Donor Cultivation: More Important Than Ever
Donor cultivation is more important now than ever before. We know that donors support on average 11 nonprofit organizations. And in this uncertain economy, when donors are likely to curtail their support, you want to make sure that you have created the strongest relationship possible with your donors — so you stay at the top of their list for charitable dollars.
How do you do this? Not surprisingly, it’s like cultivating and maintaining a good friendship.
Start the relationship right. Every organization thanks donors for their gifts, but if you do it quickly, they will be much more likely to remember you. Get your thank you letters out within 48 hours, if possible — or a week, at the most. New donors are excited about supporting you, so send a meaningful welcome kit that provides more information about your organization, and other ways to participate — such as volunteer opportunities, and information on your monthly donor program. If possible, set up a new donor track so donors receive one of your strongest appeals as their first mailing, after their welcome package.
Make Every “Thank You” Count. Be sure to let donors know how their gift was used and how grateful you are. Make sure your letter reflects the appeal to which the donor gave. At higher levels, include a live signature, and write a personal note, if possible. (Smaller organizations can do this at all gift levels — which is terrific!) A handwritten carrier will really help your letter stand out in the mail.
Respect your donors’ privacy. Regularly offer donors the chance to opt out of having their name exchanged. And get ahead of the curve by complying with the DMA’s new Commitment to Consumer Choice: offer donors the opportunity to reduce the number of mailings they receive from you. Make sure your donor services department is set up to honor requests about mail frequency and privacy. Get back to your donors right away to let them know that their requests have been noted.
Stay in touch. Monitor your communications calendar to make sure that you are writing regularly. Think about the sequence of appeals, newsletters, on-line communications and telemarketing calls from your donor’s point of view — to ensure that they work together.
Not every letter should include an ask. Schedule one or two contacts a year just to share information about your work — but not ask for money. Tell your donors that they are important to you, and that’s why you are sharing special information with them. And of course, thank them for making your work possible!
Invite them for a visit. Invite donors to events designed to showcase your work: a behind-the-scenes tour, for example, or a special holiday meal for your clients. Most will probably decline to attend, but will be pleased to have been asked — and will feel closer to your organization.
Following these strategies can ensure that in good times and bad, your donors will continue to maintain and grow the relationships that are so important to both of you!
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Integrating Email into Your Year-End Messaging
It’s only September, but everyone is thinking about year-end fundraising. But while you may have planned every nuance of your mail package or telemarketing script, your year-end messaging isn’t complete without an email!
Donors are increasingly active online, and email is an essential communication tool. Even if they don’t usually contribute online, your donors will likely respond better by mail when email is used to support the mail. Email communications are inexpensive, fast and easy to create, and can give your year-end campaign the boost it needs to succeed.
These are some of the principles that can help make your email a success:
- Make the email message personal. If you can, use your donor’s name in the body of the message. The donor will be less likely to perceive it as junk email and delete your message.
- Write an effective subject line. It should be short and clear and provide a reason for the donor to read the message.
- Keep it short! Your message must be long enough to make the case, but short enough for the donor to skim it quickly. Don’t forget to add links with video, photos, petitions - and, of course, to donate!
- Put the focus on the donor. The message should motivate the donor to give — by making your organization relevant to the donor.
- Last, MAKE IT EASY TO GIVE! We cannot stress this enough. A fundraising email should have several links (at least 3) that go directly to your donation form. Make it easy for the donor - and easy for you.
Once you send your email, don’t forget to add a follow-up email a few days later to people who haven’t opened the first email. Using a different subject line can be an effective way to encourage people to open this second email.
Now, you have written your message, are you ready to hit SEND?
Well, maybe not. Are your email addresses valid? Have you given donors the opportunity to opt out of getting email? As with direct mail, your offer is only as good as the list it is sent to. You need to take the time for file hygiene. Today, there are many reputable vendors that offer email address append services to match current, valid email addresses to your donor file.
One last tip: commit to making email communication a regular part of your fundraising strategy. Online communication is immediate and these days so many donors are flooded with messages. Donors need to hear from you on a regular basis (not just at year-end!) in a consistent format in order to cut through all the e-traffic.
With these short tips in mind, develop your year-end strategy, and hit SEND!
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Are you Ready for the CCC?
The DMA recently announced The Commitment to Consumer Choice (CCC), a new standard that all DMA member organizations must abide by as of February 2009.
As you may know, the Commitment to Consumer Choice is an effort by the DMA to empower consumers and donors and strengthen their trust by giving them choices on how we as direct marketers communicate with them.
Giving our donors the opportunity to modify the way we communicate with them is good donor stewardship. Even groups who are not DMA members should test incorporating this language because donors will soon become accustomed to these options — and will come to expect them.
Most groups probably already have something like this in place - whether formally or informally. The question we tried to answer is: How will these new requirements affect our mail programs, especially since they apply to prospect mailings as well. If given the option, will prospective donors start contacting nonprofits and demanding (more so than now) to be taken off their list?
To determine the impact of the CCC language in an acquisition mailing, we tested including it on the back of the reply form for one of our clients. It turns out … it wasn’t so bad.
The test was simple. We added one sentence underneath the credit card box that said:
“We strive for accurate, respectful and informative communications. If you would like to modify your mailing preferences, please call us at 1-800-123-4567.”
The language is very broad and almost goes unnoticed on the reply form. Of course, we know that even the most minor alterations to a mail piece can impact response dramatically. But, this did not have a negative impact!
- The organization did not experience an increase in donor services calls
- Response rate was actually 3% higher on the test panel (not statistically valid)
- Average gift was 8% higher on the test panel (not statistically valid)
It turns out that giving potential donors the option of making a choice might be good for your mail! At the very least, it doesn’t seem to hurt. While this test didn’t yield statistically significant results, we feel comfortable adding the language to this acquisition control package once the requirement takes effect.
Next up … a test of in-house mail and renewals. Will active donors have a different response? Stay tuned.
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New USPS Requirements Promise Better Delivery
Do you find you’re not getting all the gifts you projected? If so, it’s possible that your donors have moved and you don’t know about it. In fact, the United States Postal Service (USPS) reports that more than 44 million people change their addresses each year!
To alleviate the $1.85 billion* (yes, that’s with a b) in costs associated with undeliverable mail, the USPS has changed some important requirements to help ensure that lists are as clean as possible.
All data lists must be updated using NCOA processing within 95 days of mailing. This is a big change from before, where the processing could be within 185 days. This will mean that you have verified that the name/individual to whom the mail is addressed actually resides at that address.
The easiest processing is NCOA, but your service provider (who should be adept at USPS lingo and requirements) should also be able to recommend others that you could use.
So, be sure to have your mail file NCOA processed within 95 days of your mail date. Not only will your results be what you expect by having more deliverable mail, but you’ll also be saving money and the environment by not having paper waste.
For more information on the “Move Update,” please visit: http://ribbs.usps.gov/files/Move_Update or contact your account representative today!
* USPS costs for handling undeliverable mail in FY2004.
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LMN&C Welcomes Reading Is Fundamental!
We would like to welcome Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) to Lautman Maska Neill & Company as one of our newest partners.
RIF is a nonprofit organization offering programs that help spark children’s interest in reading. RIF programs were started in 1966, and they are now operating in all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
With the help of community volunteers in every state, RIF provides 4.5 million children with 16 million new free books. Today RIF is the nation’s largest nonprofit children’s and family literacy organization.
RIF programs are funded through the generous support of countless individuals, community organizations, foundations, corporations and a grant from the U.S. Dept of Education.
We are happy to have the opportunity to work with such a wonderful organization. We look forward to having a bright future with Reading Is Fundamental.
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