Don’t forsake the “slow money”
It is not terribly unusual for ministry leaders and marketers to want success fast, as opposed to slowly. Who could blame them? But many good things in life are like Heinz, “the slooooow ketchup.” You either take your time, or you settle for an inferior hamburger. We see this conflict particularly in the area of estate planning, or “legacy income.” Ministries stand to generate a significant amount of revenue by motivating their donors to bequeath a portion of their estate to the ministry. There’s a massive transfer of assets from every generation to the next. Over $3.5 trillion is sitting in retirement accounts alone. But many ministries never invest in the establishment of an estate planning effort. Even now, when agencies like ours have developed strategies for accessing legacy income cost-effectively and with little risk, ministries drag their heels — preferring to focus all their energies on money now.(This is doubly tragic because we’ve found that many ministries can not only recover their planned giving program investment within the first year or two, but also generate immediate money for operations along the way — even while they’re building the organization’s endowment for the future.) Don’t forsake “slow money” … investigate whether an estate planning program will work for your ministry.
* Like what you just read and want to learn more? Check out, The Seven Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing: Confessions of a Christian Fundraiser.
Your donors need to know
“Beyond who you are and what you are raising money for, major donors need to have several other questions answered and concerns addressed by you in your communications with them. For instance, donors want to know about other financial supporters of the ministry. What about your current donor constituency? How many donors do you currently have? What levels of support are they giving? Who serves on your board of directors? Do your board members give? If not, why not? What percentage of your budget is represented by board support? (A red flag goes up for a new major donor if a ministry has a great mission statement on paper but its own board members don’t take an active role as donors.) How do you know whether an individual donor is asking this question? Answer it in advance. Assume the information is desired, and offer it. You’ll sense the donor latching on to the concepts of greatest importance to him.”
* Like what you just read and want to learn more? Check out, Donors Are People Too: Managing Relationships With Your Ministry’s Major Contributors.
Our research at BBS & Associates [servantheart.com] indicated that any personal connection strengthens the relationship with the donor. Ministries involving personal sponsorship of a child, a missionary, a staff member, or some other human being have a distinct advantage here. Without the personal connection, donors are likelier to express a sense of “distance” from the organization, perhaps even the feeling that it’s “purely a money relationship.” So a handwritten note, a heartfelt thank-you letter, a phone call expressing appreciation — particularly a warm “welcome call” to a first-time donor or (perhaps even better) a second-time donor — can make a significant difference. You might also call a donor when she gives her largest single gift, just to say thanks. Or arrange to place an annual call to every donor, or as many calls as are feasible, expressing gratitude and perhaps sharing a brief testimony reflecting the impact of the donor’s giving — but without any hint of a request for another contribution.
(It’s always crucial, of course, for the individual making the phone call to talk to the donor as a human being, not from a mechanical-sounding script and not in a stiff reading-the-script tone of voice.)
We recommend that ministries send more handwritten appeal letters, even assuming they have to be mass-produced. Handwriting signals lower expense, yet a more personal touch.
What donors are saying…
“It’s important that you feel appreciated.”
“[A phone call] always adds a degree of sincerity that you aren’t just a number and you are appreciated for what you do.”
What are you doing with donors to “get personal”?
Motivation is one of the driving forces behind a donor’s decision to give money. After all, why would a person give a potentially large amount of cash to a nonprofit if they didn’t have a good reason?
Understanding these reasons will lead you to greater success with your fundraising solicitations.
In his book “Tested Ways to Successful Fund Raising,” George A. Brakeley, Jr. wrote that virtually every fundraising campaign and development program depends on nine factors in motivating donors to support their organization. They are:
- The right person or persons ask them, at the right time, and in the right circumstances;
- People have a sincere desire to help other people;
- People wish to belong or be identified with a group or organization they admire;
- Recognition of how vital their gifts can be satisfies a need for a sense of personal power in many people;
- People have received benefits — often, personal enjoyment — from the services of the organization and wish to support it;
- They “get something” out of giving;
- People receive income and estate tax benefits from giving; and,
- People may need to give; that is, altruism might not be an option but a “love or perish” necessity for many people.
Katya Andresen asks, Are you taking care of your donors? What kind of experience do they have after they give?
Here’s a quick checklist to answer that question. If you can’t check all the boxes, work on doing better. The single most powerful thing you can do as a fundraiser is to take great care of the donors you have.
_ All donors thanked promptly
_ All donors thanked throughout the year
Personalization and Accuracy:
_Thank-yous are directed at the donor – not “Dear Friend”
_The gift amount is included and correct
_ Thank-yous reference the appeal or campaign that prompted the gift
_ Thank-yous are signed by a real person or include a real person’s name
_ I properly acknowledge gift designations and dedications
_ I express heartfelt thanks for the gift twice in each note
_ I also express gratitude for past support (when relevant)
_ I give credit to the donor for what will be achieved
_ The thank-you is a thank-you, not an appeal! (It doesn’t ask for money again)
_Thank-yous include full contact information of my organization
_ Thank-yous include appropriate tax language
_I make clear how the gift will be used
_ I tell a good story or use a vivid example in every piece of outreach
_ I report to donors on their impact at least twice a year
_ I recognize donors after thanking them
_ I include the voices of donors in my outreach
_ I ask my donors for feedback
The more you care about your donors, the more they will care about your cause!
Turning prospects into donors is the end goal for any fundraising campaign. This all starts with proper solicitation of these individuals.
In his book “Tested Ways to Successful Fundraising,” George A. Brakeley, Jr. wrote that solicitation of prospects must be done in an orderly fashion with proven techniques. Your solicitation should go flawlessly, assuming the preliminary planning, scheduling, and research have been well executed well.
Brakeley, Jr. recommended these eight rules of thumb to get your efforts on the right track:
- An institution that seeks funds from all sources — individuals, commerce and industry, foundations, and government — has the best chance of success.
- The individuals most likely to obtain the largest possible gift from a given prospect should be assigned to solicit that prospect.
- The solicitor’s “status” should be equal, or superior, to that of the prospect. (Consideration should be given to the use of solicitation “teams.”)
- All prospects should be familiar with the organization’s case and needs before being asked to participate.
- Campaign workers must know each prospect’s giving potential.
- Most donors will give more if they know they may spread their gift over a period of years.
- Presentations should be tailored to the prospect’s known or supposed interests.
- Intimate, personal functions, arranged for small groups of potentially large donors, are far more effective than larger “special events.”