A recent report from Statistics Canada noted that although the total number of Canadians making charitable donations decreased by two percentage points from 2010-2014, the total dollar amount given has increased. That means that while fewer Canadians are giving (and that number still rests at a whopping 82%), each donor is actually giving more money to the causes they care about.
For those of you thinking about funding strategy for your nonprofit, let me translate this news: it is time to become BFAEAEAE* with your donors. Or, in fundraising speak, we need to talk about donor retention.
Here are 3 cheap ways that your organization can deepen your relationship with your supporters and, hopefully, increase donor retention.
1. Send a personalized thank you
This is obvious, but a basic thank you is the first step towards BFAE-dom. Donors are not ATMs. Show them that you are grateful that they invested in your work with their hard earned dollars. Do not make them wait for it. Sending a timely thank you card (and accurate tax receipt, if you are a registered charity) not only shows you appreciate their support, but also that you have your administrative practices together.
It is up to you to decide what kind of thank you your organization has the resources for, but the rule of thumb is to make your thank-yous as personalized as possible. For some of us, that might mean hand-signing a typed letter or sending an email. For others, you could handwrite a postcard, or tuck a photo into a card. No matter what you do, all donors should receive some kind of recognition for their contribution.
2. Pick up the phone
In this day and age of social media, phone calls have almost taken on a decadent quality. As an extrovert, I love to pick up the phone to thank donors, especially for major gifts. Often the donor is kind of surprised (and tickled) to be hearing from me. That is to be expected. The point of the call isn’t to corner the person into a long chat, but if they aren’t in the middle of something, this can also be a great time to get to know them! Ask why they give, invite them for a tour, and fill them in on a few of the trends you have been seeing or recent organizational achievements. If they are busy, you can book another time to connect.
As a side note, thank you phone calls are a great way to include your board of directors in your funding strategy. Most people are terrified of asking for money, but don’t mind saying thanks. Make sure you give them a few talking points to prep them for the call, and have plan to debrief the phone calls so you can add any important information to your notes on each donor
3. Invite them to your events
I recently phoned one of our major funders to invite her to our AGM. She was shocked and thrilled to have been contacted, and said that very few organizations remember to reach out to them. This made me sad.
Inviting donors to your organization’s’ events is an easy, cheap way to increase connection. If you do invite your donors, make sure to have a designated member of your team ready to host them and get them settled. As we all know, there are few things nothing worse than the awkwardness of standing around at an event where you know no one. Help that never happen!
I could literally go on and on about this topic, but these are a few ideas to get your started. Of course, becoming BFFAE with donors looks different for every organization, and there are about a million strategies that you can use depending on your organizational culture and who your supporters are. The most important thing is to build that relationship and connection. If you play your cards right, this could mean increased gifts, longer-term supporters, and donors who give you important feedback and become advocates for your work. And, it doesn’t have to be expensive.
Let us know how it goes! And feel free to get in touch if you want to chat, brainstorm or strategize about your organization’s specific situation.
*Best Friends Forever And Ever And Ever…
Juniper Belshaw wears many hats, including as a funding trainer at COCo. Her decade of nonprofit experience includes fundraising for organizations such as Head & Hands and COCo.