Bigger Isn’t Always Best

We’ve all seen them, the oversized cheque used to show how much has been raised or donated. I’ve often wondered about their purpose, especially those used in photo-ops which only show the recipient, ignoring the donor.

And even worse are the cheques that are used repeatedly with the tell-tale sign of previous amounts donated still visible under the new amount.

So after reading the piece from Greg Warner I thought it worthwhile to share what he has said in “Is it time to banish photos of fundraisers and oversized checks?” and Greg’s follow up piece is worth a read too, both I’m sure will get you thinking and wondering if you are doing it right, or if you could change how you use the “oversized cheque”.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, are these oversized cheques beneficial, do the ignore the donor, is the cheque about you or your donor?

Leave comments below please.

New Donors Need to be Welcomed

What do you do when a new donor joins the ranks?

If you’re not acknowledging and welcoming new donors, you’re doing it wrong.

Donors, as I’ve said many times, are not ATMs. They deserve to be treated better than that, and the best time to start doing that is when the join the ranks.

You can’t just use a first receipt as a way to acknowledge a new donor, you should be doing a receipt then the Welcome Package.

You need to give them more information; you should be using a Welcome Pack. These are a great way to new donors feel welcome and to provide more information about the organisation, more information on ways they can be part of the donor family.

The idea behind a Welcome Pack is to begin a relationship between the donor and your organisation.

If you say you don’t then you are missing out.

You should be sending out your Welcome Package soon after the reciept for the first donation, not with the receipt.

Your Welcome Pack could contain more indepth information about your organisation, the people, the work, the beneficiaries. It and offer other ways the donor can get involved and, it should reinforce the benefits to the donor of supporting you.

Perhaps adding a couple of brochures outlining the work and benecificaries of your organisation, if you do a regular newsletter, include a couple of the most recent issues. Perhaps somethingon payroll giving or bequests could be included to.

But do make sure what you offer in the Welcome Pack doesn’t come across as though you’re trying to be pushy. These people have just joined, you don’t want to lose them.

Have a few people from your organisation sit down and work through what would be good to include in your Welcome Pack, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t ask a couple of donors to also have some input.

Lastly, do not, do not, use or see your Welcome Pack as another fundraising appeal. It is a thank you, a way for you to show your appreciation for having the donor on board and to give some added information.

What do you do when a new donor joins your family?

How Do You Say Thank You

Donors want, nay, deserve to be thanked for their support. How you thank them can result in future decisions to support your organisation.

A stock standard thank you letter will be received, read and most likely binned, with only the receipt being retained for tax purposes.

But a thank you letter that makes a donor feel that they are important, an individual (not just a number), can make a donor stay longer and has the potential to gain additional, higher value support at a future date. It could also result in the acquisition of new donors through the letter being shown to others.

Donors don’t expect, and you can’t sit and write a personalised letter for each donor, but you can make it ”personal”.
Your donor database should be able to capture key information, the basics we know (name, address, email), but are you also capturing other information that can assist you in communicating with donors?

If you receive a donation, or communication from a donor and there’s something that could help you with future communication, are you keeping this on your system?

Maybe a donor mentioned something in a communication about their family, why the support you, perhaps they mentioned a milestone in their life, or that they had recently moved.

All of this should be ”captured” and where approriate used in future communications. Yes, it seems a little bit big brother-ish, and some people may not like it, you can always delete the information (in fact you have to if requested).

But imagine a donor receiving a personalised thank you, yes, your form letter, but with reference to something they have said previously, perhaps you refer to their recent move.

Supporter letters, whether a thank you or an update of work being done; needn’t be all corporate, there’s no reason why you can’t be a little more casual, conversational in them. How about adding some wit to them.

We all tend to end a thank you letter or other communication with ”we look forward to your continued support” – yes, we do look forward to it, but what if we ended with something more casual, like; ”give us a call or send us a note if you need an update on what we’ve been doing”.

I’ve used a similar ending to a donor letter and have had donors contact saying thank you and, yes asking if the organisation had done anything since their last donation was received, how their money had been used. The donors felt that they were part of the organisation, that they had a relationship beyond bank accounts.

One important thing, your thank you letter comes from you, not the CEO, not the Board, but you an individual.

And lastly, do you know why your donor is supporting you? If you don’t ask in the thank you letter, only ask the once tho, but do ask. This is valuable information and again helps build the relationship.

Thanking Donors

All donors deserve recognition for they support they give, some though need another level of acknowledgement.

Most organizations seem to think the same thank-you is sufficient no matter the level of support received from donors, but this could be the wrong way to think.

The thank-you in a standard receipt will be seen by some donors as enough to keep them giving, and yes, organizations think this too.

But what if you changed your thank-you for various levels of support, could this help you retain donors and potential increase the level of support you receive?

In general, yes, support could improve, the amount some give could increase, it could also help improve how long donors stay with you.

As said before in It’s Not Horses for Courses – it’s important to tailor your communications to the various segments of your donor base, don’t use the same “speak” for everyone. And, it’s true too in how you thank your donors.

Some organizations will send a simple receipt, thanking donors for their support, while also saying what they have achieved previously and what the latest support will enable it to do.

Others will be selective in who receives what kind of thank-you; with some sending a certificate of appreciation and for higher levels perhaps a gift of some sort.

You need to see what works for your organization, and monitor feedback from donors; bearing in mind some donors may see the production of a cerificate as wastage, and others receiving a gift see that too as a waste of resources.

If you’re getting negative feedback, use this as an opportunity to talk with donors about what they would like you to do to say thank you.

There’s some organizations using video as a thank you message to donors, this can be really effective, timing is important, do you do the video at the end of the campaign, or during the course of it. I’d suggest taking into account that doing a video thank you during the campaign could help gain further support.

If you do a video thank-you, tie it into the work your organization does, use people who your organization supports if possible. Video can be a very powerful medium to use and, you don’t need state of the art equipment, even a reasonable quality mobile phone can produce video at a good enough quality to publish and share with supporters. (Who knows, maybe one of your supporters may offer to do future videos as another way they can support your work.)

Whatever means of thank-you you adopt, as said above, monitor it, and adapt it as needed, don’t do the same thing year in year out, this will become boring and people receiving the thank-you could switch off and not read/see any other message you have in the thank-you.

So, is it a thank-you receipt, certificate or video? It’s up to you, give it a try, you have nothing to lose, even try it for a short time; donors deserve your thanks.

Are you visible?

Some organisations are screaming out for support to enable them to do their work however, some of these have no visibility – could this be holding them back?

Organisations that have a high profile, have easy recall with the public are more likely to gain sustained, ongoing support; whereas those who for whatever reason don’t shout out about what they’re doing miss out.

People will generally support organisations they have an affinity with or those that have a high profile, if you are not in either camp you’re going to miss out.

Communicating with supporters, current and lapsed is only part of it, organisations need to be keeping their message in front of people, not only at appeal time, but whenever possible.

If your supporters are seeing you and only see other organisations their allegiance can and will change.

But, importantly too, is that your visibility will help grow your supporter base.

Any organisation that doesn’t raise it’s head, wave it’s arms around and shout “here we and this is what we’ve done” will be left behind, growing a supporter base will be more difficult and people will bypass it for others that are readily identifiable.

Do you want to be left behind?

Are you sharing your stories, the good, the bad; how is this working for you?

Why aren’t you sharing your story, what impact are you noticing?

Does “brand recognition” make it easier for you to select what organisation you will support?

See also:




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?

Donor Bill of Rights

Am sure I shared this before, if so, no harm sharing it again.

Have a read and share your thoughts, is there anything you would add, anything you would change or remove, in the comments below.

Donor Bill of Rights

Philanthropy is based on voluntary action for the common good. It is a tradition of giving and sharing that is primary to the quality of life. To assure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public, and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the not-for-profit organizations and causes they are asked to support, we declare that all donors have these rights:

  1. To be informed of the organization’s mission, of the way the organization intends to use donated resources, and of its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes.
  2. To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization’s governing board, and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities.
  3. To have access to the organization’s most recent financial statements.
  4. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.
  5. To receive appropriate acknowledgment and recognition.
  6. To be assured that information about their donations is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by law.
  7. To expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the donor will be professional in nature.
  8. To be informed whether those seeking donations are volunteers, employees of the organization or hired solicitors.
  9. To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share.
  10. To feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.

The text of this statement in its entirety was developed by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel (AAFRC), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and adopted in November 1993.


See also:

More Openness and AccountabilityNeeded

Our Population is Changing

It doesn’t matter where you are, the population around you is changing, therefore your donor catchment is also changing; are you changing with your catchment?

If you aren’t changing with your catchment you are likely to be missing out on gaining new support, new opportunities to grow your organisation.

Often I hear people in organisations say that a certain “new” segment of the area won’t support them, that they won’t understand what it is the organisation is aiming to do.

This can be changed quite simply – communicate with, introduce yourself  and get to know them and in turn they’ll get to know you.

Growing new support from a new immigrant community needed be any harder than growing support from any other sector of the community.

If we take a look at Auckland, a population of 1.3 million – of that there’s a mix made up of … (the data below is from Statistic NZ – Census Map 2013)


European percentage of total people stated 59.3
Maori percentage of total people stated 10.7
Pacific peoples percentage of total people stated 14.6
Asian percentage of total people stated 23.1
Mid Eastn Latin American African percent of total people stated 1.9
New Zealander percentage of total people stated 1.1
Other ethnicity nec percentage of total people stated 0.1
Total people other ethnicity percentage of total people stated 1.2


It’s not hard to see that if your organisation is only tailoring your marketing, donor support, donor acquisition communication to the ‘population’ you are used to – that you are missing out.

Take for example those who identified as Asian in the last census – 23.1 percent, if your organisation is not attempting to, or isn’t communicating effectively with this sector of the population; you are missing out and need to change your strategy.

If it means having your communications translated, explore it, perhaps there are people in the community who would be willing to help with translation services as a way of supporting your work.

When it comes to face-to-face or phone based communication, look at the possibility of employing on a fixed term contract people to do this for you, again, you may find you already have supporters who will assist in these areas.

Are you tapping into new communities, new segments of the population? If so, how have you gone about this? Please share you experiences in the comments below.



Bequeathed Items

A supporter leaves you something special in their Will, the gift is from the heart with the supporter wanting to leave something to perhaps remember them by, or something that will be meaningful to your organization.

But, what do you do down the track when you relocate, renovate or simply want a new look?

Do you store the item or relocate it when you upgrade facilities; or do you sell it?

Maybe it depends on the gift, the legal side of the gifting – was it something left for a specific purpose.

Perhaps the donor wanted to leave a lasting legacy, and wanted what they gifted to be a lasting legacy to you and the work of the organization.

If your organization can, would it contact family of the donor to discuss what would be the best thing to do, or would it simply do what it wanted without any thought for the meaning behind the gift?

From people I’ve spoken with it seems most would do what they saw fit, many said “a gift is a gift and we can do what we want”, is this the view your organization has? 

Your eyes can tell you so much, are you listening with them

Having donors visit you is one thing, but when you visit donors you can learn so much – but as Michael Rosen says you need to listen with you eyes, not just see – but take in, register what you see.

Read what Michael Rosen says – 

When visiting prospects and donors, it is essential to listen carefully. You will want to learn about their philanthropic aspirations and legacy hopes. Listening to your prospect or donor rather than simply pitching your organization is a big part of what donor-centered fundraising is about.

For thousands of years, wise people have understood the value of effective listening. For example, Epictetus, the ancient Greek philosopher, said:

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Last week, I wrote about the importance of getting out and visiting prospects and donors (“Want to Know the Secret to Raising More Money in 2013?“). Now, I want to suggest that while we should certainly listen with our ears during those visits, we should also “listen” with our eyes.

Read full article here