When organizations create their direct mail appeal letters, the remittance envelope is often an afterthought. Far too many organizations put little thought into how the envelope or reply device should appear and what it should say. Many believe that a generic reply envelope will do just fine for their purposes or others want to “use up” their existing reply envelopes and what better way?
Well, time to start thinking otherwise. Your direct mail appeal reply device can help boost your direct mail appeal returns.
If designed correctly, you can inspire donors giving sights and increase charitable income towards your mission.Below are a few simple steps to help you begin to segment your major donors and start to ask them more personally to support your calendar year-end appeal.
Below are a few simple steps to help you begin to segment your major donors and start to ask them more personally to support your calendar year-end appeal, just by making a few simple and easy tweaks.
1 – You want to be sure that your reply device mirrors the messaging of the direct mail appeal including using similar wording and themes.
2 – Ensure that even your reply device includes your mission statement and perhaps even a donor impact statement. One reply device that I created for my client states “She had nowhere else to turn…but, you gave her hope and a home.”
3- I long ago advocated against the use of Business Reply Envelopes (BRE’s). You know the ones where the organization pre-pays them up front and then uses them to entice donors to give. Do you think saving money on a postage stamp is going to make all the difference in the world to a donor? Not a big incentive. Save your organization money and have the donor place the stamp.
4- Include monthly/quarterly or any recurring donation option on your form by simply stating, “I/we would like to provide ongoing support. Please charge my credit card $ _________ per month until ________.” Or even better “continue indefinitely.”
5 – Include a section where donors can make gifts “In honor of/In memory of…”
6 – Ensure that all email captures are “permission-based.” If you have a line to capture email addresses and you plan on sending out newsletters or updates, be sure that you ask the donor permission. Consider having a check-off box that states something like, “Yes, I would like to receive periodic updates from the organization.”
7 – Consider having a check-off box to encourage volunteering, i.e., “I would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities at the organization.”
8 – Surely, have a check-off box where folks can indicate interest in making a planned gift to the organization and a separate one noting employer matching fit programs.
9 – Always have contact information on your reply device. If donors have specific questions, they need to know whom to contact, and your job is to make it easy and simple for them.
10 – You may also want to consider adding gift strings. Don’t leave the giving up to the inevitable “other” giving category. If you can do personalized gift strings, at least have suggested amounts that mirror the copy of your direct mail appeal letter.
So there you have the simple steps that you can immediately take to supercharge your reply envelope and increase your direct mail appeal returns to your calendar year-end campaign.
These are the same steps that I ensure I use when I create my client’s direct mail appeal package. And, they work!
Join me fora FREE webinar on Thursday, November 16 at 1 p.m. on “How to Develop a Gift Range Chart and Customized Gift Strings to Maximize Your Year-End Giving Efforts.” – Don’t delay register today! Registration limited to the first 100 registrants.
Each year, approximately 10% of your non-profit donor base will attrition naturally through death, moving, or just not giving any longer. Then you add lapsed donors on top of that natural attrition, and you are looking at an eroding donor list. Sound familiar?
In this article, I tackle the ever important question of “How to find new donors for your nonprofit?”
Here are some simple steps that you can take to combat this natural attrition and to begin adding new names to your donor list. These are the actual suggestions that I use with my very own clients.
1.) Conduct a fun exercise with your Board members such as a “Treasure Map” activity to help them to think of all those who they come into contact with in their networks i.e. people who they attend church with, volunteer on other Boards of Directors, friends, etc.
2.) Host a gathering or tour and have Board and staff bring those prospective donors to this event. This event should have a program that shares information about the organization and its mission, services, ways to get involved, and most importantly, a testimonial. Don’t forget to conduct follow-up with all those who attend these events to find out what they thought about the event and to determine further interest for engagement.
3.) Use social media as a way to find new donors. Consider having a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Don’t overwhelm yourself with having to manage and pay attention to too many networks at a time. Instead, be strategic, profile your ideal donor and then determine what networks that you are most likely to find them. Keep up to date on your competitor’s website and how they are managing their social media presence. Then promote, promote, promote and have your Board and staff act as “Social Media Ambassadors” sharing the page with friends, family, and other interested individuals. Keep content fresh, consider automating content with an automating app, and don’t forget to comment and interact with others. Keep content 80% of interest and 20% promotional.
4.) Take a look at similar organization’s annual reports, websites, and newsletters and compile a list of who is giving to them. Compile a prospective list of donors. Ask Board and staff if they happen to know anyone on these lists. If so, begin to cultivate them.
5.) Get the local voter or street records list, sometimes referred to as “Grand” lists and review this list with Board and staff based on property assessment, location, or other criteria that meet your ideal donor profile. From there pull together a prospective donor list and cultivate!
6.) Ask for referrals from your current donors. These donors already are giving to you and love you. So why not just ask them who else may they know who might be interested in becoming more involved in the organization.
7.) Be sure when you are doing outreach at events or speaking engagements to bring along a guest book so that interested attendees can sign up to receive more information. You have a captive, interested audience, so you want to be sure to get their names and contact information. Research them if possible, segment out those with greater interest and capacity for cultivation, and add all the other names to your mailing list.
8.) Identify new attendees to your organization’s fundraising events and create strategies that will take their transactional attendance to possible transformational engagement in your organization. One possible first step is to call those new attendees and find out what they thought about the event and if they see themselves getting more involved or interested in learning more.
9.) Capture interested website visitors with a website “pop-up” offering free information and resources. Send these folks a welcome and begin to send them relevant informational emails in cultivation. Ensure that your site is mobile-friendly as more and more folks are using their mobile devices to access content.
10.) And, of course, you can always rent and purchase mailing lists from a list broker.
So there you have ten steps that you can begin immediately taking to start to stem the tide of donor attrition by adding new names to your donor lists. These are the same steps that I use to help my clients build their donor lists. And, they work!
For a FREE half hour coaching session with me, email me now to schedule your complimentary time. Offer ends Friday, August 4.
A lapsed donor is one who has lapsed from giving at least a calendar year. They are the most significant donors to focus your efforts on re-engaging since they have already demonstrated an interest in your organization.
There are several ways to re-engage these lapsed donors. Here are some suggestions that you can implement within your organization.
Identify those donors who gave last year and yet have to donate this year. Those are your lapsed donors.
Add up the total giving from these lapsed donors. Surely after seeing this number, you will want to spend some time trying to recapture them.
Segment out the major donors from this list. A major donor giving level will vary from organization to organization i.e. $250, $500, $1,000, or even more.
Share this list with your Development Committee of the Board and discuss the plan of action.
Have Board members identify those major donors that they can personally call on.
Intend to call on these donors either through personal visits or telephone to secure a gift commitment.
Plan to send a specialized segmented direct mail letter to all others not identified as major donors.
You could also use this same strategy for each appeal that you send out to be proactively trying to prevent lapsing from occurring in the first place.
You have just been offered a job as a Director of Development and now what?
Well, over the past twenty years, I have had my share of jobs and have started some fundraising offices within nonprofits as part of my consulting practice. As a result, I have gotten pretty good at figuring out what the first steps need to be when setting up your development office.
I am going to share with you some of these first steps on what to get started with immediately to make your first three months a success. These first three months are a particular time of “newness” that you can use to your advantage.
Step #1 – Get established on your working location and equipment. Ensure you set up your office area so that it will be conducive to your work style and habits and ensure that you have all of the hardware and software you need including training.
Step #2 – If you don’t have the required software, don’t skimp by using Excel. Start right out by determining what your current and future needs may be and begin to research and present options for a donor database/CRM system that will meet those needs. You cannot build a successful development program without this foundational component. It is the “brains” behind your program.
Step #3 – Begin conducting a development assessment of the past fundraising efforts of the organization.
Step #4 – To carry out this assessment and to get acclimated to the new organization, use this time to meet with
Key leadership staff
Board of Directors
Any past and/or current donors
Anyone else deemed important to the organization
Step #5 – Use the data that you obtain during this development assessment process to begin to put together a series of recommendations based on best practices that you can put into place during your tenure. Share these recommendations with key leadership and Board members to obtain approval and “buy-in.”
Step #6 – Begin to immerse yourself in the new organization’s programs and services.
Step #7 – Begin to craft a Case for Support if your organization does not already have one in place.
Step #8 – Determine the key projects that need attention in the immediate future and begin to manage them. Get a handle on your development calendar including your annual fund and grant application and reporting deadlines.
Step #9 – Begin to put into place some of the recommendations that you outlined after conducting your development assessment whether they focus on major gifts, planned giving, individual giving, direct mail, etc.
These are some easy and straightforward ways that you can get up to speed quickly and efficiently in your new role and have an immediate impact on your organization’s fund development program. Early wins=your success.
Often, I get asked, “What is the magic behind a successful fundraising campaign?”
Well, it is not all magic. There is some science. And, with over twenty years of experience, I am going to share the top tips that have made it all “seem” like magic so that you can too.
How to ensure a successful fundraising campaign
I am going to share with you step-by-step the formula that I use with all of my clients to ensure that fundraising campaigns are as successful as can be.
#1 – Ensure that you have the best fundraising team possible. Be selective in whom you choose, develop expectations and responsibilities in advance, and seek the chair of your fundraising effort first.
#2 – Once the Chair is in place, then have them assist you in the search for the rest of your fundraising team. Be sure that you only select folks who do what they say they are going to do. Test them with small tasks first. Be sure to select high-performing people to have a high-performing team. And, don’t be afraid to say “no” to someone who just can’t meet the expectations or pass the “test!” Never recruit as a group – always person to person. Ensure you have a good mix of influential and effective candidates.
#3 – Divide up your fundraising team into different divisions i.e. events, mail, personal solicitation, phone, prospect rating, etc.
#4 – Create a fundraising goal that includes the costs of the campaign in the total. It costs money to raise money so be sure that you calculate those costs into the overall campaign goal. You can estimate campaign costs at 10% of the fundraising goal i.e. materials, staff, events, donor recognition, etc.
# 6 – Develop a prospective donor list from both your current donors as well as by conducting overall research to find new ones. Once you have your prospective donor list, then you will need to rate and rank them. Get a committee together who will focus on rating prospects according to capacity, affinity, and interest.
#7 – Once you have rated your prospects, then you can tier them into an “A List,” “B List,” etc. This ranking will allow you to focus your efforts on those who have the greatest capacity and interest in your cause.
#8 – Modify the gift chart as your campaign progresses depending on the level of gifts that come in. If you have fewer major donors than expected than you need to adjust your lower tier of donors, etc.
# 9 – Employ a sequential model of fundraising. Classify prospects according to assessed giving potential and start solicitation with the Top Giving Levels and move down.
#10 – Start with your “Family/Nucleus” gifts first. Your Board, staff, and volunteers must demonstrate a commitment to the mission before you begin asking anyone else. If they are not committed, how can you expect anyone else to be committed? You should conduct all Top Giving and Family/Nucleus levels by personal solicitation.
#11 – Develop strategies to solicit the lower level donors i.e. direct mail, events, telephone, etc.
#12 – Be sure to develop a realistic month-by-month timeline to ensure that you keep the momentum of the campaign fresh and have key benchmarks to meet.
#13 – Develop ways to recognize donors of all giving levels to the campaign. Donor recognition levels can inspire donors to give more than they may usually give.
Sequential fundraising is THAT important. Once you violate the “Top Gift” solicitation sequence, your entire fundraising campaign is in jeopardy. Failure to follow this approach lowers giving standards across the Board.
If I could choose the number one reason why most campaigns fail, it would be that they did not follow this sequential model of fundraising including asking their “family” first. In fact, I have seen campaigns languish for years never reaching their goal.
An important part of any fundraising campaign is how you plan on recognizing your donors at different giving levels. While donor recognition opportunities do not motivate all donors, the fact is that some are. And, you need to be prepared to offer this valuable tool to inspire the sights of your donors who are motivated by public forms of recognition. Different things motivate different donors. So, always begin by knowing your donor.
Below I share with you a step-by-step method to creating Donor Recognition Opportunities that will inspire your donors to set their sights higher. And, public recognition inspires all donors from big to small and for all kinds of fundraising campaigns, not just capital ones.
There are several important guidelines that one should consider first before actually coming up with the recognition opportunities.
First, it is important that you have several recognition opportunities available for your donors to select.
Second, the top-level gift should be larger than the largest gift projected during the fundraising campaign.
Third, the cumulative values of the donor recognition opportunities should add up to significantly greater than the overall fundraising goal.
And, lastly, the donor recognition opportunity should be two to three times the costs of construction, furnishings, or overall costs of the opportunity.
Once you have given these guidelines consideration, here is how you can establish your donor recognition opportunities step-by-step.
Step #1 – Invite key staff and volunteers to a Donor Recognition Planning Meeting and review your building plans or fundraising campaign outline.
Step #2 – Brainstorm all of the possible named gift opportunity “places” or “things” i.e. main lobby, flag pole, endowed department, scholarships, staff positions, etc. Think expansively and creatively remembering that nothing is off limits.
Step #3 – Write each possible brainstormed building place on a sticky note and put them on the wall in random order.
Step #4 – Look at your campaign gift range chart and determine how many gifts are needed at each level to reach your goal.
Step #5 – Determine the “Curb Appeal” gifts. These gifts are those that provide value for the opportunity and are not necessarily just based on gift size. For instance, a lobby will hold more “curb appeal” than say a large industrial kitchen located in the back of a facility hardly ever seen by the general public.
Step #6 – Match the top “Curb Appeal” gift with naming opportunity that is the largest on the list, etc.
Step #7 – Be sure to present this Donor Recognition Plan to the Board to ensure that they approve of your plans. Ensure that the Board votes to approve this plan. Don’t skip over this step! You need the Board’s support.
There are also other ways that you can recognize your donors. For instance, you can recognize mid-level to lower-level givers with a group plaque, listing in the print donor honor roll, or on the organization’s website. You may also choose to run brick and pavers or wall tile program. And, inevitably, you will recognize all of your donors at a post-campaign celebratory event.
One thing that you do need to ensure is that you are consistent with how you recognize your donors. Everyone needs to be treated equally regarding what his or her gift will afford in a named gift opportunity.
And, now the organization is ready to begin asking for gifts from donors using these different named gift opportunities as a way to motivate donors to step up their giving to the campaign.
Now that it is development planning season for many with the start of a new fiscal year looming, I am often asked, where do you start first when putting together your development plan and calendar.
Well, for me, I start at the beginning. I tend to look at the key metrics and how past Return on Investment (ROI) has been for each fundraising activity including events, appeals, major gifts, etc., etc., etc. By looking at ROI, you will determine whether or not a particular activity is effective or not. It prevents that “well we have always done it this way” or “we hold this event every year, so we can’t stop it now.” It allows you to keep the proverbial “winners” while deciding to eliminate those activities that are not as effective or are not meeting best practices.
I should add a disclaimer before I go on that – not all activities have a sole purpose of raising money! So, specific metrics would need to be developed for those particular activities.
So what are some of those key metrics and how do you calculate them?
I start by gathering:
# of pieces – # of pieces mailed to select group of the database or number of direct requests
# of gifts – # of gifts received by mailing or number of donors responding with gifts
Gross income – Income without expenses calculated or values of gifts and contributions received
Expenses – expenses of mailing including copywriting, design, mailing services and postage or amount of fundraising budget spent
Then I calculate:
Net income – Expenses minus gross income
Participation rate – # of participants divided by total solicitations
Average gift – Divide revenue received by participants
Average cost per gift – Divide expenses by participants
Cost of fundraising – Expenses divided by revenue
Net ROI – Net income divided by expenses; multiplied by 100 for percentage rate of return
I put this all in a spreadsheet document with like appeals spanning a number of years together i.e. Spring Appeal 2012, 2013, 2014, 2105, etc. So that ROI comparisons can be easily made. If you would like a sample copy of this Appeal Comparison spreadsheet to use for your purposes, email me here!
Then from there, I evaluate all of this data against Industry Best Practices in terms of Solicitation Activity Reasonable Cost Guidelines as found below.
Solicitation Activity Reasonable Cost Guidelines
Direct mail (acquisition) $1.00 to $1.25 per $1.00 raised Direct mail (renewal) $0.20 to $0.25 per $1.00 raised Special events $0.50 per $1.00 raised Volunteer-led personal solicitation $0.10 to $0.20 per $1.00 raised Corporation and Foundation Grants $0.20 per $1.00 raised Capital campaigns/ Major Gifts $0.05 to $0.10 per $1.00 raised Planned Giving $0.20 to $0.30 per $1.00 raised
If an activity meets the Reasonable Cost Guidelines then it is a keeper, if not, then it is time to evaluate why. Don’t throw an activity out solely on not meeting these guidelines, especially if you have other “goals” in mind for the particular strategy, but do be conscious of this in your planning process.
One may think that there are only a limited number of donors to go around, but think again.
In my work, I assist small to mid-sized organizations in running their first capital campaigns. Many do not have established donor bases to tap into for an already existing pool of major donors. So, I assist. And, I am here to say that yes, you too can, even in your small nonprofit, develop a list of 25 or more possible major donors to your organization.
I am going to take you step by step on how to begin establishing that prospect list for your nonprofit organization and then share with you some next steps on how to prioritize that list.
Here are the steps you can take to develop your prospect master list:
Use informal organizational networks including organizational friends and family members i.e. Board members, staff, volunteers, etc. to identify prospects within their respective networks who have both wealth and affinity for the cause.
Ask your current donors when meeting with them if they know of anyone else who may support the cause.
Research prominent donors to other similar organizations who may be making small gifts to your organizations. It is helpful to obtain copies of their annual reports, newsletters, and even event programs to see the giving levels of the prospective donors. Annual reports may be found online or hard copy by request.
Research who has been attending your events. There are folks here who already know of your mission and may be willing to deepen their relationship with you.
Research others who live in your community who might give to you using voter, property (Grand), the local chamber of commerce, houses of worship, and other lists.
So now what do you do when you have all this information?
Here is what I recommend:
Cull through all these lists to create a Master List of prospects whom you think “make the cut” regarding any possibility of capacity, affinity, or connection.r
Let me define these for you.
Capacity – ability to give
Affinity – philanthropic to a similar cause or interest
Connection – involvement in your organization
Once you have this Master List developed then work with the fundraising/development committee, Board of Directors, or other volunteers (they should know folks in the community) to rate and rank each donor during a rating session to determine potential giving capacity, interest, and affinity.
And, from there you have a Master List of the top 20-25 prospective donors to your organization. Even the smallest of non-profit organizations should be able to come up with a Master List of at least 25 potential donors after following these steps.
So, your consultant has just finished your capital campaign feasibility study. The report is sitting on your desk, and you are wondering, where do I go from here?
Here are some possibilities:
The report may recommend that the organization takes some time to prepare its fundraising infrastructure before going into full campaign mode. Preparation may include things such as strengthening volunteer leadership, identifying campaign chairs, enhancing their fund development office, etc. The organization should take the time to heed these recommendations and work either internally or with the/a consultant to strengthen some of the key identified areas before mounting a full capital campaign effort.
In some cases, the report may recommend that the organization move into full capital campaign mode. In that case, the agency should seek to hire outside counsel either the firm that conducted the feasibility study process or another fundraising firm specializing in capital campaign management.
This report should be presented to the Feasibility Study Committee for review and once accepted by this committee; the committee should then give the report to the organization’s full Board of Directors for approval. Once the Board approves, it should move to act on the recommendation found in the study.
In no shape or form, should this study be allowed to slip away or be placed on a shelf somewhere. Time for action is now. You do not want to lose the interest of donors and other key community members who have been part of the process and in some senses cultivated for a capital campaign effort.
In fact, the organization should share an abbreviated format of the study with these key donors and community members, and seek their opinions and possible engagement in the findings and campaign next steps. The worst thing that can happen is that momentum is built through the study process and then grinds to a halt.
Accept the report, begin recommendation implementation, and engage key stakeholders throughout the process.
I often get asked from my clients, how many touchpoints do you need to give to a donor at a certain level?
And, my answer – it varies.
There is some science to the whole matter. In fact, after I conduct a rating and ranking session, I will combine all of the numbers and come up with a formulaic cultivation quotient. The number of touches estimated for a particular donor’s rating score and ranking.
To me, that is a guide. What we must remember is that each donor is an individual. They have different motivations for giving, different ways that they would like to be recognized, and different things that they are interested in giving to support. And, that means that they all have different cultivation and stewardship needs as well. So, while I could say that the cultivation quotient for Mrs. Smith came out to 20 touches per year, she may not want to be contacted or that involved with the organization.
I advocate that each necessitates a thorough review and a particular strategy custom and unique for them. And, often, it takes a wise fundraiser who has been in conversation with the donor to recognize what is or is not important to them.
Now, I am not advocating that we throw the “moves management” system of relationship-building out. However, what I am recommending instead is that we seriously advocate instead for a very donor-centered process that takes in the uniqueness of each donor into the “moves management” equation when developing strategies for cultivation and stewardship. Let’s not reduce our donors down to formulas, quotients, or tactics. They are people – unique and compassionate!
Technical skill or personality, which is most important when hiring a new director of development?
That is a great question.
And, while ideally, both would be great, that is not always a guarantee.
So what do you look for in this case?
While just about anyone can have the skill set of a fundraiser, not everyone can have the temperament to be a superior director of development. It takes personality to make a professional difference. And, let’s be honest, not everyone has personality.
What kind of personality?
Well, development professionals must have a temperament suited to serving people’s needs. They must be attentive, persistent, and flexible. They need to have a thick skin and be willing to give others credit. A huge piece of the job is making others look good while taking the back seat to their ego. When they do their job well, no one knows it. They make an indirect not a direct contribution to accomplishments and very rarely if ever take the credit.
The best development professionals are servant leaders, putting the needs of the organization and those that they serve ahead of their very own. They are the voice of the donor within the organization and as a profession as a whole.
Since they are that voice for the donor, I then ask, what is it that donors expect in that person?
A recent article published on Guidestar stated that donors want someone who is passionate and enthusiastic about the mission, has high standards of integrity, authenticity, self-confidence, and most importantly someone who loves their work and shows it by their willingness to pay the price to get the job done with joy.
So don’t hire based just upon skill sets or certifications alone. You might not be satisfied with what you get. Delve deeper to determine if this person has the right attitude, temperament, and belief that will take your organization to the next level and meet the needs of your donors.
Shall I dare say, good development directors are not as easy to find? But bad ones are!