Supporter Communications

Before you send something to your supporters do you categorize who will receive what, or do you simply send the same communications to everyone on your database.

All too often supporters receive communications which are irrelevant, such as a thank you for previous supports etc.; but often the recipient may not have supported in a number of years.

For example, I received an email from an organisation thanking me for my support last year and asking if I would continue my support this year and take part in a volunteer event as well.

I hadn’t supported the organisation in over five years, as I was disillusioned in the manner in which they operate and the fact they didn’t offer updates on work they had undertaken, all they did was ask for more support.

So, receiving their email made me think even less of them, to me it showed they had little regard for the people who do support them.

Before you start your next email campaign, take time to check your supporter status and remove those who have said they don’t want to support anymore, including them will only alienate them further.

Your supporter database should have the ability to add filters so as to ensure the right people receiving the right communications at the right time.

Send the right information to the right people at the right time and you will have a better chance of favourable responses and ongoing support.

Who’s Centre of Attention – You or Your Donor

It’s not all about you – it’s about your donor. The donor is king, without them you have a hole in your income.

How you communicate is important, they want to know that they are making a difference, that their support is what enables your organisation to do.

Tell your donors the good things their support has enabled, donors like to know the good things their support has enabled.

It could be said that boasting only about what you have achieved can make donors think “well, if you’re that good why do you need me …”

Saying things like “You have enabled us to … ” makes donors feel that their support is making a difference. Whereas, “We did blah blah …” has the potential to have the reverse effect.

The next time you plan donor communications – remember to put your donor first, tell them what they have done.

You’ll gain more if your donor is the centre of attention.

Email v Direct Mail

What works … email or direct mail? They both do, but the effectiveness of one still outweighs the other.

Even though an estimated 80-90 percent of the population (NZ) have access to the internet, not everyone who has internet access uses email.

If you’re relying on email you could be missing a percentage of the population, it doesn’t matter what the percentage, any audience your not getting your message to is potential lost income.

Rethinking the Printed Newsletter: Did You Jump to Email Too Soon? by Joanne Fritz is a great read and should get you thinking.

Nonprofits have been rapidly kicking the print newsletter to the curb.

“And it’s understandable. Email newsletters are much more cost efficient.

“No paper, no postage, no printing. But, if newsletters are used as fundraising tools, that cost efficiency is misleading, given that print newsletters actually bring in much more money. Newsletters, especially paper ones, can be money makers rather than net losses.

“There is a war going on between email everything and print. As Kivi Leroux Miller’s recent survey of nonprofit communications trends shows, the war is about even for fundraising appeals. Some 26% of nonprofit communicators say they will send an email appeal at least quarterly this year, while 29% plan to send a direct mail appeal twice this year.”

Read full article here

See also:


Q: Are we relying too much on emails to communicate with our donors? A: Yes What I hear you say. Simply put sometimes an email isn’t the best form of communication, yet many organisations are relying on email as a quick way to communicate, but often something is lost in translation and, true communication can […]


A few times recently I’ve been pulling my hair out waiting for responses to emails, and now I’ve found out why some emails are going without acknowledgment for days – and it’s not because they’ve been caught in junk or spam folders. It would appea…


There’s no single way that’s better than any other to gain awareness and support for an organization, putting your eggs in one basket, expecting a succes from only one method is a false hope. Using a combination is the best bet as this infographic…


Ever stopped and listened to your fundraising pitch?  Would you support you? All too often fundraisers fall into the trap of “repetition” and simply “going through the motions” – not engaging supporters, simply asking for more support. If your supporters aren’t being updated about the work of your organisation, how their support has helped and […]

Recognise Regular Donors

Your regular donors generate your regular passive income, don’t ignore them and the contribution they are making to the success of your organisation.

Praise, praise, praise … it may sound trite but it is the best thing you can do to help retrain and recognise the importance of donors in your regular giving programme.

That’s not to say that they are better or more important the your one-off donors, it’s simply to recognise the importance they have in allowing your to manage the work you do, knowing that there is regular income that allows you to do what you do.

When communicating with regular donors; ask for feedback, feedback about who, why and how they give through the regular giving.  These can be used to help entice others to your programme.

Regular givers should be segmented in your database to allow for specific updates to be sent to this group.

Some organisations develop donor reports specifically for regular donors, and hold events for regular givers to give them the opportunity to invite others who may be interested in joining your regular giving programme (think Tupperware without the commission).

Remember that you should also bear in mind that, although any donor can be converted to a regular giving programme, you should never stop asking anyone for a one-off donations. Even though you’re receiving a regular contribution from your regular donors, this group are known to give more when asked for a one-off contribution to something specific.

Regular giving programmes can help with increasing donor contributions and can help to reactivate delinquent donors.

When talking with regular givers, make it personal, using this style of communication can help not only retain donors, but can also help reactivate those who have stopped giving.

Often the simple messages of how important regular giving is to help maintain the work carried out, who is benefiting from regular giving, and that regular giving allows work to be carried out with reduced administration and fundraising costs can too help regain donors.

Some organisations make a point of restating regular giving levels to help retain and regain donors, perhaps a donor who offered $50 per month has had a change in their personal circumstances, but by suggesting a lower level they will come back on board, what have you got to lose by asking for less when they’ve stopped giving altogether.

All donor communications are important, just because someone has said they will give on a basis doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you – perhaps they may even need to hear from you more often.  But, don’t make your communications too frequently – this could be a turn off.

How are you communicating with your regular donors?

Could you be communicating with regular donors more frequently or change your message?

Are you a regular giver through a regular giving programme – if so, what is your experience?

Staff Morale – Is it a reflection on the Organisation?

When was the last time you took a helicopter view of your organisation, taking particular look at your staff?

The way staff interact with each other, the way they speak about the organisation can indicate how they feel about the organisation. Not their job, but about the organisation as a whole.

Staff who don’t speak highly of the organisation may have reasons for this, are they feeling under valued, have they been passed over for promotion?

It is important to look at the picture your staff are painting, if they’re painting an unfavourable picture about the organisation and sharing this with colleagues; they could be “poisoning” others and, there’s also the risk that they’re sharing this outside of work.

If staff are poisoning others, it won’t be long before their negativity rubs off on others, the sooner you spot something and act the better.

Unless you’re in touch with how staff are feeling you’re lost in the dark, you need to be speaking with your staff to hear their views, their opinions about their job, their worth within the organisation and, their overall view about the organisation and the work being it does.

If you’re staff are at the front of the organisation, it may be more important to be listening to what they have to say, if they’re feeling disenfranchised this could come across in their interactions with those they deal with – potentially negatively impacting on service delivery and funding opportunities.

When new staff join an organisation, if there is negativity among staff this can have a detrimental effect on the way new staff interact and perform in their role. If they’re feeling “out of place”, feeling as though they’ve made the wrong choice, it could impact on the employment costs of the organisation; and could even result in action in employment court.

Many companies and, organisations conduct regular performance reviews which is important, however unless these are a two-way process they can miss opportunities, miss indications of low morale in the staff.

Staff reviews should be conducted at least annually, some are conducted every six months; but as a rule, don’t conduct them less than once each year.

And, in between – always – keep an eye and ear out for what staff are saying.

What they are saying could be just what you hear to make changes you’ve been pondering, even negative comments can create valuable opportunities for an organisation to grow and flourish.

Do you conduct staff reviews, if so has there been anything come to light from these that has helped your organisation grow and perhaps change they way things were done?

What gems have you learned from staff reviews?

Fundraising – Simply Going through the Motions

Ever stopped and listened to your fundraising pitch?  Would you support you?

All too often fundraisers fall into the trap of “repetition” and simply “going through the motions” – not engaging supporters, simply asking for more support.

If your supporters aren’t being updated about the work of your organisation, how their support has helped and what your next plans are – you’re not engaging with them, and simply are using them as ATMs.

If you’ve been around fundraising for any length of time, you will know that it’s important to treat ever donor as an individual.

With the competition for the “charity dollar” different tactics are used to try and connect with people, and those who know what they are doing are more “personal” in the way the approach their supporters.

Knowing who your donor is, age, sex, marital status, and knowing where they live; gives you the ability to truly “know” them and thus connect with them in ways that will likely have more positive and greater response rate, a better return on investment (ROI) to use business speak.

The knowledge that you have of your donors, their giving pattern, what makes them “tick” means you’re more likely to be able to lower the cost of fundraising by having less “hit and miss” attempts.

Those who are truly good at what they do know how important it is to give feedback to donors, donors want to know that their support is making a difference.

Donors need to know that charity is important, what it’s doing and that if it wasn’t for them (donors) they work wouldn’t get done.

Next time to write, email or contact a donor – remember they have a name, use the right salutation, Mrs Brown may be better replaced with Mary – it’s more personal.

By knowing who your donor is, you’re able to adapt copy to specific donor groups – if you know who your donors are, what makes them tick, use language, phrases and information that hits the mark. What works for one group won’t necessarily work for another group.

As part of the planning for your next appeal, stop, think how you can better engage with donors, it’s worth the little extra effort. And, could improve your ROI. What have you got to lose?

See also:

Pick up the phone and say Thank You

Do you know why people lose interest in your organization?

Have a cuppa with your sponsors

Prostitutes or Clients – How do you treat your donors?

Tell it like it is

How often do you send something out, an email, letter, appeal or thank you letter full of terms that are vague, jargon only known by those in the “know”?

It happens too often, we’re all guilty of it, we all use terms and phrases we’re familiar and, comfortable with.

Often the terms and phrases use are too broad and often meaningless to the reader – your supporter.

How often have you sent something out using phrases like “we help at risk teens …” or “we support people in need …” These phrases mean a lot to you, but without a story to back up what you’re saying they can be absolutely meaningless to the reader.

Many terms you may use internally and they may be in your mission statement, but they should be limited in communications with your donors.

Kids –  Youth

If you work with kids – youth, children, say kids, most people identify their children as kids, they will remember what things were like when they were kids; so say kids.

Kids does sound warm, it has a recall; say kids and your supporters will likely relate better.

Having worked with organisations who assist children/youth, I’ve had the discussion about saying “Kids”; but it seems many feel that it’s ok to say children and youth but not kids because it’s seen as too informal and, perhaps demeaning.

But why can’t we just say kids?  Surely most of the people in your organisation and your supporters refer to their own children as kids – so why not say what people relate to when it comes to children and youth – Kids.

What sounds better, what gives you a warm feeling – kids or youth?

Being hit by a Bus

Ok, know one would actually say this, but, they would say “At risk”. It’s vague, walking down the street someone could be hit by a bus, there’s the possibility something bad could happen, that’s all “at risk” is saying. Be specific.

Tell a story to say how you work with people in certain situations so something won’t happen.

Something like “Our programmes help kids deal with … and help them grow and develop into … ”

“Since James came to us, his parents and teachers have seen …”

Turning lives around, making a difference

Well if you’re not making a difference why do you exist.

Yes, it’s important that supporters know you are making a difference, but you need to be saying more than that.

If you can show what you’re doing, what you’ve done – your supporters will relate more to the work you’re doing.

Again, tell stories, show what you’re doing … “in the last six months we’ve helped x families into new homes …”

Cognitive dissonance


If you use terms or phrases that cause confusion, you’ll have less impact from your communications. Stay on topic.

Say it as it is, avoid using any term, phrase or reference that causes confusion “we help kids see their potential”

Any other ideas you’d add?

Stop Firefighting – Start Fires Instead

Recently I read “Fundraisers – ‘Stop firefighting and see the fire’” and thought about how collaboration and technology is changing the way organization go about their job.

Are we seeing collaboration in New Zealand – short answer, from my perspective we’re aren’t. Most organizations are for whatever reason afraid of sharing what they’re doing, how they’re doing it with others in the sector.

Reading “We are currently part of a consortium of 23 North West hospices who have collaborated on a new Granada TV advert. It is the first of what we hope will be many collaborative partnerships across the hospice movement.”  Made me think about how many organizations we have working in the same field could collaborate to spread their message.

Imagine the cost savings, potential increased reach and resultant support – why are we short sighted?

Surely the time has come for more collaboration, more sharing of ideas, tools and tricks.

Sure, some will say, but they’re our competition. But competition there can be competition without opposition – support for the common good can out weigh the negatives.

Claire Houghton  says in her piece “Local charity fundraising is often too focused on the fire fighting to see the fire”.

I say – light the fire, ignite interest in your sector, pick up the phone and have a chat with an organization doing similar work to you – ignite the passion to collaborate and engage on a regular basis.

Don’t fight fires, start them.

How will Cuts to Postal Deliveries Affect Charities

June 2015 will see a change in postal deliveries, a cut from six day delivery to three. From NZ Post’s perspective this is probably good business, but for charities there could be a big impact.

What will your organisation do in the time leading up to the change? Now is the time to think about what you will do. Leaving it until a few months before will be too late if you want to keep good communication flow with supporters who don’t want or, are unable to receive your information, your “pleas” for support via other means.

Will you encourage supporters, current and prospective, to subscribe to your email updates, so to be able to get information to them when you need them to act? Or will you change the way in which you manage you pleas?

What ever you decide, don’t leave the thinking until the last minute, if you can get supporters to accept you communication via electronic forms a long time in advance of the change in the postal delivery change you will more likely have a better chance than if you leave it until the 11th hour.

We all know there are organizations who like to use multiple channels to communicate but, there are many who rely heavily on the mailings to communicate. It will be this group who are most likely to be affected more – and unless this group starts planning now the outcome could be that they face a crisis that could have been averted had they started planning for the change early on.

If you’re using email, post and social media to communicate, then the change may not have a big impact when it comes to appeals. But, if you’re only relying on mail, then you could see yourself having to juggle budgets, perhaps even having to cut service delivery to adjust to the change.

There’s still a number of supporters who won’t want to use electronic means for communications, so you will have to be the one who makes the change.

Perhaps you will need to adjust your appeal calendar – is this something you are able, or, prepared to do? The time is now to start thinking about this, don’t leave it too late or you could miss out on retaining donors.

The cost of gaining a new donor will be greater than the cost, time and effort you put into forward planning for the change.

June 2015 may seem a long way off, but as we all know, time passes quickly when we’re all busy. Start planning now – you can’t afford to miss the post.

Missed opportunites when donors move

After reading Knock knock! Who’s there? Opportunity! I got to thinking that New Zealand charities could be missing out when people move – I haven’t changed addresses in over eight years so haven’t completed a NZPost change of address form, but last time I saw one there was nothing like the form mentioned in Knock! Knock! Who’s there? Opportunity!; and would find it hard to see that there has been any change made, or that NZPost or any other entity has set up something to allow donors to automatically let organizations know of their change of address, other than the little card that people can fill in and post to people to advise of a change of address. 

The lack of a central way to let organizations know of a change of contact details, reinforces the need for organizations to ensure that when people support them that they ask for the best way to communicate with them – is it, letter, email, txt – not only can this help reduce cost, but also helps to stay in touch with people when they move.

If organizations have an email address for supporters, it is more likely that they will be able to stay in touch, that support will be ongoing.

Living in an apartment where there’s about 10 apartments changing hands each month, the pile of mail for previous residents grows; often I’ll flick through it just to check there’s nothing among it for me, In the last month or so I’ve seen mail from several organizations – and yes, I do return it to the sender. 

Among some of the mail I know there will be appeal letters, urgent requests for funding – unless the recipient gets these the organization is missing out on potential support. And, possibly more importantly, the recipient may forget about the organization.

It’s hard enough for organizations to gain and, maintain support, so making some changes to how they can communicate with current supporters is important.

When an organization gains a supporter, whether it’s through a street sign up, a mail drop, or other, it would make sense to have a box for the ‘preferred’ method of contact, my guess is those who opt for email communications would remain supporters even when they move.

A suggestion I’d like to make is, if your organization hasn’t heard from a supporter in say three months and you have their email address on file (and the supporter has agreed) send them a friendly reminder, perhaps something on the lines of a housekeeping email to verify contact details.

Something as simple as: 

To ensure you’re receiving our updates, please verify we have your current contact information correct.

Current Address                 
Phone Number
Alternative email

While you’re at it, remind them about your online presence – FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest etc.

Don’t miss opportunities for support, ensure you can stay in contact with supporters.