Stop asking, start listening

ListenStop asking for donations every time you connect with a donor. Stop only making phone calls to donors when you are asking for a sponsorship donation. Stop only asking a donor out for coffee when you are asking them to support a new project.

Now is the time to stop asking and start listening to donors. To achieve long-term success with fundraising, it is important to build relationships with donors. Through engaging donors in conversations and listening to donors, you can cultivate and nurture donor relationships. These strong relationships can lead to high levels of lifetime giving from donors.

To intentionally start listening to donors, the first step is to identify ten donors you plan to engage in individual conversations. Start with the ten donors with highest cumulative giving, the ten most recent donors or the ten donors with the highest frequency of donations.

After identifying the donors, enlist the support of fellow staff members, board members or volunteers who will meet with and listen to the identified donors. This is a particularly great opportunity for board members to participate in the fundraising process as it is a very comfortable and low-pressure way to interact with donors.

Divide up the list of identified donors and ask each listener to commit to meeting with 2-4 of the donors during the next month. Provide a list of questions to each listener, and reiterate the importance of listening to the donors during these conversations. It is important to capture the donors’ ideas and then report those comments back to the organization to be documented in the donor database.

During the conversation with each donor, the listener can take note of donor’s responses to these questions:

  • Why did you first make a donation to XYZ organization?
  • Why do you care about our organization’s work with XYZ?
  • What is your experience with XYZ organization’s work?
  • What are your thoughts on how XYZ organization should move forward in our community?
  • What do you think the best strategy is for us to fundraise for XYZ organization?

Through engaging in conversations with donors, one can uncover the donors’ motivations for giving and interests, which can enable the organization to tailor future cultivations and solicitations for the individual donors. The conversations can also provide advice and guidance for the organization to help shape strategic decisions. In addition, the conversations strengthen the donors’ and the listeners’ relationships with your organization.

It is time to start listening.

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Christmas in July: Plan now for end of year giving

FundraisingChristmasWith the calendar year half over, now is the time to prepare for the largest month of fundraising. According to the Network for Good Digital Giving Index, approximately one-third of all annual giving occurs in the month of December, making it a significant month for fundraising. Explore these strategies to prepare your organization for maximum end-of-year fundraising success.

Personally visit top donors
Identify your organization’s top individual donors who have not yet donated this calendar year, and plan personal visits with each of them. Invite them on a tour of your program site or visit them at their home or office. This is a great opportunity to personally thank donors for their gifts and review with donors what they have accomplished with their past giving through a donor-centric approach to the discussion.

Prepare your website
Ensure your website is ready to attract and process online donations. Review the placement of your website donation button to ensure it is large and high on the webpage so it can be easily located by donors. To increase the prominence of the donation button on the webpage, experts agree that the donation button should be a color different than the rest of the website. Test the online donation process to ensure there are no technological glitches in the system.

Jumpstart end of year fundraising with #GivingTuesday
Taking place December 2, 2014 – the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – #GivingTuesday harnesses the power of social media to create a national moment around the holidays dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are synonymous with holiday shopping. Prepare now to mobilize your organization’s supporters to join the online movement through utilizing the free #GivingTuesday tools and resources.

Capture your stories
A transformational story creates a personal connection for donors. Start gathering details now for a story that focuses on the people behind the issues. Talk to volunteers, staff and program recipients to capture captivating stories, videos and images that can be shared with donors during December. Read 10 tips for writing your nonprofit story.

Expand your prospect list
Add additional names and addresses to your prospect list for end-of-year giving. Include the names and addresses of attendees at special events. Collect names and addresses at community and volunteer fairs. Ask board members to identify potential donors and provide names and addresses. Finally, remember to add the names of current volunteers to the prospect list. Remember, the number one reason individuals do not donate is that they are not asked.

Avoid the Christmas rush. Through early preparations you can maximize resources to support your organization during the end-of year fundraising season.

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35 ways to thank your donors

ThanksDonor stewardship is a critical component of the fundraising cycle. Through providing prompt and personal thank you messages to donors, nonprofit organizations can show gratitude for donations received and nurture donor relationships to foster future support. It is a promising practice to thank donors 7 times, before asking for another donation.

Consider these strategies to thank donors:

  1. Write a handwritten note
  2. Host a donor appreciation event
  3. Provide donors with a photograph of a service beneficiary holding a “thank you” sign
  4. Post a thank you message on the nonprofit’s Facebook page
  5. Invite board member to make thank you phone calls to donors
  6. Invite donors to coffee and share updates on what was accomplished with their donation
  7. Invite a donor to breakfast with the board chair for a peer-to-peer thank you
  8. Mail a newspaper clipping of a recent article to a donor and thank the donor for the support to make the project possible
  9. Take donors on a tour of your program to highlight the impact of their donation
  10. Give donors a token gift for a nontraditional holiday
  11. Endorse your donors on LinkedIn for skills including philanthropy, nonprofit, and causes related to your mission
  12. Deliver a plant to a donor thanking them for helping to grow your organization’s impact in the community
  13. Mail your newsletter to donors inside hand-addressed envelopes with a personal thank you note paper-clipped to the front
  14. Create a Vine, Animoto or Flipagram thank you video
  15. Publicly thank donors from the podium at a special event
  16. Mail a certificate of appreciation to the donor
  17. Tweet a thank you message on Twitter
  18. List donor names in the organization’s newsletter with a thank you message
  19. Invite service recipients to make thank you phone calls to donors
  20. Mail Thanksgiving Day cards to donors letting them know that your organization is thankful for their support
  21. Nominate a donor for a local philanthropy award
  22. Send a “donation update” email letting donors know how their gift is making an impact
  23. Start a donor wall
  24. Record a YouTube video thank you message from program recipients and send it to donors
  25. Send birthday cards to donors thanking them for their support throughout the year
  26. Include a donor list in the affiliate’s annual report
  27. Provide a window decal to businesses so they can proudly display their support of your organization
  28. Go Christmas caroling to visit and thank donors
  29. Present a plaque to a donor recognizing ongoing support
  30. Include a featured donor profile in your newsletter
  31. Print sponsor logos in event programs
  32. Create a virtual donor wall on your organization’s website
  33. Create thoughtful projects from Pinterest for unique gifts to deliver to donors
  34. Send a copy of the organization’s annual report to a donor with a post it note on it thanking the donor for supporting the organization
  35. Celebrate a donor’s ten year giving anniversary

Through thanking donors, you can strengthen the relationship between donors and your organization, which can lead to increased financial donations in the future.

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