Does Your Online Giving Pass the Test?

board chalk chalkboard exam
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to be a mystery shopper. It’s not just the shopping part – which I love to do – it’s the opportunity to give feedback on the customer experience.

We need to take time to think of our donors as customers – people who buy into our mission and the amazing work we’re doing to make our community a better place. Customers who we want to engage in our mission and become repeat customers. A great place to start is your online giving.

When is the last time you made an online gift to your organization? What about a gift from your mobile device? It’s probably not something you, your board members or your other staff members do on a regular basis.

Today, I challenge you to do a little mystery shopping of your own and make an online gift to your organization (bonus points if you try this from your mobile device). Here are some things to look for as you complete the process:

  • Could you easily find the ‘donate now’ button?
  • How many clicks did it take you to get to the actual give page?
  • Does your form ask for too much information that isn’t needed? (You probably need way less than you think.)
  • How easy was the process as a whole?
  • Were stories and pictures used on the give page to make you feel connected the mission? (This is a great place for a short case for support.)
  • Could you make a gift in memory or honor of someone (and get the proper recognition to the family or individual)?
  • Does the landing page after clicking ‘submit’ make you feel good about your giving? (It should NOT go to a blank page.)
  • Is the emailed receipt timely and accurate?
  • Did you receive some kind of communication afterwards?
  • Does someone in your organization pay attention to online gifts and make personal contact?
  • Were you added to the donor database?
  • How did the whole process make you feel? (Frustrated isn’t a good answer here.)
  • If you’re using your mobile device, could you complete the process in an easy way?(You shouldn’t have to contort your phone all around and zoom in and out.)

Note: Google offers a free tool to test if your website is mobile friendly: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. This is a good place to start, but won’t speak for your online giving specifically.

Once you complete your mystery shopping, make notes of the improvements that could be made. Don’t feel like you need to fix it all right away – use your findings to make changes as you can starting with the most crucial. Just don’t put them off forever; you don’t want to lose a gift because someone found your online giving process to be too much work.

Stewardship of Social Enterprise Investors

Leonard blog TPF MMI
Fish Painting at The Folk School at Florida Maritime Museum

Successful social enterprise requires capital investment. I am honored to work with the organizations participating in The Patterson Foundation’s Margin Mission Ignitioninitiative. My role is to support their capital investment fundraising efforts. Social enterprise business planning is hard work and not coincidentally, raising the capital can be hard work, too. Once the business plan is complete, the hard work of implementation begins. At this critical moment organizations can be tempted to move on full speed ahead without thinking about their donor investors. Warning: this is a terrible idea. 

Just like other types of fundraising, capital investment fundraising requires careful stewardship of donors. How should you steward them? I’m glad you asked! There are 3 major steps: Appreciate, Engage, and Listen.

Appreciate
First, make sure they know they are appreciated. This starts with an accurate, well-crafted thank you letter. Be sure to spell the donor’s name right and use their preferred title. If it’s a business, ensure that the letter is addressed to the right person so it doesn’t get lost.

But don’t stop with the letter from the organization. Look for other ways to say thank you. For instance, if a board member helped secure the gift, ask that board member to write a personal note or send an e-mail directly to the donor. You can’t really thank someone too much.

Providing updates on your capital fundraising efforts is another way to appreciate donors. When you show progress toward your capital investment fundraising, you are reassuring the donor that their investment is being joined by others. For instance, the Margin Mission Ignitionorganizations had a stated goal and were fundraising to secure matching funds by a deadline. By providing timely updates, early investors got to share in the celebration.

Engage
Second, keep them engaged. By the time you raise the gift, you’ve probably had multiple conversations with the donor about your earned income venture. Don’t go silent at that point. Update them on your business planning and implementation. They want to know that you are still making progress and likely can help in one way or another.

You can also engage donors by asking them to share their expertise. For instance, if they have a marketing background ask them to review the drafts of your new website. If they are an accountant ask for their help in creating your new accounting system. Donors like to be valued for more than just the checks they write us. Keep in mind though, only ask for their expertise if you’re willing to listen to their ideas.

When appropriate, invite donors to participate as customers. You could offer a coupon and make it comfortable for them to invite family and friends to join them. If your new enterprise includes a “soft opening,” invite donors to be a part of that. Ask for their honest critique of their experience.

Listen
Third, listen. With each of these interactions suggested above, listen to how your investors respond and act accordingly. Some questions to consider:

  • Are they investment donors and might want to do that again?  Then keep them in mind if you need additional capital investment or if you embark on another business plan.
  • Are they committed to your mission and would be likely to support other parts of your organization? Look for the next big thing that will intrigue them.
  • Do they like numbers? Keep them updated on the business plan and the adjustments you are making throughout implementation. 
  • Are they more interested in the impact on your mission? Send them stories about how the proceeds change and save lives at your organization. 

Here’s a bonus tip: as you appreciate, engage and listen – a picture is worth a thousand words. Keep the photos coming. Every communication doesn’t have to be a major design work of art. Spontaneous e-mails with photos attached can be very meaningful. When your donor investors visit you, be sure to snap and share photos. When the proceeds of your enterprise impact your mission, share photos. As an example, the photo above is from Margin Mission Ignition 2016 organization Florida Maritime Museum’s Folk School.

According to research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk, donors (and investors) are most interested in knowing that you put their money to work as they intended and don’t mind if you made some mistakes along the way as long as you can show that used those mistakes as learning opportunities. That is reassurance that their money is well spent. Taking the time to steward your social enterprise investors will be time well spent.

A quick note: this blog was written for The Patterson Foundation’s blog. If you’ve never read it, you should. It’s loaded with great information.

Hand Written Notes: Who to Write

Blank notecards
Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here you sit, pen in hand with a blank note card – now what? In my last 2 blog posts I’ve extolled the virtues of writing hand written notes and talked about some of the occasions that would warrant a hand written note. This time I’m shifting my focus to who should receive those handwritten notes.

I believe that hand written notes should go to more than just donors. Consider these suggestions:

Donors

  • write to a donor who makes a significant gift, remember not just significant to your organization but significant to the donor. Even if the official thank you letter comes from someone else in your organization, send your appreciation for their generosity.
  • send a note to a donor who made a program accomplishment possible bonus: send a photo with the note for extra impact.
  • create a list of donors who have given for a significant number of years and send them occasion notes throughout the year.

Prospects

  • send a note to someone you’ve identified as a prospective donor but haven’t been able to meet in person. Send a photo of something meaningful that demonstrates your mission in action.
  • write a note to a prospect who has indicated interest but you’ve had trouble getting a face to face meeting to follow up. Invite them again for a tour or a visit to your program.

Volunteers 

  • send a note to every volunteer, eventually. Depending on the size of your volunteer workforce, this could be a monumental task. But make a list and get started with a few notes a week. You’ll get to everyone, eventually.
  • look for people who are helping you but you might not have classified them as an official volunteer. For instance, someone who provides valuable advice when you are planning a special event.

Colleagues

  • write a note to the people who report to you thanking them for a job well done. Appreciation should be expressed throughout the year, not just at annual review time, and a personal note is a gracious way to deliver it.
  • send a note to the staff in other departments who make your work possible. None of us could do what we do without the people in surrounding departments. Even if it’s part of their job descriptions, your colleagues will appreciate your appreciation.
  • write a note to your bosses recognizing their dedication. Don’t forget to thank up the chain of command, too.

This list is by no means comprehensive. Look around to discover who else will benefit from a sincere expression of your gratitude for their part in your success.

Happy writing!

Hand Written Notes: What to Write

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Image courtesy of Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net
In my last blog post, I extolled the virtues of handwriting notes. (Click here to read that one) If I convinced you that writing notes is a good idea, you might be wondering “what should I write about?” I’ve got some ideas for you.
Appreciation for volunteering – many of your donors also volunteer for our organizations. Think about board members, event volunteers, program volunteers and all of the other unpaid labor that keep your nonprofit functioning.
Impact of a program a donor supported – because we are there everyday, we sometimes forget about the impact of our organizations, the magic that happens. The next time you see some of that magic, think of the donors whose gifts enabled that to happen. Write them a quick note to tell them about it. Bonus: enclose a picture with the note.
Celebrations – send a note for a donor’s birthday or anniversary. If you know they’ve accomplished something, send them a note of congratulations.
Condolences – if a donor has experienced a loss, send them a card expressing your concern.
Newsletter with a note – the next time your organization is sending a mass mailing newsletter, pull a few key donors off of the list and send theirs first class, in an envelope, with a personal note.
When you haven’t had personal contact in a while – if a donor has been out of touch or hard to reach, send them a quick note and tell them they are appreciated.
Writing notes is habit-forming. Once you get started, it will become more natural. Let me know if I missed any good reasons for a hand written note and I’ll add it to my list.
Happy writing!

How Late is Too Late for a Holiday Message? Part 2

W&M YouTube screen shot
Is an e-mail holiday card the right way to go? My opinion on this is no and yes. Here’s what I mean:

NO – an e-card is not the right means of communication for your top donors and prospects. This group should be receiving a personal (hand-signed, hand-addressed) message from whoever in the organization has the closest relationship.

YES – an e-card is an excellent way to communicate with the larger audience of supporters (annual giving donors, alumni, volunteers). Use photos, artwork and whatever best demonstrates your mission. Use the holidays as a way to communicate with your social media audiences too – post, tweet, and all the other things you are doing.

Because development is about building relationships with individuals one at a time or large groups via mass communication – your message should focus on how the support of your donors changed the lives of your constituents and how much you appreciate them.

The challenge – and this is true with any development communications – is to make it meaningful to the donor and representative of your mission. As with many things, holiday e-cards have become pretty common. You have to make yours stand out. My favorite example of this is an e-card the College of William & Mary sent to donors and alumni a few years ago. They showcased students and used images that were meaningful to their audience. You can see the video portion of the message below.

Don’t let time be your excuse for not communicating with your donors and prospects. As I said in my last blog, it’s never too late. Send an e-card for the new year, Valentine’s Day, the start of a new semester or whatever fits with your organization’s culture and mission.

Why? Your organization’s supporters are like family: they want to see those pictures and hear those stories. Use the holidays to do that.

How Late is Too Late for a Holiday Message? Part 1

Holiday stamps
Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

It’s happened again at my house: the lovely photo cards have arrived in plenty of time to get them out but the busyness of school programs, shopping and family activities have distracted me. My friends and family will tell you that our family card is rarely (OK, maybe never) received before December 25. One year it was mailed around January 4 – ugh! But I always mail them anyway because I’m so proud of my adorable children and know that their aunts and uncles want to see their photos.

So how late is too late for a holiday message from your nonprofit to your donors? NEVER!

A Thanksgiving message would have been great but it’s too late for that in 2015. So instead try a New Year’s card to thank donors for the great 2015 they made possible in the lives of your constituents. If you think mailboxes are too crowded at the end of the year, send a “welcome to 2016” message that arrives around January 4, the first Monday of the new year. A few years ago, one dear friend was running so late with her family Christmas cards that she dressed her kids up in beads and made it a “Happy Gasparilla” card. It’s a Tampa thing and I loved it! It stayed on my refrigerator most of the year. What’s going on in your organization that you can celebrate?

Some of you may be asking, ‘should we even send one?’ I say YES and here’s why: development is about building relationships and sending cards on special occasions is a natural relationship action. What about the idea of offending some of your audience? Don’t! You know your audience; pick a theme and message that reflects your organization and it won’t be offensive. Faith-based organizations have the leg up on this issue. They can celebrate their sacred holidays, but what about the rest of us? Pictures are the best way to communicate what we do so pick one great “money” shot that illustrates what you do and use an online ordering site like Shutterfly or Vista Print. If the card focuses on the good work you are doing, it won’t be offensive.

If I’ve convinced you this is a good idea, your next questions should be ‘who should get them and who should sign them?’ Send them to your board members, top donors, volunteers, vendors who give you generous discounts, and your organization’s friends. They should be hand signed by whoever knows the person best. What do I mean by hand signed? Signed by a human hand with a real pen. If you are sending too many to hand sign, you are sending too many. While you’ve got your pen out, they should be hand addressed. If you are sending too many to hand address, you are sending too many.

Does all of this sound too complicated? Don’t have the time to create a custom card? Then run to a drug store at lunch today, buy a box thank you notes and send them to the 20 most important donors to your organization. Write a note that says something like, “when you made a gift to us earlier this year, you didn’t know who your gift would help. Today I was reminded that it helped someone like…”

Your organization’s supporters are like family: they want to see those pictures and hear those stories. Use the holidays to do that.

4 Steps to Keeping Your Give Day Tampa Bay Donors

Give Day Tampa Bay logo

Give Day Tampa Bay is May 5, 2015 – just one week away. Are you ready? Are you ready for what comes next? Give Day Tampa Bay is a 24-hours online giving challenge led by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Florida Next Foundation. The midnight-to-midnight went showcases our local nonprofits and makes giving easy for first-time donors or long-time supporters.

To get the most benefit from your efforts, make sure you are thinking about how to retain donors after May 5. Across the nonprofit sector, donor retention is very low. Don’t believe me? You can see for yourself at the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. How do you beat those statistics? Donor engagement!

Just like with any fundraising program, you have to plan for the follow-up with your donors on Give Day Tampa Bay. Make sure your plan covers these 4 things:

  1. Say thank you – start with a timely, accurate thank you. Should it be electronic or written? Yes or what about both? However you do it, make sure you convey that you are happy to receive the gift and you will put it to good use accomplishing your mission. Be sure to find everyday language to describe how your mission will change a life and make the world better. For Give Day Tampa Bay, the donor makes the gift to the Community Foundation but that should not change the sincerity and timeliness of your acknowledgement. Make sure the donor knows that your organization is grateful for their gift.
  2. Engage – engage them in what you are doing. Invite them for a tour, tell them good stories about the beneficiaries of your work. Ask them to join you as a volunteer. Make them the superhero. Meet them whenever possible and listen to them. Ask questions like: How did you come to support us? What is special to you about the work we are doing? What other information would you like to receive and how would you like to receive it?
  3. Drip feed your mission – don’t pour it out fast like a fire hose. Organizations do many things and we are compelled to tell the donor everything we do in every correspondence. Stop that! Remember when you first starting learning about your organization? You didn’t understand it all at once so don’t expect your donor to do that. Tell them one story at a time that demonstrates your work.
  4. Tell a story – Stories are the best way to convey information. I had a professor in graduate school who told lots of stories and guaranteed his students we would remember the stories but not the theories in the textbooks. Now it’s 20 years later and I can tell you he was right. That’s what I remember. Your donors will remember the stories and that’s what will move them to make another gift.

I’m often asked, “How soon can we ask for the next gift?” There is no magic timeframe. More important than the number of days, weeks or months, answer this question: how have you thanked and engaged the donor? Once you have done that well, you’ll be ready to ask for the next gift.

Houston, We Have a Problem!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re excited to have this guest post from friend and colleague Ashley Pero

It’s funny how your earliest jobs can influence your views. I spent my teenage and early 20s working in retail – and firmly believe that people should have to take part in that rite of passage. It is most likely because of that experience that I have such high expectations when it comes to customer service. My paycheck depended on how well I treated my customers and their experience in the various stores that I worked – money is always a good motivator to learn the best practices.

I was pleasantly surprised recently as I personally experienced a local company’s service failure process. Our AC had gone out – and June in Florida with no AC a happy person does not make! We called our normal AC company but they were unavailable until the next day, so we called another company who saturates the market with “we’re here when you need us” ads. They could be out between 9p and 11p, which meant no sleeping in the heat. Then at 8:50p we received a call to tell us they couldn’t come out until the next afternoon with no explanation as to why. Furious I took to Twitter, Facebook and sent them an email explaining my frustration and disappointment in their customer service and company. By the time I woke up the next morning I had genuine responses with apologies and an offer to correct on all media fronts. While I was still uncomfortable as our house reached over 80 degrees, I felt heard. I responded with my appreciation of a response and an explanation and could honestly tell them they I would consider their company in the future. And that is the story most people have heard – the story of their recovery not their mistake.

Does your organization have a service failure process in place? If something goes wrong can you quickly act to offer the customer, client or donor an apology, explanation and solution? It could be the difference between losing that person and all of their friends, family and colleagues hearing about the bad experience or turning the situation around so their friends, family and colleagues hear about how you went above and beyond to make it right.

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.

4 Steps to Repair a Donor Relationship

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not every repaired donor relationship leads to a 5-figure gift but I know of at least one that did. A colleague listened to the concerns of the donor and worked within the organization to correct the problem. In an effort to reengage this donor, the fundraiser took her to lunch and was presented with a 5-figure gift. How did that happen?

Let’s look at the steps involved in repairing this relationship:

  1. Keeping communication lines open: this can be as simple as continuing to send them stewardship reports, newsletters and other communications. Make sure that you mail often enough to keep their address current. Also, check with people throughout your organization to see who knows an unhappy donor and might be able to help you figure out why.
  2. Listening to their concerns: many times an unhappy donor needs an opportunity to express their feelings to the organization. Listening without becoming defensive is challenging but worth the restraint. Something obviously has gone wrong. Listen with an open mind and find out where the breakdown has happened.
  3. Admitting to mistakes and apologizing: we are not perfect nor are our organizations. Admit the mistake without throwing anyone under the proverbial bus and apologize. Determine if an apology needs to come from someone else in your organization and facilitate that if necessary.
  4. Correcting the mistakes: this can take some time and may seem like a waste of time when there are goals to meet but don’t skip this step. In the case I heard about recently, the correction took months of coordination because it involved several parts of the organization. The development officer forged ahead – never knowing it would result in a gift – because it was the right thing to do. He knew that it was important to the donor.

The final step – and it’s really more of an ongoing process than a step – is to continue to communicate with the donor. There may never be an opportunity to ask for a gift again but you never know…for my friend, he didn’t have to ask. The donor was so pleased that the situation had been corrected that she made an additional gift without being asked.

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.