Tag: blog

Keep thanking: How to keep donors using thank you cards, phone calls, and emails.

There is constant chatter on thanking donors on LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s the topic of amazing sessions at conferences. Around every corner is a reminder to thank our donors.

Here’s another one. Please remember to thank your donors.

Remember that to me, as a consultant and as a donor, the auto-email from an online donation doesn’t count as a thank you. That’s a receipt. I suggest you consider a more personal way to thank someone who has just given. I also would add that these suggested ways to thank donors work really well for any type of thanking, including, say receiving a check.

“A check?”, you ask. Many still donate this way, and a thank you upon receipt is a great way to express gratitude but also lets the donor know that you have received their donation.

Thank you notes are wonderful. Yes, there is a cost and time capacity for them, and I think the payoff is worth it. I have been surprised by how much I love receiving a thank you note. My all time favorite was from a board member I know who took the time to write the most gracious, kind note.

Phone calls are personal and super easy. I make thank you calls in between other work projects. I often suggest to clients that a great time to make a phone call to thank a donor is right after a program meeting one attended when so much of the mission’s impact has been talked about.

Email definitely works, and is the least personal of these. But it does work, and is definitely better than no thank you at all. Perhaps attach a photo or a report of some sort that exemplifies the impact of your mission so the donor gets a reminder of why they give in addition to the thank you. Some of my clients create a quick video thank you with their phone and add that to the email.

Thanking is not overated, and you can always make time to do it. It defnitely makes a difference as you build a life-long relationship with your donor.

Thanks for reading!

Fundraising during team transition

We’ve all been there. Someone on the fundraising team, (or the one person on the team!), is leaving. In the best of times this is well-planned out and a new hire begins quickly. In reality, especially these days, it can take forever to find a new fundraising team member and overall fundraising can be affected.

In many cases we can’t control a team member leaving (this will be another post!). We can control actions we take as son as we know someone is leaving.

First things first, have an updated job description avaialble for all team members. As one who checks job openings every week, I see many job descriptions that come across old, and I wonder how realistic they are to the position being offered. Responsibilities change and it’s important to include those when beginning a new search. Keeping job descriptions up to date will make it easier for you to begin a search, without having to have several people go over it before posting.

Next, ensure donations are being entered into your data system. For some organizations this may be simple as the head of devevlopment may have staff doing it. For one or two person teams make sure you take time to keep all data up to date.

Equally important is ensuring the process of expressing gratitude continues. Typically the head of development is the one doing this, so during transition have others making calls and sending emails, even if you need to bring in board members to help.

Lastly, create a list of outgoing fundraising appeals that were to go out or in the planning stages. It’s critical that any direct mail or e-appeals that were in planning stages continue. The main point here is that direct fundraising cannot stop during development team transition.

Thanks for reading. And if you find yourself in need of help during a team transition, let us know!

Another quick tip for nonprofit fundraising

A theme I’ve been working with on the Altrui YouTube site is “Reignite your fundraising”. These ideas are based on a conference session I used to do, and now a fundraising tip.

In nonprofit fundraising we talk a lot about thanking donors. This tip is after the thanking, basically the next step: share your impact. Here we let the donor know how we spent their donation, and the impact it had. Sharing impact is critical in building your donor relationship.

Depending on your organization and your capacity, try to share impact within four months of the donation. This can be an email or even a phone call. Keep in mind when donors know how their donation impacts your programs, your relationship with them grows and they have a chance to become even more interested in your mission.

Try it out!

If you’d like to see the videos about reigniting your fundraising, you can click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCttkHw_iEiM5WXlBP-rqjIg If you get somehting out of any of our videos, please subcribe!

Thank you for reading!

Helpful ideas for a nonprofit job search

As a nonprofit fundraising consultant, I’ve been fortunate to meet many nonprofit fundraising professionals who are in the midst of a job search.

Each of them have personal reasons for wanting to leave their current position, and there are many common denominators linked to their nonprofits. That’s for another post!

At Altrui, we have had clients ask us to support their efforts in finding a new member of their fundraising team. After being a part of many searches, there are ideas I’ve come up with that will help with your current job search.

First, there are always actions you can take before you begin your search. First is to completely rock at your current position. Nonprofit fundraisers who excel with their work, are trusted leaders, and make people feel positive create reputations that make a job search so much easier.

Another action you can take now is to strengthen your professional social media presence. For me this is LinkedIn and Twitter.

Also, unless you are in an awful situation at your current job (awful can mean all sorts of things), it’s typically best to search for a new job while currently employed.

Here are some ideas to assist you in your job search.

Resumes are still important. Typos still reflect badly on candidates. Also, long resumes become boring. Use your resume to highlight experiences that are helpful with the position you’re applying for. Keep it simple, clear, and direct. A resume should not create questions.

Bring in your personal and professional circles. Let everyone close to you know that you are in a job search and let them know what your perfect new position looks like.

Have three professional references ready. Don’t send them until requested.

Be fully prepared for an interview. I can’t express the importance of this enough. Know the nonprofit you’re applying with. Know their mission and their 990. Speak to the experiences required in the job description and your success in those areas. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are offered that opportunity. This is especially important if concerns come up during the interview.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to apply for a position that doesn’t exactly fit on paper. Passion with purpose and expereince go a long way. I have excitedly suggested a couple of candidates that were then offered the job even though on paper it did not seem like a perfect match.

Thank you for reading! I wish you the best of luck!

Tips for an amazing conference

Many of my colleagues and friends in the nonprofit world are in Las Vegas attending AFP ICON. I’m very new to AFP (just joined last month), and although I won’t be there I do have some ideas of how to make this conference even more amazing for those attending.

My tips for an amazing conference have mostly to do with actions to take once you get home. Conferences are filled with awesome speakers and an endless flow of information, ideas, and actions to take. What happens many times though is that, upon returning to the office, reality sets in and the business of the work takes over. Soon all of the wonderful notes, ideas, and business cards are in a drawer.

Here are my tips to help make your conference even more amazing!

First, keep track of everyone you meet. Take their card, connect with them on LInkedIn, or simply make a list to refer to. Once you get home calendar in contacts for all of them. It could be two or three a day, or a week. Don’t let all of these amazing contacts go. Reach out to them, and plan it.

Next, those notes! My last conference I typed notes right into a document. For the first time, I have actually referred to them many times. Take action on what you hurriedly typed in. Calendar ideas to take action on or meetings to present the possibility of these actions with your team.

Next, take time to connect with companies and people on social media. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn, so I focus my efforts there. If anyone I meet is on one of those platforms, I make sure I connect with them either during or after the conference.

Once social media is done, another tip in making your conference experience amazing is to calendar thank yous to people who taught you something mind-blowing or had some intense affect on you. Send a personal, hand-written note to thank them and let them know the affect they had on you.

Lastly, hold on to the excitement you felt during the conference. Don’t let anyone take that from you. If you learned a great way to plan your next direct appeal, try it!

The key with all of these is to keep the conference going, to take what you learned and those you met with you as you continue to make the world a better place back home at your nonprofit.

I hope this helps! Any questions, just email me at dan@altrui.org

Thank you fo reading! And if you’d like to see me in action at a conference, I’ll be attending the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference in San Antonio in October: https://nonprofitstorytellingconference.com/

An unforgettable thank you

Thinking about my experiences of how my organization has thanked donors, or how organizations I support have thanked me, there is an unforgettable experience that is at the top of the list.

I had made an ask of a donor who had not donated in three years. They hadn’t responded to anything I had sent. Add to this that they had donated before my time with the organization and didn’t know me.

One day I was making a call and the donor accidentally picked up the phone. They were in a rush to get out of the house with the kids, and could not speak. I asked if I could email them what I was going to speak about, and they said yes!

I emailed the ask. They had a couple of questions which I responded to quickly and soon they decided to give again. They doubled the size of their already large first gift. What a wonderful experience.

I asked my board chair to call them to thank them. This was a common occurence for me and them, so my board chair knew what to do and made the call.

The donor answered!

Immediately after the call, the donor called ME!

They said they had given hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past many years, to several organizations, and had never received a thank you call from a board chair. This of course made my heart swell, mainly because they were taking the time to thank me, and share how they felt about an action that was common place for our fundraising team.

I left that organization to create Altrui, and am ecstatic that that donor continues to generously give.

A simple thank you can catapult your relationships with your donor.

Thanks for reading!

Your fundraising plan – tips on donor retention

The basic idea around donor retention, and why I like it included in any fundraising plan, is that it is easier (and cheaper) to keep a current donor rather than try to find a new donor.

Of course we’re not talking about just one donor. We want to think about donor retention in a way of treating our donors that we have in a way that they will donate again. And again.

This post could go on and on about donor retention, and I’ll leave you with just a few ideas about what has worked for me.

First, I highly recommend a database for your donor data. There are many options, and I’m sure there is one to fit your capacity and budget. Having a database with your donor information allows you to track donations, notes, contacts, and anything involved with you and your organization building a relationship with your donors.

Next, thank your donors. When I first started in nonprofit fundraising, a phrase I heard often was “thank before you bank”. Super simple idea. These days, many nonprofits count their online auto-thank you letter as a thank you. I don’t. That’s an acknowledgement of a donation. Your donor knows you received their donation. You still want to take a step to thank them, either by letter, email, or phone call.

Find out why your donor gives. There are several types of donors, and there are also people who simply just make a donation, with no intent to really give again. An example of this is a neighbor you’ve asked to sponsor you ina 5K run for a cause. They are giving because of you, not the cause. If they give again, now you have a donor and perhaps it’s more than just you!

You also have the donor who just loves your mission. They think that what your nonprofit is doing is making the world a better place, or another way of putting it is that you’re creating a world that they envision. These are donors who are with you, and easy ones to build life-long relationships with, if you take the time to do that.

Another idea that works for donor retention is to be transparent with your donors. That means sharing the good, the not so good, and the difficult. Donors don’t always need to know how awesome you’re doing or that all you have are successes. They definitely want to know your challenges as well, along with what gets in the way of your organization being able to have the most impact. Share it all with them. Whether it’s in a newsletter, a personal email, or over lunch, keep your donors in the loop.

My last idea for now is to share your impact. As a donor, I want to know that my giving makes a difference. Your donors are the same. Let them know what you’re doing with the funds you raise and what impact that has. Even if you try something and fall short, share it. Your impact changes things, things your donors want to see changed.

There you go! Try these! I’d love to hear about how you implement them.

Thank you for reading!

Your fundraising plan – reaching out to donors

Back to your fundraising plan!

As your donors, and your relationships with them, are critical parts of your fundraising success, making personal connections with your donors are actions you can take to support your fundraising plan.

When I speak with fundraising teams about this, there seems to be a little trepidation. In our world of nonprofit fundraising, it’s not possible to build lifelong relationships with donors without personal connections, and this includes actually meeting with your donor.

This is my favorite part of the job, and a great tool for your fundraising plan. Meeting in person with a donor can be as simple as meeting for coffee all the way to having lunch and a tour of your program facilities. I’ve played racquetball with donors and gone on hikes with donors. I wouldn’t suggest racquetball unless you’re better than I am!

In our field there are still many who feel uncomfortable meeting with donors. Our work is all about relationship building, and one really needs to be comfortable with all aspects of meeting with donors. Talk out your plan with a co-worker before you meet. Play a favorite song (I do this sometimes before a big donor call). The assumption is that you know the mission, the needs, the impact of their upcoming donation, and are passionate for the cause.

Aside from meeting in person, there are several other actions that can be part of your fundraising plan that include connections with donors. Thanking them of course is important. Let them know the success of a campaign they supported. You can also call or email just to check in. Contacts that have nothing to do with asking them for another donation are super important, and help grow the relationship. Even if all you can do is leave a voice mail, that’s a good step.

Your fundraising plan doesn’t need to include every action you want to take with donors, but do create some type of calendar for connecting with them. Remember that you can include your executive director and board in these communications. They don’t all have to come from you.

Go ahead… give a donor a call or send them an email inviting them to meet. No time like the present!

Thank you for reading!

Send your next e-appeal

As time flies when we’re having fun, today is a good day to consider your next e-appeal.

What the heck is an e-appeal some of you may ask? It’s simply a fundraising appeal sent via email.

If you can’t remember when you sent your last e-appeal, this tip is perfect for you. The main idea here is to make sure you are continually asking your supporters to donate.

I like short e-appeals. The perfect e-appeal for me is a quick greeting, a current need, and then an invitation to give.

A fundraising team doesn’t need to be big, and doesn’t need to have a lot of extra time to send consistent e-appeals. Quick messages letting your donors know what your need is and what the impact of their donation will be is all you really need. You can definitely take the time to send a longer e-appeal, I’m just letting you know that if you lack the capacity to do that don’t let it stop you from sending something out. It’s better to get an ask out rather than continue waiting until you have the perfect e-appeal ready to go. That day may never come.

Here’s an idea. Calendar an hour or two to leave the office. I recently rode my bike to a local coffee house and worked on an e-appeal (see photo above). Think about what you want to accomplish with this e-appeal, who you want to send it to, and what kind of impact you want to share. Finish a rock-star draft and then head back to the office and share with your team. Done.

Of course every team cannot finish an e-appeal this simply, but you get the idea.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding your next e-appeal!

Implementing your fundraising plan

Your fundraising plan is finished and now it’s time to take on another perceived difficult task: implementing it! You can relax, because implementing your fundraising plan is a process, not an event.

You can start slow.

A great way to start is to send a quick note of thanks to all who participated in the plan, sharing your gratitude and excitement to begin.

Then go right into one of the first tasks. That could be one of a dozen or so action items, and I suggest taking on one that is continual throughout the year. Let’s say e-appeals.

Taking on e-appeals could mean taking a good look at your email list, checking your open rates and your click-thru rates. It could mean beginning a new process of writing e-appeals and creating a schedule of when you want to send them, and why.

The key here is to begin implementing your fundraising plan.

The only way a fundraising plan does not succeed is if you do nothing with it. You have it right in front of you know, you spent a lot of time creating it, and now it’s time to actually implement it.

Go easy on you and your team, but do proceed. For me this is one of the many highlights of being in nonprofit fundraising. Implementing your fundraising plan will not only support your organization in building relationships and raising money for your impact, it will be fun.

Thanks for reading!

Hanging out with the board

By, board, I mean your board of directors.

By hanging out, I mean getting to know them and working with them.

You will see all sorts of opinions about boards of directors and board members. My experience is mostly that as a head of fundraising for nonprofit organizations. And it’s always been based in how can I work with them to build more relationships, spread the word about the organizations’ impact, and create sources of fundraising.

First things first, board fundraising. This seems to be the main topic at hand on social media media threads. Many of these include negative experiences or opinions on board members. It doesn’t have to be that way.

If your board is a fundraising board, it’s important to make sure they know that, and that new potential board members know. With your current board bring this up frequently and with new board members bring this up before they say yes.

Do board members need to commit to an annual, minimum donation? Just so you know, many answer yes to this question. My answer is always “it depends”. This may shock some, but in my time as the one held accountable for fundraising goals, I was much more interested in board members spreading the word of our impact, of their interest in our impact, and making introductions to others interested in our impact.

With new board members, meet them for lunch or coffee. Figure out how you can best work together. Suggest that they attend a finance committee meeting or two. Become a resource for them on all things mission.

Some board members will want to support your fundraising efforts, some may just want to write a check or fill a table at a gala. Meet them where they are at, always keeping in mind that you both have a passion for the mission and impact of the organization.

I have had my fair share of board members that I simply did not get along with. It happens. Just don’t get stuck there, and move on to relationships that are possible.

Keep in mind that your board members are volunteers, that their intentions are to support the organization in a way that works for them. They also more often than not want to have a positive impact on the mission of your organization.

The more people you can work with in supporting your fundraising and relationship building efforts the better. Your board is a great place to find them.

Thank you for reading.

Monthly donors

We donate monthly to a couple of organizations.

They made it easy for us. The online donation form gave us the option to make our donation monthly. I checked the box and every month on that date our donation is automatic.

On the same day we receive an auto thank you.

We donate monthly because the impact of the organizations mean a lot to us, and we realize that monthly (or any type of recurring) donations mean a lot to organizations, especially smaller ones (small as in size, not impact).

For nonprofits wanting more monthly donors, it isn’t a difficult path. Give your current donors an easy option, like the one we experienced. Let donors know how a monthly donation benefits you and your mission. What is the impact? And as with any other donation, thank in a timely manner. I also like that in January we receive an email from each organization with the total of our giving for the year prior.

Aside from the clear benefits of monthly donors, one of the benefits I find most appealing is that your donor is connected with you on a monthly basis. They see you in the bank or debit card statement, and they receive that quick thank you. This gives your donor a reason to remember why they give and to be grateful for your work.

If you don’t offer monthly giving on your website, try it. Make it easy. If you don’t include the option on your appeals, try it.

It will pay off for you, those you serve, and your donors.

Thank you for reading!


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