The November 23, 2006 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy has a terrific article on donor fatigue. While email provides a cost-effective way to stay in contact with donors, if unmanaged email can undermine your ability to secure repeat donations. As you consider contact with your donors, consider the following:
Build relationships first
The first donation is the opportunity to begin to build a relationship between your organization and your new donor. It’s not tacit permission to deluge your donor with repeat requests.
Regularly monitor what donors think
Do research. Find out if you donors are satisfied with your work and how they are treated. Make adjustment accordingly.
Focus on donors, not money
It’s not about the donation; it’s about the donor. If the only contact you are making is to ask for money, you are failing. Remember, it’s about relationships building. That starts with asking and then listening to what is needed and wanted.
Respond swiftly to complaints
Donor complaints are an opportunity to shine. Researchers have found that most donors are willing to make a subsequent gift to a charity if a complaint they have about the group is resolved.
Give donors choices
Some charities give new donors options about what type of information the charity will send them and how often the nonprofit group contacts them. Listen carefully; your donors are telling you what works for them.
Provide meaningful information
The Boy Scouts’ Dan Beard Council, in Cincinnati, report that more donors are willing to honor their pledges now that the organization lets donors know what their gifts are accomplishing. Two years ago, the council revised its thank-you letters to parents who make donations to the council and began sending them out within a week of receiving each gift, rather than waiting until the end of the month. The result the amount of unpaid pledges has shrunk from 9 percent of all dollars pledged down to 3 percent in two years. And the council is raising $1.6-million annually, up from $1.4-million.
Many direct-marketing experts argue that frequent appeals do raise more money — even if they also attract a lot of complaints. But other experts have found that approach shortsighted and based emphasizing dollars raised annually, rather than on developing long-term donors. Loyal donors cost far less to solicit because a higher percentage of them give in response to a mailing or other appeal.
Thank donors personally
Research found that thanking donors personally promotes their commitment to a cause and increases the amount of money they subsequently give. In a test, donors received a telephone call from a board member within 48 hours after the charity got its first gift. Among donors who made a second gift, those who received the thank-you calls gave nearly 40 percent more on average than the others. And by the end of two years, 70 percent were still contributing.