, here’s our checklist of 14 steps to a warm, wonderful, killer thank you letter – one that makes your donor feel confident that they made a wise choice. 

1. Make your letter prompt.

A prompt thank you note impresses your donor. They know you made them a priority. 

It also indicates that your organization is well organized and well run. In this day of nervous donors, that gives you a significant leg up the next time you make a request.

2. Make your letter feel personal.

I like Penelope Burk’s suggestions from her landmark book, Donor Centered Fundraising. She lists 20 attributes of a great thank you letter that make it feel special and personal.

So what does personal look like? This makes the letter feel like it came from a real person.

  • Use the first person: “I” and “we.”
  • Use the second person: “you,” “you” and “you” again. Count how many times you use the word “you.”
  • A warm tone toward the donor (vs. a lofty formal, distant tone.)
  • Casual writing – use contractions such as “We’ll” rather than “We will.”
  • Use an exclamation mark if appropriate.

3. Start out in a personal way.

Start with the salutation.

Say: Dear Ms. Smith. Not: Dear Friend.

Then try to think of a memorable or an unusual opening line. Never begin your letter with, “On behalf of…” You don’t want to lose the reader from the beginning.

4. Use a warm tone.

Does your letter really sound sincere? Or is it full of “nonprofit-speak” with formal words and phrases?

Show yourself as a real person, and try to connect with the donor instead of staying so distant.

5. Be emotional.

Don’t bury it.  Giving is an emotional act by the donor. So it’s fine to wear your heart on your sleeve.

Try to convey excitement about what can happen with the donor’s gift.

Say things like:

  • “ I can’t begin to thank you enough for . . .”
  • “We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.”
  • “Because of your gift, a family will . . .”
  • “You were wonderful to renew your support . . .”

6. Thank smaller gifts warmly.

Smaller gifts should also get warm, prompt, personal thank you’s.

Remember, there are plenty of major gift prospects in your donor files who are giving you smaller gifts.

Treat these donors well by sending them killer thank you letters that build confidence and trust.  Then they may reward you with repeat and larger gifts.

7. Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.

Is your donor a sustaining donor making monthly gifts? 

If possible, acknowledge the long term partnership your donor has with your organization.

In fact, celebrate it!

A donor will find it strange and off-putting if they have been giving to you for years and years and you don’t acknowledge it.

8. Sign the letter personally and write a note at the bottom.

You spent all that time writing notes on your appeal letters. By all means, also write a note on the thank you letter.

Remember, the PS is the most-read part of your killer thank you letter. Make it count.

9. Send more than one thank you letter.

The old fundraising motto is: “Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.”

For example, you can always ask different staffers to send an additional note.

This small step could help your organization stand out among a sea of other organizations.

10. Send an additional thank you letter from a board member.

I know organizations that bring stationery to the board meetings and have board members hand-write letters.

We highly recommend this strategy, because it helps connect trustees to the fundraising process.

11. Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.

The letter should be signed by the highest ranking person you can find – the chair of the board or a board member. It should not be signed by the wonderful, but lowly, development coordinator.

You could also have the artistic director or a performer sign the letter. Or a teacher if you are a school. Or a field officer if you are an environmental organization.

12. Send an additional thank you letter from a person helped by your organization.

We can’t think of anything more powerful. Your donor is really giving to create an impact, so help them feel this directly.

13. Reconfirm the purpose of the gift.

If the gift is for the library, for example, say something about what the library plans to achieve with the gift.

Most donors are worried that their gift will not be spent wisely.

Acknowledging how the money will be spent is essential – it helps build trust.

14. Include a contact name and number.

Including contact info is good manners, and it makes the donor feel a person connection to your organization.

For example, it would be the head of the library if that’s where the donor directed her gift.

Bottom Line: How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Remember: your overall goal is to keep your donor giving and giving over many years. Your thank you letter is an essential first step in building a long and happy relationship of generous support from your donor.

This is how you create a sustainable fundraising program – developing consistent and repeated gifts from loyal donors who are passionate about your work.

Do’s and Don’ts

Thank you letter DO’s

  • Be really, really prompt.
  • Get the donor’s name right.
  • Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.
  • Show some emotion.
  • Convey gratitude.
  • Refer to how the gift will be used.
  • Send several thank you notes from different people.
  • Include additional thank you letters from board members.
  • Send a thank you letter from someone helped by your organization.
  • Sign it with a real signature.
  • Be positive and upbeat.
  • Include a contact name and number if the donor has questions.
  • Handwrite it if you know the donor well.
  • Begin with an innovative or creative sentence that charms the donor.

Thank You Letter DON’TS

  • Start out with “on behalf of.”
  • Ask for another gift.
  • Use thank you letter jargon: “we are deeply grateful for your continued support.”
  • Start out with Dear Friend.
  • Ask anything else from your donor right now.
  • Misspell their name.
  • Have errors in grammar, punctuation or misspellings.
  • Go on and on. Ditch the verbosity. Do be concise.
  • Keep selling.
  • Re-use copy that you used in the solicitation letter to talk about your programs.
  • Be formal. Or lofty.
  • Be vague about how the money will be used.
  • Sign it yourself if you can get a higher-ranking person to sign it.

As always, sharing our weekly news and insights with you is a pleasure. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

Join Gail Perry live from AFP ICON 2024 conference in Toronto as she unveils insights & tips from some of her favorite fundraising professionals.

bored nonprofit board | Gail Perry Group

This happens to too many boards – they lose their enthusiasm and zip. It’s sad to see in board members who have their energy to create change and make a difference in the world. Every board needs board training!

However, staff and board leaders can certainly change this situation using these 7 steps. What’s more, you’ll create happier board members as a result.

Here is our recipe for creating change, renewing enthusiasm and firing up these wonderful volunteers who care so much about your cause. But staff and board leaders also have to assume some responsibility.

Whether you are a staff member, manager, executive — or a board leader — the change will really start with you.  Be willing to be a spark plug of energy. Assume leadership if there is a void. Find a way to promote the idea of freshening things up and. . .  use these strategies to help.

Here are our 7 Steps to Fire Up Your Board:

1. Fire Up Their Passion by Asking Them To Share Their Personal Stories

Board members are serving on your board for a reason. It’s probably a deep personal — even emotional — connection with your mission.

Do you ever talk about it? Probably not. We have found that the quickest way to reengage board members’ passion for the cause is simply asking them to share their story of why they care.

Tip: Asking people why they care can open the floodgates of energy and commitment – even bring people to tears. 

2. Create Interesting Meetings

Ah, the boring board meeting. Fate worse than death?

Listening passively to presentation after presentation. Death by PowerPoint. There’s no interesting discussion. Or if there is a compelling discussion, it’s often on a trivial topic.

Yes, we’ve all been there!

Reorganize your agenda to put the boring topics last rather than first. Set a time limit on committee reports of only two minutes each. Create a consent agenda. Give your board chair training in meeting facilitation.

Tip: Check out our post: “12 Ways to Liven Up Your Board Meeting.” 

3. Clarify Their Roles and Scope

Often board members are confused about their exact role as a trustee of an organization. When that happens, board members can easily veer off into operational issues rather than big-picture strategy.  

It’s up to the staff leadership to guide the board. Help them determine what is appropriate for their attention and where they should steer clear. 

Here’s the challenge: Based on variations in organizational culture, the organization’s history, and customs, often boards take on different scopes. For example, in smaller organizations, board members may assist in operational matters. In large organizations, board members tend to focus on building awareness and connections, external partnerships, and fundraising. 

Tip: It’s appropriate for staff leaders to take charge and guide board leaders to clarity their roles. Everyone will be much happier and more productive. 

4. Educate Your Board About Your Fundraising Program

Often board members have no idea how your organization raises money. They often don’t understand the ROI of fundraising, the concept of donor retention, and how they can help.

However, when board members are educated, then they will be much more helpful. Above all, they will be able to make far better strategy and budgetary decisions. 

Consider educating them on where the money comes from, AND where the money goes. Once they know the facts, they often get fired-up.

Try setting up these discussion questions:

  • Why does it cost so much?
  • Why do we need to spend money on this or that?
  • How much does it cost to help one kid (clean one stream, present one performance, etc.).

And the most important question your board members need to know is “What do we need the MOST but can’t afford?”

Tip: When board members understand the urgency and the numbers, they might be calling everyone they know to help. (We’ve seen it happen.)

5.  Decide on Action Items

What do your board members need to “do” in order to be good board members?

Simply attend meetings and offer their judgment and opinions?

We like to see board members equipped with the actions they are supposed to take.

Whether it is calling five donors to say thank you, or introducing five new people to your organization, or selling five tickets, or opening the door to an important connection, or advocating for your nonprofit at a community forum, or researching roofers so you can get a new roof donated — there’s lots they can do.

Tip: Send board members out the door with a clear idea of what they need to do between now and the next board meeting.

6. Give Board Members What They Want

Want to give board members a “terrific experience?” If you do, you’ll be rewarded with enthusiasm, energy and lots more engagement.

What do board members really want? June Bradham’s research in her book “The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Really Want” shared some mind-blowing insights.

Ms. Bradham found that board members want to:

  • Work with people who are as passionate and excited about the organization as they are.
  • Feel that their time is used wisely.
  • Get their hands dirty with real work.
  • Meet the other board members.

If one of the top things board members want is to meet the other board members, then we recommend more social time. That’s why coffees and lunches before and after meetings are so important.

Social time helps foster closer personal relationships among your board members, and a sense of trust among them all. Then they can function better as a team or a committee.

Tip: Give your board members some meaningful work that will actually help your organization.  

7. Personally Take Charge 

Staff and board leaders really can step up and provide guidance to the rest of the trustees. They can gently lead everyone to focus on what’s most important, and stay away from the trivial. 

Lighten up. When you talk about fundraising or any strategy, see if you can smile. Show everyone that fundraising is not something to be feared. 

Model the energy that you want your board to have. Be a spark plug of energy and enthusiasm – it can be contagious. 

Bottom Line: Try Out These 7 Steps

Take the responsibility to rev up the energy and enthusiasm of your board.

Try these ideas and see what erupts. We’ve tested these strategies, and they really do work!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights as we discuss new fundraising trends. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

RESOURCES

If you don’t do anything else in your year-end campaign, you must do this; visit your major donors & invite them to invest in your cause.







Just imagine: what if you had a new way to increase visibility and make new friends for your cause?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had an authentic and impactful way to help donors get to know your work, build trust and establish meaningful connections with your leadership?

Then consider the power of a no-ask friendmaking event like a Porch Party.

Don’t miss our free webinar on June 7th,

“Unleash the Power of Porch Parties to Gain New Friends, Supporters, and Donors!”

You’ll discover how to stage the ultimate summer Porch Party friendraising event!

Count me in!

Even more, social gatherings for your cause can foster a wonderful sense of community.

Let’s explore how a Porch Party can help you build trust and ignite interest in your cause:

1. Getting to Know Your Organization:

Count me in!

A Porch Party provides a welcoming and intimate environment for donors to engage with your leaders on a personal level.

By hosting a relaxed social gathering, you create a space where conversations among people can flow naturally, allowing attendees to get to know you. They can also gain firsthand insights into the mission, impact, and values of your organization.

As they learn more about your cause and understand your work, typically, people’s interest will begin to grow. Before you know it, you’ve just made a new “friend” for your organization.

In this webinar, we’ll share our tips to engage your attendees in discussions about your mission.

2. Establishing Authentic Connections:

There’s another reason we like Porch Parties: a casual social gathering can create the space to foster authentic connections between potential donors and your cause.

By inviting potential supporters to engage in conversations, share stories, and forge friendships, you help to create a sense of belonging and purpose. And that is surely a lovely thing.

This is what we mean when we talk about engaging donors – you are helping them forge personal connections with your work.

As attendees connect with others who share their interests, they’ll also connect more deeply with your cause. This fosters a bond based on shared values and common goals.

All this happens before you ever ask for a gift.

In our June 7th webinar, we’ll share why friendmaking is a powerful fundraising strategy.

3. Building Relationships that Inspire Support

Just remember: Successful fundraising is based on meaningful relationships with donors. And most importantly, these relationships are based on trust and understanding.

A Porch Party allows you to go beyond the transactional aspect of fundraising and move into cultivating genuine connections.

When you nurture donor relationships, and demonstrate your organization’s community-wide impact, you inspire donors to contribute willingly. They can move on to become long-term advocates for your cause.

Making Friends First.

The Porch Party motto is “Make friends first.”

First, you help donors get to know your cause and build their trust in your organization.

Then, later, you invite them to donate. First things first.

When you prioritize relationship-building and focus on genuine connections, you create a solid foundation for long-term donor engagement.

Just imagine: your donors and prospects are becoming more familiar with your cause. They’re beginning to witness the impact of your work. And above all, they are building trust in your organization.

At that point, they’ll be more inclined to contribute willingly and wholeheartedly. You are “attracting” donors rather than “pitching donors.”

Your Next Porch Party Is a Platform for Building Trust and Inspiring Support.

Remember, a Porch Party is not just a social gathering; it’s a platform for building trust, fostering connections, and inspiring support.

Make each Porch Party gathering a memorable experience. You can showcase your organization’s values, its mission, and, most of all, your dedication to creating positive change.

We want you to embrace the power of Porch Parties to make new friends for your organization. New friends who will become deeply engaged donors.

In the June 7th webinar, we’ll share the best format for the program at a Porch Party.

BOTTOM LINE: A small social gathering is a perfect way to create a welcoming atmosphere for new friends.

You can let the porch become a stage for meaningful conversations and relationships that will propel your cause forward. Hope to see you there!

How to Get Ready for a Capital Campaign

What does it take to really be ready to start a capital campaign?

Often we see board members and leaders chomping at the bit to move quickly. And we hear from some fundraisers that they feel pushed to get going and start asking for lead gifts as soon as possible.

Your smart plan sets up the dominoes so they will fall nicely in place.

Your smart plan sets up the dominoes so they will fall nicely in place.

However, caution ahead: your organization may not be ready for our advice: Slow down and get organized now so that you can move ahead quickly later. You do not want to be charging ahead without doing your research and due diligence!

There are many steps to take in order to be ready for a capital campaign. Planning now will create a successful campaign.

Here are key steps you need to work through BEFORE you launch into the silent phase of your campaign.

1.   Decide your scope.  What exactly will you be raising money for?

This sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

Does your organization need a new building? If so, then consider this:

  • Where will the building be, and how much will the land cost?
  • Do you have a simple schematic design?
  • Do you have an idea of what the actual construction (or renovation) will cost?
  • What about the cost of building permits, new furniture, etc.?

Also, will there be additional items that your leadership may want to include in your capital campaign financial objectives?

  • What about funding for endowment?
  • Or a special building maintenance fund or money for equipment?
  • What about including start-up costs for any new programs?

It’s important to identify all the different “funding objectives” or purposes that your campaign might include – well in advance. This is not a quick – or simple – process, to be sure.

2.  Get a rough idea of your possible capital campaign financial goal.

Once your team has a sense of the proposed capital campaign’s funding objectives, they can begin putting some numbers next to each funding objective.

Once that is accomplished, they can develop a “working” campaign goal. Go ahead and set a preliminary working goal as soon as you can.

This is a key starting place for your campaign planning.

Estimating the financial aspect of the campaign is an important step forward. Once you start talking numbers, you’ll find a sweet spot: a number that impresses people but doesn’t make them gasp at your foolishness.

Regarding your financial aspirations – remember that a little foolishness is not all that bad.  It’s much easier to come down later than it is to go up, so it’s a good idea to reach on the high side at the beginning.

3.  Break down the potential capital campaign goal by gift amounts.

It’s essential for you to lay out your potential gifts in a Gift Range Chart. This little chart will be a remarkable planning tool for you and help you prepare for a capital campaign when the right time comes.

Based on your preliminary working campaign goal, create a chart that will show how many gifts you’ll need in what sizes to reach that goal.

What’s more, who do you think will be the donors who will step up with lead gifts for the campaign? You’ll want to evaluate the size of your potential campaign prospect pool:

  • How many gifts of one million will you need? Where will they come from? Or, if you have a large campaign goal, how many ten-million-dollar gifts do you think you’ll need?
  • How many of $500,000? And $250,000?
  • How much in smaller amounts will you need to cover what your major donors don’t provide?

Know that a gift range chart for the same goal will vary from organization to organization. Why? Because it really depends on the size of your prospect list and the potential of your largest donors.

4.     Get your board on board.

To be ready for a capital campaign, you’ll want to be absolutely sure that your board is well-informed about campaign strategy, donor prospects, and potential for your campaign.

Your board needs to:

  • Understand how capital campaigns work.  Major gift and capital campaign strategy is not always intuitive. Your leaders need to understand that it takes time and a lot of nurturing to close huge gifts. That’s why we slow down now, to go fast later.
  • All must agree on the campaign objectives and scope.  You can’t go forward if there is dissent about whether to do a campaign and what it will require from the board and the organization.
  • Be willing to make the investment in infrastructure that will be required to support the campaign. This money won’t just walk in the door! It takes extra staff, extra events, extra PR, and a ton of work.

5.  Involve your most important donors in your capital campaign planning.

Many people ask us, “When can we approach our major donors about the campaign?”

We recommend that you engage major donors at the very beginning – when your campaign is just an idea.

It’s always a great strategy to involve your major supporters, while the campaign is simply an idea. As your ideas evolve, get their support early on, particularly in the planning process. You could even invite their input into your plan.

You get the idea.

Don’t keep your most important donors at arm’s length through the planning process – instead, use your planning phase to draw them in. The pre-planning phase is a wonderfully exciting time to involve your donor prospects.

Bottom Line: How to Start a Capital Campaign

Pre-planning now will help you save time and money and have your campaign on the early road to success!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

How to Write a Fundraising Appeal Letter That Brings in the Money

110 Tips to Raise More Money from Your Solicitation Letter for Donations

How to write an solicitation letter that will open our donors’ hearts and prompt them to make generous gifts?

So many nonprofits struggle with this challenge. And unfortunately, many efforts to write appeal letters end up falling flat with donors.

Why are solicitation letters so important?

Fundraising solicitation letters are the backbone of your annual fundraising campaigns that your nonprofit absolutely relies on.

Many annual giving programs include direct mail integrated with social media and digital appeals to create a true campaign. These tips focus mostly on the direct mail solicitation package, but they also apply directly to digital appeals as well.

Your Annual Donors

Your annual donors are very special people – they’re the foundation of a sustainable fundraising program. These donors produce a revenue stream that your organization can rely on year after year.

Large gifts are coming in too. Believe it or not, we are seeing more and more four, five, and even six-figure gifts coming in thru regular direct mail and digital fundraising campaigns.

Smaller donors are so important!

Direct mail and digital campaigns typically focus on smaller gifts. These campaigns can also trigger monthly pledges and even (surprise!) estate gifts.

Since these are some of the most important communications vehicles your organization will ever have, let’s nail your next appeal campaign.

Caveat: These are basic tips that form the very basis of good solicitation campaigns. Try using this tip sheet as a checklist for your next appeal campaign.

Raise all the money you need by following these very basic, best practice tips:

THE BIG PICTURE – Top 10 Tips

  1. Use the same fundraising solicitation message and call to action in your mail solicitations, on your website, and in your email appeals –this reinforces your message over and over.
  2. Focus more on your donor and what they may want to accomplish. Focus less on your own organization’s accomplishments and needs.
  3. The appeal letter or message can have only one objective: a clear ask for support. It is not a newsletter, an end-of-year report, an update, or mixed in with other communications.
  4. Your top priority is always to renew your past donors. They are your customer base – your “money in the bank.” Don’t let them slip away. 
  5. Be sure to communicate with your donors frequently between solicitations so they are up to date-and feel connected to your organization. How well you stay in touch with your donors will determine whether they give again.
  6. Maintain control. Don’t let a committee approve or edit your letter. If you let well-meaning but unknowledgeable people help write your appeal, they will ruin it. Too many cooks really do spoil the stew.
  7. Update your website and make your donation page easy to use. Many donors who receive a snail mail letter will go to your website to make their gift. Be ready to welcome them there with an easy-to-follow online donation process.
  8. Create an entire campaign. Use phone, postcards, letters, emails, and social media to build a series of appeals. Don’t rely on only one letter to do the work for you.
  9. Create a budget and look at it as an investment. Know that, if well executed, your direct mail/digital program should yield a 400% return. That is, if you invest $20k in these communications to your donors, you should receive $80k back.
  10. Never, ever neglect your paper snail mail fundraising appeal letters. People are experiencing deluges of email and very little snail mail. That means that paper letters stand out far more than a digital appeal in a crowded mailbox. Paper letters get your donors’ attention.

How to Write a Solicitation Letter: Draw Your Donors in at the Beginning

  1. Very important: use the word “you” immediately in the first sentence or two of your appeal.
  2. Your goal in the letter’s first part is to get your reader’s attention.
  3. Consider starting with a story to draw your readers in.
  4. Make your first two sentences so compelling that your donor will want to keep reading. (You can easily lose them in the very beginning.)
  5. Consider a short, sad story that transforms into a happy one. The sad emotion is what will pull on your donors’ heartstrings.
  1. Be sure to thank donors for their past support early in the letter. It reminds them of their partnership with you.
  2. Pretend you are writing to your grandmother. The most generous group of donors are the older ladies. A recent study found that for every $100 men gave, women gave $258.
  1. Don’t use a lot of photography and fancy layout in your letter or accompanying materials. Too much design makes it much less personal.
  2. If you use any pictures, be sure they are of people, not buildings. It’s what happens inside the buildings that counts.

How to Write an Solicitation Letter: Make Your Tone Personal and Informal

  1. Always (of course) send out personalized letters. (Dear Mr. Smith, rather than Dear Friend). Make sure your letter is really addressed to the reader.
  2. Write to only one person and not a group of people. Emphasize your one-on-one connection with the reader. Don’t use “you” in the plural sense.
  3. Use contractions – it’s less formal. Formal does not work!
  4. Make your letter as personal and conversational in tone as you can. Make it sound like you sat down and wrote it to a friend. 
  5. Repeat the word “you” frequently: it’s the most important word in your letter.
  6. Use the word “I” in the letter to make it more personal and friendly. It does wonders in changing your tone from “institutional” to “personal.”
  7. Always make your appeal letter about the donor – not about your organization. Help your donors imagine what they can achieve with their gifts.

Write a Fundraising Solicitation Letter and Create a Dynamite Case for Giving

  1. Talk about opportunities – it’s never about your needs. “We have the opportunity to . . .”
  2. Make your message emotional. Donors give out of emotion, then justify it with logic.
  1. Use stories in your copy but only one story. One story is more powerful than three stories. (~Tom Ahern)
  2. Make your story SHORT but powerful. It can even be a one-sentence story such as, “Monday morning, little Jenny woke up, hungry again.”
  3. Flatter your donor: Tom Ahern says that you should ask (and flatter your donor) and you thank (and flatter) and report (and flatter.) Neuromarketing studies say that flattery WILL make your donor love you more.
  4. Can you share measurable results of what you have achieved with other donors’ gifts? Give it a try. (~Penelope Burk)
  5. DON’T use the words “programs” or “services” any more than you have to. They are boring and too generic.
  6. Repeat the need and its urgency – several times in the letter. That’s your case for support!
  7. Use statistics to build credibility and make the cause more concrete.

How to Write a Solicitation Letter That Your Donors Will Actually Read

Assume your reader will . . .

“pick up the four-page letter, look at their name in the salutation, flip over to the P.S., then shuffle the letter around in their hands, maybe start reading here, maybe start reading someplace else, jump around a bit, and then, after this ragged scanning, MAYBE start reading at the beginning.” (~Happy donors blog)

  1. Make your letter easy to skim and still deliver its message.
  2. Break up your fundraising letter copy in every way possible. Use headings. Use bullets. Vary the indentation. Use boldface type. Use ellipses . . .
  3. What will your reader really see? Artwork: 80%; photos: 75%; headlines: 56%; captions: 29%; and very little text! (~Tom Ahern)
  4. Have plenty of white space on the letter, which makes it easy to read. Wide margins will help.
  5. VERBS matter: Use snappy action verbs that convey action.
  6. Use the present tense. Never use the passive voice when you can use the active voice. (~George Orwell). I.e.: “People are being helped.”
  7. Use short, concise sentences and paragraphs. Vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs for interest.
  8. Write choppy, jumpy, repetitive copy. (see the reader’s profile above) (~Jeff Brooks)
  9. Very short paragraphs: No more than three sentences per paragraph.
  10. Very short sentences: No more than 6 to 8 words in each sentence.
  11. Write on the 5th-grade level for easy reading. (like these tips.)
  12. Use a type large enough to read easily. 12 point type is the minimum size for fundraising material. The average age of a donor in a “house file” is 67. The average age requiring reading glasses is 43 yrs old.
  13. Eliminate every possible word – including adjectives and descriptive phrases – in your copy. “If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.” (~George Orwell)
  14. Write your letter. Then remove the first paragraph and see if it isn’t stronger. You don’t need a long preamble. (~Tom Ahern)
  15. Longer letters with more pages are more successful than one-page letters. The letter needs to be as long as it takes. Don’t make it too short. (~Harvey McKinnon)

How to Create a Killer Ask in Your Solicitation Letter or Email Appeal

  1. Make the ask an “invitation” to give.
  2. Tell your donor explicitly.
  • Why this organization? Why this program?  Why NOW?  Why me?

     If your letter doesn’t lay this out, go back to the drawing board.

  1. Your call to action is the most important part of your letter. Make it clear to donors what you want them to do. And repeat it!
  2. Give the donor something worth doing that is easy to do. “Restore sight for $25.” (~Tom Ahern)
  3. Use the MPI formula to ask: Please consider a gift of $ MONEY for a specific PROJECT that will create a specific IMPACT.
  4. Ask several times in the letter. It’s ok! Especially if it is a long letter – you can ask 4 or 5 times.
  5. Explicitly tell your donor exactly what THEY can accomplish with their gift. And tell them HOW you will spend the money – what project, what purpose. (~Penelope Burk)
  6. Make your ask as specific as possible. Donors will give more if they feel their gift is going to something specific. 
  7. Use a matching or challenge gift opportunity and tell your donors it will make their gifts go further. Play up the concept of “leveraging your donor’s gift.”
  8. Always ask for a specific amount or “the largest contribution you can make.”
  9. Place your ask in the first part of a paragraph. Don’t bury your ask at the end of a sentence or paragraph – it will get missed.
  10. Don’t ask for a “gift”. Ask instead for an investment, a contribution, for help, or to supply something special. (Mal Warwick) Also ask the donor to “become a supporter” – this plays on the concept of “donor identity.”
  11. Create a sense of urgency by asking for an immediate contribution or asking for help with an urgent or critical situation.
  12. Use please such as “Please send your gift today” or “Please consider a leadership contribution of xxx.”
  13. Give the donor a deadline for responding and a reason for the deadline.
  14. Give the donor the option not to give. Recent studies have found this increases donor response. Say:
  • Please don’t feel obligated…
  • Whether you give is entirely your choice…
  • Any amount you want to give will help…
  • You are free to say no — I will understand…

Tips to Upgrade Your Annual Donors

  1. Focus on more frequent gift opportunities each year as a way to upgrade your donors to higher giving levels.
  2. Establish a monthly giving program. People who give monthly will give much, much more.
  3. Use gift clubs to encourage higher-level donations. Ask donors to move up to the next level.
  4. When you ask for an upgraded gift: talk about an increased or enhanced partnership with the donor.

Tips to Raise More From your Top Donors

  1. Be sure to send your Top Donors special, custom-tailored personal letters and digital appeals.
  2. Have board and staff members write or visit top donors personally with an individualized appeal.
  3. Thank them in the opening sentence for their continuing and steadfast support. Emphasize their partnership with your cause.
  4. Be sure these donors get many warm, personal touches during the year!
  5. Come right out and ask these donors to make a “leadership gift.”

Create a Full-Scale Campaign and Schedule your Mailings

  1. Set up a calendar of digital and mail communications and plan ahead. Echo the same theme and ask throughout all the communications.
  1. Segment your mailing list and mail personalized appeals to specially targeted groups. (i.e., past donors, volunteers, people who have attended your auction, corporate sponsors, board members, and past board members.)
  2. Mail to donors more often than nondonors. 
  3. Track your LYBUNTS (people who gave “Last Year but Unfortunately Not This”) and send them repeated, cheerful and enthusiastic appeals to be sure they renew. Once a donor has given for two straight years, they are likely to remain a donor for the long run. 
  1. Develop a series of appeals to SYBUNTS. (People who gave “Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year”). “We’ve missed you!”
  2. The letters you send to your LYBUNTS and SYBUNTS should remind them of their past support and remind them how much they have helped create your success. (“We love you, we miss you, we want you back!”)

Followup Makes A Huge Difference

  1. Send a follow-up letter a few weeks after your appeal: “We didn’t hear from you, and we hope you will remain a supporter.
  2. Studies show that follow-up letters are the most important factor in securing the donor’s gift. (Mal Warwick)
  3. Follow-up letters need to be short and play on urgency and emotions.
  4. Write your follow-up letter at the same time you write the first letter.
  5. Organize the board members to make phone calls to follow up appeals to donors.  You can’t lose by following up with a personal call.

How to Welcome New Donors

  1. Your brand-new donors are the least likely group to renew next year. Only 23% of new donors will typically renew. (~Bloomerang data). Go all out to welcome them!
  2. So, create a dynamite welcome packet for new donors. This will help them renew when the time comes to ask again.
  3. Craft an ENTIRE special thank you and communication program for first-time donors. Celebrate the beginning of this partnership!
  4. Invite new donors to get involved. Move quickly to develop the relationship to keep them on your bandwagon.
  5. Go all out to welcome online donors just like your mail donors. New online donors are even less likely to renew their gifts than paper donors. Don’t let them fall thru the cracks.

Sharpen Up Your Website

  1. Include your website address in the snail mail appeal. Even when they give with a check in the mail, donors will probably check out your website.
  2. Use different landing pages and URLs to track donors’ responses to individual appeals and campaigns. It’s easy, and it’s important.
  3. From a donor’s perspective, the most important page on your website is “your gift at work.

Direct Mail: Create a Mailing Packet That Brings Results

  1. Size matters. Try larger sizes to get your reader’s attention. Or smaller sizes.
  2. Everything in your mailing should be easy to read and understand.
  3. Your direct mail packet should include four pieces:
  • The solicitation letter
  • A reply/pledge card
  • A return envelope for the reply card
  • The outside envelope.
  1. Your outside envelope needs to grab your reader’s attention. Put something attention-getting or startling on the outside. NOT a self-serving tagline, though.
  1. Try bright colors. Target Marketing says, “Using standard #10 white envelopes will guarantee a low response rate unless you are giving away money.”
  2. Always include a return envelope. It is critically important to make sure it is easy for people to give.
  3. Be sure your mailing label is attractive and not full of computerized numbers. A “mass market” look to your mailing label can immediately put your letter in the trash.
  4. The reply slip needs to stand out in the package.
  5. Put a headline on the reply card, such as “Yes! I want to help!”
  6. Don’t give your donor more than four choices to consider. More than that will drive your donor away.
  7. Use checkboxes on your reply slip rather than fill in the blanks.
  8. But limit the amount of information you request. The more boxes on the reply card, the more confusing it is to your donor. If you confuse your donor, she will likely abandon your donation card.
  9. Make sure there is room for handwriting on the reply card. Don’t make your donor cramp to write on your card.
  10. Make the reply card paper easy to write on. And remember to have a large font so your donor doesn’t have to reach for her reading glasses!
  11. Circle the amount you are requesting from the donor on the reply card.
  12. Don’t forget to ask for recurring monthly donations!

Now use this list as a checklist – review your mailing program against it and highlight the tips you need to implement.

GOOD LUCK, and may you raise tons of money!

 

Top Capital Campaign Trends (1)

Capital campaigns are everywhere these days. Despite a murky economic outlook, nonprofits large and small are moving forward with big fundraising goals and high dollar campaigns.

We’re seeing some interesting new capital campaign trends among our clients, based on learnings and practices developed during the recent pandemic.  As we’ve found with many of our clients, a few strategic efforts can help your capital campaign  be a booming success.

Most high-net-worth donors have done well over the past few years, and many of them may be ready to move forward and discuss how they can help – even in an uncertain economy. Here’s how you can take advantage of these current capital campaign trends to reach your campaign goal:

1. More Transparent Messaging

We are seeing a strong trend toward more specific, much more transparent communications with major donors. Organizations that share their status openly and honestly with their donors are receiving more support.

All along, donors have shared that they dislike formal, lofty language from the organizations they support. All the acronyms and nonprofit speak puts them off and dampens their enthusiasm.

During the recent pandemic, we found nonprofits talking about their work very differently. Our clients were frank with their supporters. They were sharing exactly what is going on financially and what they really needed. As a result, donors responded generously.

Transparent Messaging Yields a $1 Million Gift!

Here’s a terrific example: our Major Gift Intensive client, Historic Columbus. was very worried about their dramatic drop in contributions during the pandemic.

We suggested to Executive Director Elizabeth Walden, that she select 20 major donors for a special monthly “Insider” communication. And she implemented our advice quickly. Moving forward, she sent out a friendly, informal update on how the organization was faring during the shutdown.

One important point: She was upfront about the organization’s dire financial situation, but her tone was brave and businesslike.

A few months later, out of the blue, one of these donors suddenly gifted $40,000. The donor explained that he appreciated her frequent communications and the transparency she showed in being perfectly open about the organization’s financial status.

And, a year later, another donor up and made a $1,000,000 gift! The donor also thanked her for her openness, transparency, and frequent communication. Elizabeth said she almost fell on the floor when her donor came forward with such a generous gift.

Capital campaign trend takeaway: When your financial situation shifts – or when you have a major opportunity like a capital campaign – it is more important than ever to be transparent with your donors.

2. More Straightforward Conversations with Donors

Post-pandemic, the events and meetings are now back to a regular schedule. However, during the pandemic, we saw some new trends emerging that seem to be taking hold for good. Or at least we hope so!

Back during the shutdown, we were forced into absolutely direct conversations with our donors. No more oblique dancing around with meetings, lunches and social events.

We are training our clients to move right along with their donors and find out what they are interested in. Be ready to ask your donors in a very straightforward manner:

“Could you see yourself becoming more involved with our work?”

“Would you like to know more about how you can help?

As a result, our clients are saving so much time by finding out quickly which donors are interested, and which ones are not.

Capital campaign trend takeaway: It’s easy to find your most passionate supporters by asking a few direct questions.

3. Donors are Ready to Discuss Their Gifts Early in the Campaign

In an environment where you have some donors who are feeling wealthy, you actually can move forward quickly. When nonprofits directly discuss their needs, opportunities and vision with donors, good things can happen quickly.

For example, our campaign clients are seeing extraordinary results with one simple question:

“Would this be a good time to discuss your support of our campaign?”

This polite question is usually easy to ask. For instance, one of our clients closed a $100,000 gift the first time she asked this question. The next time she asked it, she closed a $250,000 gift.

Note that both of these gifts came in without a formal campaign ask. We just coached her to look for the right signals and then be ready to pose the question gently. Note: she was on the phone or Zoom for both of these conversations – in a digital format.

Takeaway: You can close major campaign gifts by asking your donor about their timing. Many of your donors are more ready than you may think.

4. Taking Advantage of Non-Cash Gifts

Real estate, valuables, and investments have grown substantially in value over the past decade. And, when donors are “feeling” wealthier, we will know that they are much more likely to make larger gifts.

Remember, most of the wealth in the US and Canada is NOT held in cash bank accounts. Instead, it’s held in some type of investment.  We find that so many campaign and major gift fundraisers forget to consider a donor’s capital assets.

So, it’s always, always a smart move to remind donors about the benefits of giving non-cash gifts, such as appreciated stock. Not only can donors avoid capital gains taxes, but they can also gain significant tax deductions from their charitable contributions.

For example, a donor purchased stocks for an average $100 per share, investing a total of $10,000. Ten years later, the stocks could now be worth $280/share. The donor’s original investment is now worth $28,000. That’s a whopping gain!

By making the gift of the fully appreciated stock, the donor avoids capital gains taxes and gets to help their favorite organization with a significant campaign gift.

Takeaway: Because of stock market growth in the past 5-6 years, many donors have extensive paper profits from their investments these days.  Don’t forget to inquire gently about giving with assets other than cash.

Bottom Line: Top Capital Campaign Trends

Take advantage of these new capital campaign trends. Look for opportunities for non-cash gifts. Be willing to be transparent, direct and straightforward with your donors. You’ll see terrific results.

Don’t forget we are happy to arrange a free campaign strategy call if you are in the process of planning a capital campaign. Just email us at coaching@gailperry.com.

One of the biggest challenges for major gift fundraisers is in the area of prospect management. When you have a whole list of projects in your portfolio, how do you prioritize your assigned prospects? That’s where the concept of a Backburner List comes in handy.

It’s a matter of organizing your portfolio.

How do you sift through many names to find the right people who want to get more involved?

With over 100-150 donors to manage, how can you organize yourself so that you are focusing on the right prospects at the right time?

How can you make sure you are spending your time at its highest and best use?

Each day, major gift fundraisers are forced to make choices. Which donors will you choose to spend time with and which donors can you safely ignore? You only have so much time to go around, and you have too many donors for the amount of time available. 

 The trick is to ensure you spend your time with the right people. Your time is just about the only thing you can control (you certainly can’t control donors!), so you want to be super smart about your own time management.
And yet, you don’t want to overlook a prospect simply due to lack of time and/or the prospect isn’t responding or available.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing your “favorite” people – the easy prospects who are always game for a call or visit. But this may not be the best strategy.

What Can Go Wrong?

A lot. While you are chatting up your most available prospects, you might overlook that more elusive donor. You know them – the ones who are hard to get a meeting with, the ones who take weeks to call you back, the ones with whom no one at your organization has a relationship.

But that prospect may just be worth your time. They have the capacity and a solid giving history to your organization. They do have potential, and you don’t want to forget about them. What is a major gift fundraiser to do?

Your Top Secret Strategy.

Every day, you must evaluate your list of prospects and decide who you will focus on. Which donors need to be priorities, and which ones can simmer in the background?

Then you need an organizing scheme that allows you to segment your portfolio. Create your top ten and then your next group, etc.

What Should You Do with Elusive Prospects?  Create a Backburner List.

Your Backburner List includes prospects who are not a priority right now. For example, they may not be ready to discuss a gift – yet. These donors are simply “simmering” on the back burner while you focus on the prospects who are warm or hot.

Who Goes on the Backburner List?

  • People you don’t want to forget about – they are promising, but their timing is off. They’ll need attention later, but not now.
  • People who may merit a closer look. One day you will be able to have more discovery conversations with them, so you can find out how interested they really are.
  • People who may have given recently and who (of course) need continued touches and attention.

Why Have a Backburner List:

1. Lowers Stress.

Trying to pay concentrated attention to a large number of donors is simply impossible. You are spread too thin. You will end up feeling stressed because you’re not “covering” your portfolio of donors well enough.

2. Organizes Your Prospects.

The Backburner List allows you to organize your prospects. Everyone needs a workable prospect management system that guides you to set your priorities.

3. Bless and Release.

How wonderful! You can even bless and release prospects who are not responsive, who are rude or unpleasant, or are simply not interested in a closer relationship. You can put some of them on the Backburner so you don’t forget them later.

4. Makes You More Productive.

Yes! Let’s make everyone on the team more productive. You have a system that helps you focus on the right prospects. You’re not spreading yourself too thin. Instead, you’re concentrating on where you see the highest gift potential for right now.

Remember, it’s all a judgment game. We are not saying, “ignore half of your portfolio.” Instead, we recommend a system that lets you sift through everyone on your list so you can set priorities efficiently.

Bottom Line: Create a Backburner List and you’ll save time by focusing on the right donors. And, you’ll raise more money.

Even more, you’ll also lower your stress level, and sleep better at night!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

Yes, there are many more major gifts fundraising mistakes to discuss! The activity of engaging with a potential donor, face to face, or person to person, can create fear and anxiety in many people. At best, it can feel terribly awkward. On the other hand, if you are really interested in the donor as a person and want to know more about them, the encounter can be enjoyable and highly productive. We shared four top fundraising mistakes last week here, and this post shares three more common blunders we see every day.

Major Gift Fundraising Mistake #5: Talking Too Much!

Too many nonprofit leaders blather away at their donors, thinking they need to “sell” the donor on a big idea or opportunity. Yes, you do want to share your ideas, but don’t forget that your donor has a lot to say too, and also wants to share THEIR ideas with you. They don’t want to be talked “at.” Instead, your donor wants to be heard. Imagine that! And it’s your responsibility in a donor visit, to hold the space, so to speak, for the donor to share that’s in their head and in their heart. If you do all the talking in a donor visit, you accomplish nothing.  In fact, if you are talking more than 50% of the time, you are shooting yourself in the foot! My motto has always been: “When in doubt, shut up.” If you are not sure what to say, I can promise you that your donor will fill the silence and say something. And you really want to know what is on your donor’s mind!

Mistake #6: Not Upgrading Donors

How do you upgrade a donor to give at a higher level? So many fundraisers are stuck and don’t know how to bring this up without feeling awkward or pushy. In fact, fundraisers are often so nervous about asking for a higher gift amount, that they often leave money on the table. But the reality is that your donor may be absolutely willing to give more – but you don’t know how to bring it up! It’s easy. First, be sure to ask for permission to bring up the topic of a gift. All you have to do is ask your donor if they’d like to do more. Or if they’ve ever considered doing something more. Your donor will surprise you! You can say, “If I may, can I ask you if you ever thought about doing something more?” You just may be surprised! 

Mistake #7: Missing the most important prospects. 

Fundraising leaders tell us that their teams are often confused and lack focus. MGO’s don’t understand how to find the right donors. They fritter away their time on the wrong people. When that happens, no one raises money!  Many MGO’s have up to 150 prospects in their portfolio.  How do you manage all these people? How do you set priorities? It can be a confusing morass.  We believe in the Top 10, Next 20, Next 30 approach. You can be successful if you organize and prioritize your donors in this simple format. Your Top 10 donors get the most attention. Your Next 20 donors are in line next. And, your Next 30 donors can fill in when you can’t see the other top ones.    This structure has worked for many of our clients and we strongly recommend it to you.

Bottom Line: Avoid These Major Gifts Fundraising Mistakes!

Don’t feel alone! We’ve made these blunders before ourselves. Let these videos guide you and your team to major gifts fundraising success!

Major gifts fundraising mistakes are everywhere! Dealing with major donors can be so challenging – and the entire effort is subtle, full of nuance. You’re trying to make friends with someone who expresses interest in your cause, but what to do? How to do it? What to say, and when? What not to say? And then, how do you coach C-suite executives on appropriate behavior with donors? They are the ones who tend to “talk at” the donor rather than allow the donor to do the talking. Each of these videos outlines a key mistake that happens all too often.

So today, we’re laughing at some frequent major gifts fundraising mistakes that we often make.

Don’t forget – in our Major Gifts Intensive coaching and training program, we are teaching everyone the correct way to work with major donors. Your visits will have clear objectives and you end up with a happy donor making a huge investment. And you won’t waste time in endless cultivation. This year’s Major Gifts Intensive registration closes out next week on Feb 15th, so if you are interested, let us know asap!

Major Gift Fundraising Mistake #1: Rushing the Ask  

Asking before a donor is ready to be asked is rushing the ask. Remember that major gifts fundraising is not transactional! It’s all about how the donor “feels” about your work – are they committed, are they enthusiastic? When you make it all about a quick, ask when the donor is unprepared, you will put off your donor and you’ll get a NO!

Mistake #2: Making it All About Money  

Remember that your donor supports your cause because they’re passionate about your mission, and dedicated to making the world a better place. When you talk only about money and not about the donor’s commitment, you’ll leave your donor cold. You might get a gift but it’s only a token. Not what the donor could really do. 

Mistake #3: Confusing Suspects and Prospects  

If you’re going to be successful you have to sort your portfolio into suspects and prospects. Suspects are people who are not yet qualified – which means you don’t know if they have the passion and the capacity to make a major gift. Prospects are those lovely people who are qualified. To be successful, spend your time with well-qualified prospects.

Mistake #4: Messing up the Discovery Process  

Discovery is your friend. The Discovery Process happens when you ask your prospective donor questions to find out if they are really interested, have wealth capacity, and are available to be cultivated. You ask questions like, “Would you like to know more? Or, would you like to get more involved? The donor will tell you whether they are interested – or not.  And you’ll “discover” whether the person is really a prospect or not.

Bottom Line: Avoid These Major Gifts Fundraising Mistakes!

Don’t feel alone! I’ve certainly made plenty of bloopers. And, I just wish I knew way back when I was a front-line fundraiser, all the things I know now. We’ve all bungled important meetings with key donors. We’ve all missed cues or rushed the Ask or talked too much. It happens every day with key donors all over the world, unfortunately. You can find three more of our top fundraising blunders here. Let these videos guide you and your team to major gifts fundraising success!

Have you ever tried to reconnect with major donors who have lost touch with your organization and your team? Here’s a quick video we posted to Linkedin yesterday, where we discussed success stories from the Major Gifts Intensive. Our guests where sharing stories of how they put their new skills from the Intensive to use. And one of Alexandra Lippert’s colleagues was able to reconnect with a major donor who had drifted away. Now, this particular donor is so engaged that they are actually discussing a million-dollar gift!  Can you imagine, bringing a former major donor back to the fold – and then having them ready to discuss a seven-figure gift? This is a success in my book!

Linked In Live Image

I want to personally thank these wonderful fundraising pros who joined me Wednesday on Linkedin: Craig Nason, Development and Communications Director of the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, and Alexandra Lippert, Director of Development for Major Gifts at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Hope you enjoy watching our conversation! The story of Alex’s colleague who was able to bring a donor back to the fold is at the end of this 12 minute video. To share a sneak peak about the video, here are some of the overall skills, key takeaways and successes they achieved in last year’s Major Gift Intensive:

  • Permission-based fundraising to open the door to key donor conversations.
  • Rigorous prospect management – to determine your top 10 and next 20 prospects, and focus your time and energy at the top.
  • Talking less and listening more to your donors, to delve into your donor’s true interests.
  • Building a true major gift plan – step by step to build a program with focus and strategy unique to each organization.
  • The art of growing a relationship with a donor.

Reconnect Major Donors Who Have Drifted Away

Many organizations have major donors who once were enthusiastic and on board – yet now have disengaged and are not involved at all. We see this happening all the time. For example, you may have five, six, and even seven figure major donors who once were enthusiastic supporters – but they’ve disappeared. Here’s another example: what happened with your former capital campaign donors – particularly the ones who funded your last building campaign? Are you still in touch with them? Where did they go?  What about those former loyal board members who gave so much to support your work? It may have been years ago that you connected with them, but their emotional ties may still be strong. 

Trying to Reconnect Major Donors 

Just about every organization has supporters who were once quite passionate but now have lost touch. In the success story above, our client at Waterloo University had lost contact with a certain former major donor.   

Here’s the Process We Recommend to Reconnect Major Donors Who Have Drifted Away

Step One: Try a “Get in touch” phone or zoom call.

If you have a donor who has not been engaged for a while, consider a “get in touch again” approach.  Just think, your donor might actually welcome your phone call or email. Especially if they’ve been involved in past years, they might really like to know the latest news. They might like to meet any new leaders who may have joined the team. Or, they might welcome a personal update about an area they used to fund.

Step Two: Try a “Thank You” phone or zoom call.

Many former donors appreciate a “thank you for all you have done for our organization” phone or zoom call. In fact, if you think about it, they probably deserve a thank you call, however, belated. It’s the least you and your team could do – to reach out to people who’ve been so very supportive in the past and acknowledge everything they’ve done. Thank you’s are always in good taste and appropriate. It’s a feel-good moment for both you and your long-lost donor when you reach out (even if it’s been years) to say thank you again.

Step Three: Ask them why they supported your organization – what was it about your work that appealed to them the most?

This is the question that starts to reengage them. Asking them for their Donor Story can be like opening a treasure box. Your long-lost donor probably has deep feelings about your organization’s work. Likewise, they have a strong personal connection to your mission. This is heart-centered work – when you ask the donor to share how they feel about the mission. Ask them what resonated with them about your organization’s impact. Remember, when a donor’s deeply held personal values are really tied in with your organization’s work in the world, they will talk and talk about it. We advise our clients to simply let them talk! You open up a whole new world when your donor shares their personal thoughts and feelings. Here’s when they often start saying, “How can I help?”

Step Four: Ask them if they’d like the next step – a personal update on what’s happening now.

  • Would they like to get involved again?
  • Would they like to meet the new leadership?
  • See the new initiatives or programs that are being launched?
  • Would they like a personal tour?

This is when they become re-engaged. Remember, you are using permission – you are asking them if they’d like this or that. Using permission allows the donor to feel like they are in charge – they never feel pushed or like they are getting a pitch.

Step Five: Invite them to get involved. But use permission.

Consider using these questions: “Have you ever thought about getting more involved?” “Would you like to know how you can help?” “Would you like to know more about your favorite program and its current challenges?” When your formerly disconnected donor says “YES!” then you can literally move to a Gift Conversation.

Bottom Line: Reconnect Major Donors Who’ve Drifted Away

This approach may sound simple. But it’s deliberate, strategic, and utterly donor-centered. You focus on the donor, showing appreciation, listening, and sharing impact. This is how you rekindle a fire in your donor’s heart – and then the magic door to a wonderful gift opens. You end up with new resources to fund your mission, a happy donor, and a renewed relationship with a passionate supporter. 

The Three Success Principles for a Profitable Major Gifts Program

Are you and your team ready for a prosperous and productive year? And, most importantly, are you all planning for wonderfully generous major gifts to flow into your organization? 

We think this year will be an interesting year for major gifts fundraising. With the uncertain economy, we’ve even heard that some fundraising pros are not sure about meeting their fundraising goals this year. 

That means you need to organize and focus carefully to be successful. You need to be systematic to make the most of your valuable time and energy – while raising the money your institution needs. 

There may be roadblocks keeping you and your team from reaching your true major gift potential. These success principles will guide you through any economy, to profitable success – for you, your organization, and your mission. 

Here are the top three major gifts it \\success principles that we teach. You need these elements working together in order to be successful in raising major gifts in good times and also in volatile times: 

There’s no way around it. There are specific steps you can take to move quickly, find the right high-net-worth donors who really care, have direct conversations with them, and then close gifts. 

1. Closing major gifts takes know-how and training.

It can be done, and it’s done every day. 

However, many fundraisers tell us that they are unsure exactly how to approach donors. Even more, they feel awkward having conversations with prospects. Many say they feel lost when they try to identify the right prospects to focus on. Worst of all, they feel alone and overwhelmed. 

Your team can learn all the analytical and soft skills they need to be successful major gift fundraisers. They don’t have to guess their way along. 

We can teach them advanced conversation and discovery skills to help them feel comfortable with donors. Every fundraising professional needs to learn how to hold a conversation that lights the fire in a donor prospect and moves them to a gift. 

Your team can learn how to listen for a donor’s personal values, passions and interests. And how to take the next steps to move a donor closer to a gift. And we gently push them out the door to go visit their prospects. :) 

Your team also needs to understand data analysis. How do you keep up with and sort through all the information they learn about their donors? Most of all, they need to know how to put it to use to predict major gift outcomes. 

We believe strongly that working smarter, not harder, helps busy fundraisers raise more money. Knowing how to put your data to work for your leads to success. 

2. Successful major gift fundraising takes a team. 

The smartest professionals don’t try to go it alone. Silos in major gifts fundraising never work well. It’s essential to have other people involved in helping in the major gift effort. 

The team members don’t need to be out there soliciting, but they DO have to help identify prospects and help think through strategies to reach and nurture donor relationships. We find that you can be much more creative in coming up with ideas to cultivate donors when you are brainstorming with a team. 

In smaller organizations with limited development resources, the ED or CEO often steps in to help lead the fundraising effort, often aided by a staff member and/or a board volunteer. 

You would not believe the successes we have seen with this type of smaller team. Two of our million-dollar gifts came in in the Major Gifts Intensive when the ED called on one of their top donors. The Executive Director knew the questions to ask – and, because of our coaching, they knew how to create the setting for the donor to offer a 7-figure gift. No kidding. 

If you are in a small organization, know that you will never be super successful in major gifts fundraising with only one dedicated person. You should never be alone in this effort. 

In the Major Gifts Intensive, we ask for a full team of at least four people to register together. It’s best when a group of people from one organization takes the program together. That way, everyone learns the same systems, skills, vocabulary, and approaches – and can reinforce each other. 

3. Successful major gift fundraising takes a solid system.

Raising money from major donors is not rocket science, but it takes a very carefully organized structure. As we’ve said many times, you will never be successful without a structure – you’ll be just shooting from the hip. 

Systems are everything when it comes to identifying and managing prospects. You need a great rating system to measure your prospects’ potential. In addition, you can use Wealth Screening or even AI to determine who your most likely prospects are. 

We’ve written about prospect management systems that are the basis for managing your pipeline, workflow, priorities, and who you plan to see when. 

And remember, it’s your prospect management system that lets you and your team know what the potential cash flow looks like – and everyone is interested in that! 

The Major Gifts Intensive will help you implement all these success principles.

We can help you with skills training, help you set up the systems that will work for you and your organization, and introduce major gifts success principles to your entire board and management team. 

Our goal is to help you lay down the infrastructure, systems, and thinking inside your organization that will take hold permanently. We want your organization to enjoy major gift success not just this year but for many years to come. 

Every organization can raise much more IF you seriously tackle major gift fundraising. We are here to help and support you. Check out the Major Gifts Intensive here, and send us a Letter of Interest if you’d like. 

Registration closes on Feb.15th. Make sure you register soon, as space is limited and we are filling up fast.

We’ll hop on the phone with you and decide if this program is right for you and your team. It may not be for you. But then, it may be just the thing that will help you and your team catapult your organization to financial security! 

Let’s make the upcoming year awesome and close many major gifts for you and your cause! 

Nonprofit Fundraising Trends for 2023

As fundraising consultants, we’re always keeping an eye on the latest nonprofit fundraising trends and developments. As we move into 2023, there are several key trends that can help your organization ride the waves of success and fundraising growth in the coming year. 

First of all, let’s celebrate that 2022 was a strong year for charitable giving. We were successful, even with the instability caused by changing world events, pandemics, inflation, elections, financial markets, and unrest. 

When we step back and take stock, it’s extremely heartening to see the generosity and commitment to a better world that we see among our donors. 

And many things keep changing. These nonprofit fundraising trends include our top predictions for the year ahead and tips to help your team rise to the occasion.

Internal Culture at Nonprofit Organizations

1. Nonprofit working conditions are improving.

Organizations are slowly realizing that the old-fashioned nonprofit culture of low pay and long hours is driving employee burnout and turnover. Low morale = low productivity. 

 Tip: Realize that your team’s work environment can either help – or hurt – fundraising productivity. To keep employee morale high, follow the recommendations in “The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit” by Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman.   

2. The Great Resignation happened.

Unreasonable workloads, unrealistic performance expectations, and lack of respect drove many fundraisers to resign and seek new job situations. The resulting short-staffed offices put even more pressure on the remaining staffers. 

Tip: To prevent turnover, you’ll need to pay staffers what they are worth, and create a positive environment where they feel appreciated and valued. 

3. Many organizations are struggling with diversity and inclusion issues.

As nonprofits look within. they are uncovering gender, race and class issues among their donors, their boards, staff, and internal culture. Many are working towards solutions. However, some of this may be just window-dressing and all talk. The effective models go deeper into people’s behaviors and attitudes.

Tip: Set your organization on a path that recognizes the transformative potential of diversity at all levels. Recognize that there are no simple solutions. 

4. Fundraising is gaining respect as a profession.

Fundraising seems to be more and more recognized as a true profession, with its own well-documented knowledge base, credentials, and standards.

 Tip: Organizations that acknowledge and respect their fundraising team’s skills, expertise, and authority, will raise far more money. Give your professionals the room to create and execute strategy – and your revenue will increase. 

Major Gifts Fundraising Trends 

5. Major gifts fundraising is gaining more emphasis.

More and more nonprofit leaders are recognizing that focusing on major gifts is the quickest and most expeditious way to meet revenue targets. There is strong demand for skills-based training and coaching in major gifts fundraising.

Tip: Investing in major gifts fundraising for your organization will pay off quickly, and will allow you to expand your work to make the world a better place. 

6. Capital campaigns are everywhere.

Nonprofits of all sizes are showing that they have the confidence and skills to tackle big goals and make them happen. 

Tip: If you are not in a capital campaign or planning one, then you probably want to move forward now and take advantage of the current environment.  

7. Virtual donor visits.

Fortunately or unfortunately, virtual Zoom visits with donors are here to stay. Many older donors prefer to engage with their favorite causes from the comfort of their own homes. 

Tip: Use Zoom as a tool to help donors feel connected, in touch, and close. You can still build a warm personal relationship over the phone or zoom.

Broadbased donations of smaller amounts. 

8. Smaller donors just might be returning.

After years of declining numbers of smaller donors, we may be starting to see a change. One example: Giving Tuesday’s returns set new records for the number of donors participating, and in the number of overall donations. 

Tip: Nurturing generous donors who give at smaller levels will help fuel broad-based community support for your cause. 

9. New digital tools for donor engagement.

Digital fundraising will continue to increase as we see more sophisticated, multi-channel, and omnichannel approaches that can engage large bases of support. 

Tip: If your team deploys digital tools creatively, you can drive increased donor participation and also the acquisition of new donors. Be creative!

10. Many COVID donors are drifting away, unfortunately.

Based on what we see with our clients and in overall donor retention numbers, many pandemic-era donors are not renewing their gifts. Many organizations that saw dramatic increases in contributions during the past two years missed the opportunity to 

Tip: Create a deliberate initiative to engage with your newer donors, This can turn them from one-time donors to consistent, committed recurring donors. (This tip is from Executive Consultant Dr. Kathryn Gamble.)

11. Stronger connections with smaller donors.

Many wonderful new ways of engaging smaller donors are emerging – using technology, events, and even peer-to-peer approaches. 

Tip: Engaging your donors – regardless of their gift amounts, is and always will be the key to a solid base of financial support. 

12. Shifting orientation of high net worth philanthropists.

Many are pausing to reevaluate their old paradigms of giving to find charities with less “brand name” and more “high impact.”

Tip: Emphasizing your organization’s impact is and always will be a solid path. It appeals to donors of all types. (this tip is from Beth Ann Locke, the Director of our GPG Academy)

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

We offer this list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Board Members to encourage them to consider their important role and reflect on how they can be more effective as board members. 

Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions for board members that encourage self-reflection on your board’s culture, its decision-making process, how everyone behaves, and how involved everyone is in fundraising.  

The beginning of the year is a great time to set goals and resolutions that can help board members make a positive impact on their organization and the community it serves.  

This post is updated from earlier years – but it is perennially popular. I’ve updated it for 2023!

Here are some ideas for nonprofit board members – to remind everyone of what’s truly important, and help focus on positive action.

How about these for a list of proposed New Year’s Resolutions for Board Members?

1. I will foster a positive and inclusive culture on our board and within our nonprofit.

As a board member, I will strive to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all stakeholders, including staff, volunteers, donors, and people we serve. This means actively seeking out diverse perspectives and ideas, and creating a culture of respect and open communication.

To support inclusivity, I will welcome diverse people, perspectives and options. In addition, I will be aware of our board’s culture, and will encourage board members from diverse backgrounds to share their perspectives in our discussions. 

I resolve for all my contributions to be positive and optimistic. I will bring a positive point of view to all discussions, and discourage negativity. My voice will focus on ideas of abundance rather than scarcity. 

Moreover, I will aim to be always hopeful for the best; to encourage discussions of great possibilities. Knowing that negativity wipes out our board’s energy and passion, I commit to being a positive influence on other board members.

2. I will make my own proud, personal gift to support my institution.

AND I will encourage all other board members to give. I understand that if we don’t put our money where our mouth is, we have absolutely no credibility as stewards of the organization’s financial health and mission. 

When everyone is making their own proud personal gift, they are demonstrating their support for fundraising. They’re acknowledging that fundraising, gifts and contributions are all essential to financial stability.  

When everyone is participating in your organization’s philanthropy, you are adding integrity to the fundraising process. As a matter of fact, when board members are not supporting their organization financially, they send a very loud message to the community — that they are not fully behind this organization’s mission.

I will set an example by giving cheerfully and generously, and model appropriate generosity to the rest of our board.

To put it in the words of a funder:“If the leaders of the organization don’t support it, why should anyone else?”

3. I will encourage everyone to think big and challenge the status quo.

As a board member, I know that thinking small will not get us where we want to go. We are not going to change the world, alleviate suffering, change our community, find a cure – by thinking small.

So I will encourage everyone to think big. I understand that there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. Because, we know that a big juicy vision will help attract people – and financial resources – to our cause. 

Even more, knowing that change is hard for all organizations, including ours  – I will be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I resolve to be willing to ask, “Why are we doing it this way?

I will encourage my fellow board members to be willing to let go of the past and consider new opportunities and strategies – no matter how threatening change is.

Equally, I will remember Jack Welch’s famous quote:

If change is happening outside the organization faster than it is on the inside, the end is near.”

4. I will have a bias towards positive action.

Knowing that my organization needs more than “talk” out of board members, I will focus on positive actions we can take.  I refuse to be one of those board members who thinks their job is simply to come to meetings and just offer an opinion.

Moreover, I will make sure that the opinions that I do offer are thoughtful, respectful and are based on some type of data rather than on my personal preferences. 

I will ask our CEO and staff how we can help them and what support they need. I will encourage a can-do attitude – because THAT is what can change the world.

Likewise, I will share these new years resolutions for board members with my colleagues and encourage open discussion of these ideas. 

5. I resolve to stay informed and understand our financials.

I promise to take my role as a fiduciary guardian of our nonprofit seriously. As a board member, I understand my responsibility to oversee the financial health of the organization. 

I’ll resolve to stay informed about my organization’s budget, financial performance, and fundraising efforts. Even more, I will encourage transparency and accountability. I’ll look deeply at the data on how we raise money, and how we spend it.

It will be important for me to learn more about where our money really goes, and why we need more funding. I want to learn about my organization’s fundraising plan and our specific funding/business model.

In particular, I will commit to reviewing – and understanding – financial reports and resolve to ask questions when necessary.

Like Tom Peters said,

“Without data, I’m just another person with an opinion.”

6. I will wholeheartedly support our fundraising program, and will encourage others to do so.

I understand that there are many ways I can support fundraising and help celebrate our donors. 

Since board members are the highest authorities of our organization, I  know that we can add clout to all aspects of the fundraising program. Additionally, we know that donors feel honored when a board member makes a thank you phone call or sends a thank you email. 

Since fundraising is not just just about asking for money, I know I can play a valuable role even if I am not out there soliciting – by opening doors, making connections, meeting prospects, thanking donors, involving new people, and more.

In addition, I resolve to educate myself about fundraising – how it works today in this changing world and what works best for us. 

As for me, I won’t suggest a new fundraising idea or project without first understanding its potential impact on our staffing and volunteer resources.

7. I will help foster an organizational culture that will support fundraising and philanthropy.

I understand my various fundraising responsibilities as a board member, and will help foster a strong organizational culture of philanthropy.

As a supportive board member, I will encourage everyone in the organization foster the three components of a true culture of philanthropy.

One, we will all engage in and support the fundraising program in whatever way they can. We know there are many ways that everyone in the organization can help in fundraising without having to ask for money. Fundraising will not be isolated into an organizational silo. 

Second, I will encourage an organizational culture that celebrates our donors as important stakeholders and supporters of our mission.

Finally, I will ensure that fundraising is respected and acknowledged as an important mission-centric activity. Instead of backing away from fundraising, I will encourage fellow board members to be as supportive as possible. 

8. I will support our CEO and staff.

I will not ask the staff to overwork themselves, or sacrifice their personal lives in the name of our cause. Equally, I will encourage a positive work environment where our staff team feels acknowledged and respected. 

Understanding that they carry enormous responsibility on their shoulders, I will support paying them competitive salaries, giving them a healthy, happy workplace and ensuring that adequate training is provided to do the job. 

I resolve to support an appropriate boundary between board members and staffers, and I will encourage other board members to understand the management lines of communication. 

This means that I will not attempt to direct individual staff members. Instead I will deal with their boss, our CEO or Executive Director.

I resolve to show up when a staff member calls or emails.  And help out when asked.

9. I will advocate for our cause wherever I go.

Knowing that ideas can be contagious and spread among people like wildfire — I will spread the word about our work wherever I go. 

I resolve to be a great ambassador for our organization – sharing news and information about our impact to everyone in my network. 

Above all, I want to help create an epidemic of buzz about my organization all around. I’ll practice conversation skills and a short elevator speech that can open the door to a potential donor. 

I resolve to be a terrific personal advocate for our organization and our cause. And I’ll have fun doing it!

10. I will support the board to assess its governance and performance each year.

Knowing that good governance practices should always be reviewed and discussed, I will encourage us to conduct an annual self-assessment.

Moreover, I understand that the results of our board self assessment can open up new ideas about the way we work together, how we run our board meetings, what expectations we ask of all the board members, and our overall internal culture. 

I’ll encourage our Board Governance Committee to bring forward new ideas, practices and strategies to help our board become a high-functioning team. 

Bottom Line on New Year’s Resolutions for Board Members:

For the coming year, and all years, I dedicate myself to making my service on the board meaningful. And to encourage a positive, can-do, board culture.

If you’d like to reprint this article in your newsletter or distribute it to your board members, please link and attribute to our site.



 

Here’s a wonderful Major Gifts Intensive success story from one of our smart participants.

Chris Cook, Executive Director of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, said he really enjoyed practicing his new advanced 21st-century fundraising skills.  He learned how to create magical conversations with his donors because he achieved some stellar results.  

Here’s a situation – from an amazing donor conversation – when the donor simply offered a capital campaign gift – without even being asked.  Here’s what Chris shared (with our commentary):  “I started the conversation by asking how our organization pulls on his heart.”

(Our note: You should always start every donor conversation with a question about why they give to your organization.)

“First, he told me he was very grateful that I asked.”

(Our note: Many donors are often dying to share their “donor story.” This is an easy, seamless, and polite way to establish a deeper connection with your donor.)

“Second, he revealed to me that he had never been asked this question before by anyone and that he deeply appreciated it.”

(Our note: Your donors have deep feelings in their hearts for your organization’s work. But people don’t ever ask them. It will open the floodgates and you’ll be surprised.)

“As my donor explained this, his eyes started to get teary.” 

“I could see that he was immediately thinking back about his history with the organization, and how it has impacted him, his kids’ lives, and his grandkids’ lives.”

“This is because of art he now has, in two different homes. And how that art inspires conversation and education and connection.”

Then he immediately jumped in and started explaining his big picture for philanthropy.”

“He surprised me when he shared that he has three key areas of giving that are important to him. And that our organization is one of his three priorities!”

“It was huge news to me!”

“This was not, by any stretch, a challenging conversation to have. My donor opened up in new ways that I had not seen before.”

“And then – you won’t believe this, but he made a pledge for the capital campaign that we plan in the future.”

Bottom Line from this Major Gifts Intensive Success Story

Ask your donor why they care, or why your cause resonates with them, and then watch out. Your donor will take you places you never knew, and just may offer a gift right then and there.

The annual Major Gifts Intensive opens for registration in November each year. Let us know if you’d like to be added to the waiting list!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.