If you’re like most people, you thank people every day. You probably even say thank you to the waitress that gave you bad service. That’s just the way we’re wired. But when’s the last time you really said thank you? When’s the last time you wrote a thank you note?
For most of us it probably wasn’t that recently. You might not even remember when you last did it. With how busy we are its much easier to just send a quick e-mail or text message to thank a friend for something they’ve done. And while this is a nice gesture, it doesn’t have nearly the power of a hand-written thank you.
The same is true for your donors. They’re likely regular donors to many organizations. So they probably receive thank you letters at least monthly. Sure, most of these are personalized with their name, and maybe the area they supported. Some might even have a hand-written note or PS. But even that doesn’t have the power of a thank you note or card that’s actually hand-written. That comes from your heart.
As one example of how powerful a personal thank you can be I’ll share a story from one of our clients. The client had just received a $10,000 gift from a donor who’d only given smaller amounts in the past. The client has a policy that the highest ranking person on staff calls the donor as soon as a gift at that level is received. So they called. And when they did the donor told them ‘You’re going to be very happy you called today’. The donor went on to advise that he’d made five $10,000 gifts to five organizations he cared about, and he had an additional gift of $122,000 in stock that he was going to give to the first organization that thanked him. That was our client.
When you host an event, you see all sorts of passionate people come together to support your cause. And you might think these people have great potential to become a regular donor to your next direct mail campaign.
The truth is though, that these individuals tend to be passionate about the cause and passionate about possibly supporting a friend but unfortunately they generally do not have the same connection to your organization. When we talk about prospecting you would think that event donors are the best lists to turn to but in many cases they do not perform nearly as well as you may have thought. In fact, the response rate is likely lower than that of your rental or trade lists.
It is a slippery slope trying to convert these event donors into loyal direct mail donors but if you don’t at least try you may be missing out on some potential long-term loyal donors.
Last week summer, this week Christmas? Not quite, but now is the time that you want to start thinking about your holiday campaign. Particularly because you’re going to be integrating your direct mail with your other channels, right? Right?
If not, you certainly need to think about it. September – December is a big time for most organizations, and more and more donors are going online to make their holiday and year-end gifts. And if your organization isn’t planning your holiday campaign with all channels in mind then you’re simply losing out on revenue.
As summer is in full swing and the weather is hot many organizations take this time to ‘cool off’ from regular fundraising activities. Summer is the time when 3rd party events boom and walk-athons and golf tournaments take priority. People are going on vacations, reaching their maximum for spending on leisurely activities.
So how does an organization compete with all of these other donor priorities?
My advice to you is take summer as a time to focus on stewardship. It’s a struggle for me to comprehend, seeing that summer has just begun but the holiday season of giving is not that far away. Organizations will begin sending Christmas messaging in October and Thanksgiving messaging at the end of August. The competition in the mail from September to December is heavy so the summer is a time to give your donors a bit more breathing time and stewarding before you begin sending out the many holiday messages through multiple channels.
Take summer as a time to share with your donors exciting things that are happening at the foundation by sending out a Newsletter. Perhaps organize a small TM campaign that thanks donors for their supports and asks for a single or monthly gift.
Analyze the number of touch points that your donors are currently receiving and ensure you’ve got a good mix of asks and stewardship. In e-mail you should shoot for 3 stewardship/content e-mails for every ask.
Before you know it the summertime will have passed so allow your donors the time to enjoy it by showing them how much you care.
As a lot of you who have met Harvey will know, he reads. A lot. Every time you see him he will have a new book recommendation for you.
One of his recommendations this year is The Political Brain by Drew Westen. Have you read it?
Drew Westen’s research spans across two decades looking at the role of emotion in US presidential elections.
He studies campaign videos, live debates, advertisements and speeches. And he tells us why each worked well or failed miserably.
It is a fascinating book, and has the power to change the way elections are managed by competing parties. For those of you who are working towards campaigns in the run to the Federal Election in Canada, this book is a must read.
I recently looked further into his research on environmental messaging. And it makes perfect sense:
‘What resonates with people are not specific fuel standards or the mechanics of how a cap and trade system would work or the precise tonnage of carbon emissions per year. What moves them is a set of themes that bring the issue home to them: economic prosperity and jobs; energy independence and self-sufficiency; clean, safe, natural sources of energy that will never run out; getting pollution under control and making polluters pay for their own messes so we protect our health and the health of our children, preserve the majesty of our land, and reverse the deterioration of our atmosphere; harnessing American ingenuity and restoring American leadership; and protecting our legacy to our children the way our parents and grandparents protected their legacy to us.’
He goes on to suggest the following alternative wording in your campaigns, which will resonate more with your audience:
Canadians are known for many things. Maple syrup. Hockey. Saying sorry all too often. And of course, Justin Bieber (We really are sorry about that one…)
But Canadians are also unique for our giving habits. Some of the ways that we give are quite different from our friends in the south, and knowing Canadian giving habits is key to fundraising in Canada. Whether you’ve come to Canada from the US or abroad, or you were born in the Great White North (We actually don’t get nearly as much snow as some people think), the below list will help you understand some of the most important giving behaviours that make Canadians a little unique.
Canadians love to give to friends
Peer to peer fundraising in Canada is huge. In most major cities there’s runs, walks, bike rides, and other events happening weekly throughout the summer. All of these events are fueled by friends asking friends for money. And for Canadians this is very comfortable.
Looking at the global leaderboard for Movember last year Canadians accounted for 24% of worldwide donations. For a country of only 35 million this is quite impressive. And we were less than $1,000,000 behind the US in money raised, even though our population is 1/10th of theirs.
Do Canadians grow better beards than any other country in the world? Possible, but that seems unlikely. The success of events like this in Canada is simply because we love to support our friends in their charitable endeavours.
We don’t text to give
If you were to pull out a direct mail pack from any time prior to 2010 what are some things that you notice?
The pack likely is very basic in its design, possibly including a short teaser, “Your gift enclosed”, “Renew your support today” or an emotional quote. But what you probably wouldn’t see from back then is glossy paper, full bleed, full colour designs and the reality is that these very simple designs worked.
With online integration becoming more and more a part of every organization’s annual giving program has come a need to make things ‘pretty’ and rightfully so. Online, your presence needs to be attractive and easy to navigate. It needs images; pictures and design to stand out although what escapes us is in direct mail is this is not necessarily what’s going to set you apart.
As a foundation it is important to remember that your most loyal long-term donors are those that may not have grown up with colour TV. Flashy is not what they connect to. The reason they are loyal donors is because they love your foundation. They want to feel that emotion when they receive a direct mail piece from your foundation because that is their reassurance. That is what comforts your donors when making the decision to continue giving to your foundation.
Direct mail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon regardless of how progressive we become online. And many on the people on your donor file at this time are likely most comfortable with mail. This leads me to a few gentle reminders when developing your next direct mail piece:
There's been a lot of discussion lately around mid-level programs and the idea that for a long time these 'not quite annual, but not quite major' donors were being lost somewhere in the 'middle'. If you haven't read "The Missing Middle" report, I strongly recommend it. Click here for the link.
And so I asked my friend and fundraising peer, who happens to manage a mid-level giving program, "How are you keeping your mid-level donors from being 'lost in the middle?'" over dinner last night.
The reason I was particularly interested in asking this question is because my friend’s organization has developed a specialized program for mid-level donors so that they're no longer 'lost in the middle'. They have their own donor manager, their own communication channel and messaging, and their own highly personalized stewardship plan.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation that you might find interesting:
How many of your likes do you expect you’re reaching through your Facebook posts? 100%? 75%? 50%? The truth is that you’re likely only reaching 5-10% of your likes. Maybe 15% if you’re lucky. Why? Because this is exactly the way Facebook wants it.
They continue to refine their algorithm to ensure that the only way you can reach most of your supporters is through Facebook Advertising. Luckily though advertising on Facebook is still fairly inexpensive, and it’s something you should be testing for your charity.
There are three primary tools within Facebook advertising that you should be considering – Boosting your posts, increasing page likes, and sending people to your website. Each can be effective depending on what your purpose is.
Boosting a post (or multiple posts) is most effective for increasing your visibility and awareness. You can choose to boost your post to your likes (ensuring they all see it) or you can boost it beyond your own page, choosing demographic selections that work the best for you.
Increasing page likes is viable as an entry strategy if you eventually plan to boost posts to your likes. Just increasing your likes won’t do a lot of good on its own as you’ll only reach a small percentage of your actual likes. If one of the goals set out by your board is to increase the likes on Facebook this could be the tool for you.
Sending people to your website is most effective if you’re looking for donations. Be sure that if you are using this you send them to a page that clearly identifies your mission and provides an easy way to donate. Ideally this would already be part of your homepage, but if it’s not be sure you make the updates before testing.
I can’t count the number of times an organization has asked me something like ‘Our CEO wants to find younger donors. How can I use social media to acquire new 20 year old donors?’.
The truth is, you can’t. Social media is great for a lot of things, but it’s not the magic tool to help you find 20 year old donors that will give to your cause. This is because 20 to 30 year olds just don’t have the means to do so. They certainly care about your cause, and they’ll get involved if you ask them in the right way, but they’re not going to help you meet your fundraising targets. At least not in the short term.
If you build a good engagement strategy with these donors you will eventually convert them into financial donors. But this could be 10, 15, even 20 years down the road. So it’s important that when you’re setting targets for social media you keep your goals realistic. Set targets for increasing likes, shares, comments, etc. but don’t expect a big windfall of cash.
Yes, some organizations are starting to raise money through Facebook and other social media tools. Most of the success is coming from animal, environmental, and disaster relief charities. The Ice Bucket Challenge last year raised millions through social media, but this is not something that’s soon going to be replicated. In fact, it may never happen again.