A key factor to success for any non-profit is retention of donors and staff. In order to achieve a high retention we have to be conscious of the messaging we transmit not only outside of the organization but within. This two-part paper will look at seven key factors that we should be messaging to donors and prospects and within your organizations. Let’s first look at how we should be communicating to those outside of your organization.
- Balance Need With Stability – We have all been through tough times during the recession and meeting the fundraising goal is harder than ever. Be sure to not only communicate but appear to be stable with prospects and donors. Put yourself in the place of the donor. Would you want to donate to an organization that is screaming “The sky is falling?” Donors are already experiencing this – don’t introduce even more of this fear. I as a donor want to feel secure about the non-profit I am donating to. You want to be sure to balance this with the need for funding. I believe need is already being communicated by all non-profits but how is it being communicated? How does your need differ from the other non-profit down the street? What turns a prospect into a donor is being able to see and feel the need.
- Be Passionate and Don’t Speak the Lines – We all get into a certain pattern and this creates a sense of ease. Be mindful that you are not simply saying the lines over and over again. Are you communicating the same message to every donor? If you are, it is easy for that message to become stale. This is when the prospect is not feeling the need of your ask. In my former career I was an actor and when you do a show for 4 months it would be easy to just say the lines. One of the responsibilities of an actor is to make it fresh every night. The audience is paying for a great performance and a good show. When we translate this into fundraising, the gift officer needs to be passionate and fresh with their communication to every donor no matter what size of gift you are asking for. The donor is the audience so give them a great show!
- Donation = Impact – Donors now more than ever really want to see the impact their gift is making. If you want to retain a donor during slow economic times then you need to show the donor the impact their donation is making on your organization. This does not pertain only to the large 6 to 8 figure gifts but to those smaller annual gifts as well. Remember, a percentage of your major and planned giving prospects originally came from the annual fund. By showing the impact for those smaller gifts will keep them coming back and eventually increasing the level of their giving.
- Watch the Number of Solicitations – The last thing any of us appreciate is being bombarded with solicitations. So ask yourself the question, “Are we bombarding our prospects with solicitations?” If you do seven annual fund/direct mail solicitations a year then ask yourself is this still working. Is everyone receiving all seven? (Take a look at using Target Tags which may be a very useful tool for your organization as they help you determine how many mailings each prospect should receive and still keeping or increasing the response rate.)
- More Than Just a Checkbook – You want to be sure that all your communication with your donors is around asking for money. Balance this updates and asking for their involvement. In some cases make them feel a part of the team. I have a very strong affinity with my alma mater but the minute I begin to feel like all I am is a checkbook then I am going to start backing away.
- Really Listen – When you are meeting with a donor or prospect be sure to be an active listener. Don’t let the little voice in your head take all the focus. It is easy to be thinking while they are talking – “How am I going to approach this ask now? Should I wait and ask at the next visit? Am I going to make my next appointment? I hope traffic isn’t bad.” You have disengaged from your prospect and I guarantee you that they can feel and see this as well. Be in the moment.
- Thank You – Always thank your donor and not just once. I think this also goes for those who decide “not to give at this time”. Thank them for their time and input. Be creative with your thanks you. It all boils done to feeling appreciated so be sure your messaging is not always the same. Mix it up a bit and be creative. The larger the gift the bigger the thank you. As I said earlier your annual fund donors can become major and planned giving donors so be sure the messaging isn’t tired. Acknowledge the impact your annual fund donors are making to the organization in your newsletter. If I feel important to an organization the more likely I will continue giving. Remember you are in competition with other non-profits with regards to your donors. You need to find ways to continue to be the “Flavor of the Month” with your donors.
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