It’s December 18th.  Your year-end giving plans have been executed and you are checking the mail daily.   As you thumb through the checks you are probably seeing many familiar names—past donors who are generously renewing their support.

Even more exciting?  The names you don’t recognize.  New donors whose reason for giving may be something of a mystery.  Were they touched by a message in a mailing? Were they served by your organization or related to someone who was?  What motivated them to pick up a pen and write that check?  Perhaps more importantly, how can you make sure they do it again…and again?

This time of year it is all we can do to simply make sure that each gift is recorded and processed.  That’s obviously your first priority.  But, have you given any thought to how you can effectively convert these first time donors to loyal benefactors? How you can make your organization stand out from others to which your donors contributed?   How can you seize the moment, taking advantage of the fact that the donor responded to your request.  In short, how can you ensure that this new relationship lasts forever?

Your response to this first gift is your best chance to do this.  Way too many organizations still just send the perfunctory thank you letter, especially if the gift is under $100.  While some organizations have more personal programs in place, such as calls to new donors or donors over a certain threshold, many still feel they have neither the time nor resources to do anything besides a letter.

While that certainly meets your obligation (and a letter should, indeed, be promptly sent), stopping at that doesn’t let new donors know just how much you value—and need—them.  And, if your reason for not doing more is that you can’t afford to, then I might suggest that you can’t afford not to.  Consider these vertical-specific options:

Schools or Universities

Before students escape for the holidays, select a handful to  make some “thank you” calls over break.  Don’t have a cache of callers?  Look for campus organizations that require member service hours.  On the high school level Key Club and National Honor Society are two examples, while sororities and fraternities are often looking for service projects.  Take a little time to choose young men and women who can articulate your thank you message:  You value their support and want them to know just how it will be put to good use.

Health Care Organizations

Is there is an auxiliary or other volunteer group that is being underutilized?  These individuals care about your organization, probably know it well and may be great sources of assistance.  Again, take some time to do some basic training and take care not to overload any one individual—consider assigning each volunteer  5-7 calls.

Cultural and Other Organizations

Tap into volunteer groups here as well.  Docents, tour guides, board members and other volunteers probably know your mission and may be eager to call others interested in the organization.  Hardly anyone has trouble saying “Thank you!”   More than likely they will end up having some engaging conversations that will further enhance the new relationship.

Simply be creative—undoubtedly there are numerous ways to harness a little holiday energy and get the job done.  And, since these calls aren’t replacing your regular “thank you”—simply supplementing it—you have a little time.  Keep in mind your goal:  stand out from the crowd and let each and every new donor know that they are valued—and needed.  You might just find that your conversion rate from first time donor to loyal benefactor takes a significant jump.

Finally, please take time to de-stress and enjoy the season.  Too often the pace of the season erodes the magic.  From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

Let me know what your conversion plan includes.  Email me at laura.worcester@blackbaud.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Worcester, senior consultant at Target Analytics, joined Blackbaud in 2001.In her current role she advises nonprofits on utilizing screening results in identifying and evaluating best donor prospects. In 25+ years of fundraising experience, Laura has served as the chief advancement officer for numerous organizations and managed her own consulting business, providing grant writing services to arts, educational and health care organizations. She’s presented at development conferences and has been a regular contributor to Blackbaud’s blogs with selected posts being reprinted in journals such the NonProfit Times. A traveler since her study abroad days in Denmark, Laura’s committed to passing this enthusiasm on to her teenage daughters. Her family’s travel adventures were just featured in a neighborhood magazine in her suburban Milwaukee community. Contact Laura by email.

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