One thing that continues to shock me is the lack of basic preparation of many nonprofit leaders that hobbles many small-and medium-sized organizations. Sometimes really fundamental stuff, such as sending out thank you acknowledgments for donations received are simply not done. Further, other activities that could go a long way towards increasing the amount and frequency of donations are equally ignored. These steps require NO money, but some common sense and thoughtfulness.
I hear many complaints about how to find money, how to keep it coming in and the constant need for more. But basics such as acknowledging and developing the current donor base can be overlooked as pressure to find a ‘big’ donor or large corporate sponsorship increases. How many times have you been told you need to find a celebrity?
In my past, I was a credit manager for a large apparel manufacturer; our clothes were in all the stores from huge to tiny. My experience was the little stores paid their bills on time, didn’t demand special concessions and didn’t desert the line if the styles cooled some. Your donors are the same way, pay attention to the steady regular donors, cultivate them and cherish them. They are keeping your doors open, your machine humming and your mission in reach.
Thank You Basics:
First off, as a 501c3, (which means you are tax-exempt and the donor is entitled to deduct donation this from their taxes) your donor expects and deserves an immediate acknowledgement and receipt for that gift. This can be generated automatically by your online system, and if you don’t have one, make it your business to get this done first thing. It will improve and streamline your record keeping and assure your donor of your prompt attention.
A note: be sure your receipts and recordkeeping reflect as much information about the gift as possible, along with date and amount, record the campaign, and any notes such as if the donation was in honor or someone. The creation of a rich database about your donors will important for your long term financial stability.
Secondly, take the time to thank you donor directly. If you send form letters, add a line of your own; send a short note in a card, or, if the gift warrants it, pick up the phone. Think how you feel when you receive a sincere thanks, and give this to your donors. While I am a fan of email and do think there is a place for email thank you’s, my personal experience has been the time invested in personal attention is well worth it.
Not Done Yet, By Long Shot:
Although the word has been nothing if not abused, the gift you have received a part of the relationship you now have with this donor. All relationships require effort, this is no different. What does your donor expect from this gift? Keep them updated with information about your progress and news. Share with your donors and make them partners in your work.
How: the obvious such as a newsletter, updating your website, the use of social media for quick updates. Does this take time? Yes, and worth every second. This is the message you send your donors about how much you care, and this is the message they convey when they speak of the organization.
You know how you feel whens someone treats you like a checkbook: when they need something they are there and then you don’t hear from them again until next year. Even if the donation is small, that person chose to give it; honor that. Make your donor feel special and recognized for their choice to support you- and they are so much more than a check book or credit card.
What is Best for Your Organization? A Plan, of course!
The best method for maintaining communications with your donors outside of your campaigns depends on many qualities that are particular to you. Your mission, your staff, your programs, all of these can determine how this is done, but it is critical to start with a plan. Determine your policies and rules regarding donations and communications- how frequently, what type and when.
If this plan requires tweaking, that is always an option, but having a basic program that does more than send an email receipt will keep your donors engaged and giving. Follow your plan; the cliché of ‘plan your work and work your plan’ really applies here. Be sure your protocol is followed always; a good basic discipline will allow you to build and develop this donor relationship as it will be based on respect and appreciation.
Call me on 310 828 6979 or contact me to find out how I can help you and your organization