As a fundraiser, I’m keenly sensitive to how I act and am treated as a donor. I’ve shared before how last December, I joined the 60 percent of donors who become former donors to the charities they had been supporting.
This was a tough decision to make. I am grateful for the ability to support organizations doing really important work. But despite donating to some nonprofits for years, a few of them made me feel like a checkbook, not a partner in achieving their respective missions. So I voted with that checkbook, giving instead only to the nonprofits that made me feel valued and to new (to me) organizations I’d started volunteering with.
What’s the moral of this story? In the race to the year-end finish line, I encourage you to take two steps that can make a difference for both your long game and your immediate goals.
First, refresh your focus (and your team’s!) on fundraising as relationship building.
Donors are not just giving money. They are making a deliberate decision to connect with you and become part of your world. So carve out a little time now, in the remaining days of 2018, to run a donor report and see who has yet to make a personal gift. Call them. Tell them you miss them. Share updates of all the great things you did because of their support. Invite them to join you with a year-end gift. And ask your board to make a few calls or write a few notes. Hopefully you have been connecting with your donors throughout the year. But even if you could do a better job staying in touch with your donors, still pick up the phone and tell them how awesome they are. That personal outreach will likely make a difference in your revenue totals. I can assure you that if I had received a personal note or call from any of those organizations whom I stopped supporting, I’d likely have made a gift to them.
Second, prepare now to start the New Year with an assessment of your fundraising in the final quarter of 2018.
I don’t mean just by tracking revenue raised. Rather, look at who your donors were and weren’t. Use the start to a new calendar year to engage and build strong(er) donor relationships by showing you’re paying attention to them.
Did you have new donors (either first-time or lapsed donors who returned)? Did some donors upgrade their support? Call or visit as many of these donors as you can to thank them and find out what motivated their new or increased gifts. Better yet, some of your board members can make these calls. Send first-time and returning donors a welcome packet that makes them feel special and appreciated. You might also conduct wealth-capacity screening to identify which of these donors has potential for a larger commitment, and then customize a cultivation strategy to bring them closer to your organization.
Who didn’t support you with a gift? Find out why your larger and longstanding donors didn’t include you in their philanthropic plans in 2018. Understanding what drove their decision to pause their giving is important for you to know and could lead to renewed support down the road.
Meeting budget deadlines can feel like an episode of The Amazing Race. It doesn’t need to be this way. Use each month as another 30 days to build connections, show gratitude and appreciation, and shower your supporters with good old-fashioned “donor love.”
When your donors feel like they are seen and appreciated, they stick around. Trust me, I know.
Barbara O’Reilly, CFRE, has 25 years of fundraising experience at major nonprofit organizations including Harvard University, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Oxford University in England, and the American Red Cross. She has experience developing successful relationships between donors and nonprofits through annual funds, capital campaigns, major gifts from high net-worth individuals and corporations, direct mail, and stewardship.