The Red Pen Challenge

We all write to donors from time to time, we know we need to communicate with them, to keep them informed about what’s happening. But, are we watching how we include them in the messages?

Often messages are full of “I”, “We”, “Us, there’s little use of “You” “Your”.

So here’s a wee test from Marc Pitman – The Fundraising Coach you can do to check your content.

Will you take the Red Pen Challenge?

Do the test and see how you score.

I’d be keen to know your results – share them in the contents below.

Donor’s Stories

I’ve often said it’s not all about you, that your donors matter, the reason they support you, what makes them tick. So, coming accross ”The best way to tell your donors stories” on hit a note with me.

Click and read, you won’t regret it; who knows you may even come away with gems.

Are you telling your donor’s stories?

They’re peeved off, now what

Why is it that some in the charity sector don’t know how to handle donors who may be annoyed with you, donors who may feel you’re not deliverying on what you say you will do.

It’s not rocket science, dealing with disgruntled donors is and should be treated in the same was as businesses would deal with disgrutled customers. Simple, customer service skills are needed.

We all know the importance of having, and maintaining donors and that if donors aren’t happy how this can impact on the work of the organisation; so knowing what to do is important, as is acting in a timely manner.

As with dealing with a grumpy customer, dealing with disatisfied donor means listening to what the donor has to say, not forming judgement, and doing things to placate them whilst sticking with your organisation’s mission and policies.

The key to dealing with donor complaints is to listen, you can’t handle anything if you’re not listening. And by listening, I don’t mean hearing; you need to be able to isolate what the real issue is that the donor has.

Donors don’t just have the choice to call and complain these days, they will (and do) take to email and will share their experiences online; sometimes on your social media platforms, sometimes not. Where ever and however they complain, you need to know and acknowledge their complaint (which may not even be a complaint as such).

It’s important when dealing with any complaint to be patient, to not respond rashly and to show the donor you care about the issue they have raised.
You don’t want to just be answering their immediate concern, you should be referring to other things your organisation is doing to improve donor relations. Remember, people, donors or shoppers simply want to be treated courteously and to be listened to – AND – they want their problems resolved.

If the ”complaint” is online, make sure you repsond, even if you simply say ”thanks for raising your concern, let me look into and I’ll get back to you.” Anything is better than nothing. But, make sure you look into it, and make sure you follow up with the person.

Having said respond to online comments, one thing you should be doing, which many organisations don’t seem to be doing is monitor their social media accounts.

If someone says something on one of your accounts, it’s not just to vent, they do expect a response, so make sure you are getting notified when someone posts on your FaceBook or Twitter, or other site you use. Be timely with any reponse, it shows you care, not only care about the person raising an issue, but it also shows you’re aware and professional to others who seethe post – current and potential supporters.

Not all complaints or concerns will be by letter, phone or online, some people will send an email Most often the email they will send it to will be the, but does this ensure the person who can respond gets the email? Probably not, so make sure whoever receives emails to info@ knows what they are expected to do when they receive a complaint or other emails raising concerns.

Whatever way you handle complaints, remember never take it personally, the person complaining isn’t complaining about you, they are complaining about a situation. If you take things personally you will react in ways that won’t do you, the donor or your organisation any favours.

Remember too, that in the main donors are nice, kind and understanding, there are only ever a few occasions when things can go sour, so don’t dwell on the negatives, this won’t do you any good.

Are You Singing from the same song sheet

The management, more than anyone in an organisation knows, or should know, what the goals, vision, mission of the organisation are; but is this being shared with all staff, particularly those on the frontline?

It seems that some organisations have a diconnect when it comes to sharing key information with staff, leaving staff to wonder what is happening, where they are in the organisation and how they can confidently do their work.

If management aren’t sharing key information how can they expect staff to do their job.

Staff who are on the frontline, especially those in fundraising roles need all the information, they can’t be expected to do their job without all the facts.

If management have one story and others another, it does nothing but cause confusion. Everyone in the organisation needs to be singing from the same song sheet.

Social or Anti-Social, Social Media

It’s not new, people have often said that social media said that social media is making us anti-social. A couple of discussions I’ve seen of late are seeming to bring this discussion to the forefront again, so I thought I’d bring it up – again.

Duncan Garner, a New Zealand media identity recently went on a family trip, he decided to take time out from social media (and other communications; emails, txt, calls) in a recent article “No wi-fi, no worries” – Duncan said “Much like kicking heroin, the first 24 hours of smartphone withdrawal are the toughest. It took every ounce of mental strength to leave it behind at the accommodation (a strangely tough decision even though it was useless to me).

What would it feel like to you if you gave up social media for, lets say 24 hours … how much anxiety would it cause, could you cope?

If you do this in your own time, your evenings, weekend, or holiday; it may not seem as bad, but what if you did it during your work week – your personal social accounts, that is?

Often people in the nonprofit (NFP) sector have a perception that they should be using their personal accounts to “promote” who it is they work for, the work of the who they work for; the issues etc, but should staff be allowed, nay, encouraged to disconnect?

We all need downtime, there’s a time when we need to just disconnect; whether this is to spend time with family, friends or just on our own – we should do it.

If you share, post or other things associated with the organisation you work with, you could be doing yourself a disservice; could come across, at least to your immediate (family, friends, close associates) as being needy for your employer?

Sure, there’s the argument that family, friends etc would only see this as being “who you are” – but to others it could be seen as something negative, negative to you and your organisation.

When did you last take a break from social media – how did you cope? (I last took a break a few days ago, didn’t last long, all of 8 hours, and 6 of those I was sleeping).

Text Messaging in Non-Profits

With the wide use of mobile phones in New Zealand, something like 90% of us have them, it would make sense for charities to be tapping more into the use of mobiles to communicate with donors; but this has to be done gently or it could backfire.

Backfire? Yes, I subscribed to an online poll a while back and could select certain charities I wanted to learn more about; within days I was being inundated with calls and messages thanking me for my support (I hadn’t given any, I’d only shown an interest), these calls and text messages turned me off so much that I requested being removed from their databases.

Where mobile can work tremendously is with Text to Donate campaigns, we see these almost weekly in some shape or form, they are a quick and easy way for people to make a donation, they can do it anywhere at any time.

When people do a text-to-donate they can expect to get a call from the organisation thanking them for their support and asking if they would like to become a regular giver. Nothing wrong with this, unless the people doing the calling are from an agency and don’t know all the ins and outs of what the charity is doing.

So, if you are doing text-to-donate campaigns and using an agency, ensure they know the key information, brief them on it and don’t expect them to have the time or possibly the inclination to search for the information themselves. Some key information I would suggest they know is what your campaign dates generally are, when you are holding a special event etc; I’ve seen first hand where an agency didn’t know that they were calling people on the annual appeal day – this, in my mind was a wasted opportunity; how many donors were lost because of this lack of information?

If you do text-to-donate campaigns, remember that this opens up another opportunity for you to stay in contact with your donors/supporters; you can quickly send a broadcast text to your database with an urgent call to action, or you can use texting to send brief updates about your campaign, about a planned event and more; but do respect that recipients have the right (and you the obligation) to be removed from your system. Don’t delay with removal requests, failure to do them in a timely manner could result in damage to your organisation by disgruntled supporters talking about you in a negative way on their social media platforms.

If you want to know others are saying about texting supporters etc, this article from Nonprofit Quarterly is well worth a read.

It’s not Horses for Courses

Donor communications, is it horses for courses? Does the same message, the same language work for all donors?

I’ve talked about donor communication before, but I’m still seeing and hearing from people about the quality, content and language being used in donor communications.

If you haven’t previously seen some of what I’ve said, here’s a few links that may be of interest:

Supporter Communications
Who’s Centre of Attention – You or Your Donor

Often regular donors only want to know that what they are doing is making a difference, whereas business donors want to see their return on investment; it’s much the same, but businesses may use more “business speak” to justify support.

General donors are typically happy to know they are making a difference, so talking to them about the successes they have helped you achieve may suffice. Businesses on the other hand may want to see this as investment versus return.

Do you split the information you share, are you using the same “speak” for each, what is the reaction?

Are you even monitoring and adapting based on the feedback from those receiving your updates?

If you are monitoring and adapting, if not, why not?

Do You Know the Numbers

All fundraising is a numbers game, whether it’s tele-fundraising, email, direct mail, face-to-face; it’s all a matter of numbers.

When we look at tele-fundraising, it could be that one in fifty called may give; face-to-face maybe higher, and direct approaches through other means may differ again.

What is important is an understanding of how many, and what type, of approaches is working for you.

To know what your pipeline is, you need to have some knowledge of:

  • How much you’re needing to raise – a finite figure is better than “what ever we can get”
  • What your current “hit rate” is … approaches v donations = hit rate
  • How many approaches to reach hit rate

If you have no idea of what this is, how can you successfully plan a fundraising campaign?

In the business world if you ask most salespeople about the quality of contacts others make for them; you’d likely probably that they are only suspects, probables.

It’s no different when it comes to fundraising:

  • Suspect – anyone on your database
  • Prospect – people know to support
  • Lead – someone ready to consider giving
  • Opportunity – someone wanting give – here and now

It’s important to understand each “category” and to also understand and monitor what it is taking you to reach a favourable outcome, a commitment.

Success shouldn’t be measured solely on the level of funding received, measure it on all outcomes; how many approaches against level of support received.

Watch and observe that the more refined your approaches let lower the number of approaches needed.

This doesn’t mean you need to reduce the number of contacts you have, it’s all about the right approach to the right people at the right time.

How well can you define your contact list – if you don’t have the ability to segment to capture the right people at the right time; you could be missing out.

How to Get Your Board Engaged in Fundraising

I’ve previously talked about how the Board of any organisation needs to be not only attending meetings, signing papers they need to sign; and that they need to also be doing their share of engaging with the community.

Marc A. Pitman’s piece “21 Ways For Board Members to Engage with their Nonprofit’s Fundraising” is a great read and is likely to give you some ideas on how you can ignite the flame in your board members to do that “little bit” more.

What are your expectations of your board members?

Is your Board engaged, how did they become engaged?

See also

Your board and trustees should be working

Are you supported by your board and staff?

Use focus groups to move forward

What’s Working, Do You Monitor?

Often non-profits are so focused on what they’re doing that they don’t always know what’s happening in the sector as a whole.

But, it can be beneficial to an organisation to know what others are doing, how they’re doing it and what results they are getting.

Market intelligence can be a silver bullet for an organisation, it could be all that’s needed to help re-focus where, when and how they do something.

Someone in the organisation should be charged with the responsibility of “sector research” and report any findings to the board or senior management; so as they have a handle on what is happening.

Research could include; subscribing to newsletters, updates from other organisations, setting up alerts to see what others are doing when it comes to web activity.

You could find with this research that others are using language different to that you’re currently using and gaining better results; it could be that you’ll find that it’s the timing of communications that have a better response.

Without market intelligence you could simply be running blind and could well be missing opportunities and of course much needed funds.

Are you monitoring what others in the sector are doing?
Have you changed the way you do things as a result of what you’ve learned?