It’s never too early to think about your New Year’s resolutions, right?  What will you do differently?  What can you change that will dramatically impact and increase your fundraising revenue?

Let’s start with the reality – HOW you can raise more money.  If I asked most people how they were going to raise more money in 2013 many people would say “By getting more donors!”  It is actually fundamentally untrue that just getting more donors gets you more money.  Why?  Because most of the time you got a new donor but you lost another donor.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at the 2012 results from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project: Every $100 gained in 2011 was offset by $100 in losses through gift attrition.  Sadly, our industry suffers from some very abysmal attrition rates, on average 50% of first time donors won’t give again the next year.

There are actually only three ways to raise more money.  It feels like there are a million – have a gala, launch a sustainer program, start doing Benevon, do a race.  I had the pleasure of seeing Penelope Burke, author of Donor Centered Fundraising, recently and she laid out the three (yes there are just three!) ways we raise more money:

  • Extending donor loyalty
  • Increasingly generous giving
  • Realizing higher gift values sooner

Doing a sustainer program is a tactic to get you to increasingly generous giving.  If you were going to transform your giving in 2013 you’d want to achieve all three of those results bulleted above.  How will you do it?  Not by chasing the bright shiny toy!  When it comes to fundraising there is no silver bullet. At the end of the day people are inspired to give because they believe their gift makes an impact.  So the goal is, how do I communicate to my donors that their gift made an impact?

Capture their attention and make them glad they paid attention to you.

Give them a cute, funny, unique donor piece that is worthy of sticking on their fridge.  Show  warmth, personality and humor.  Everything your donor gets from you, an email or a direct mail piece is an interruption in their otherwise busy life.  Stand out with  something worth keeping around.  I spent 12 years at the helm of Girlstart, a nonprofit I founded to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology.  My goal was always to land on someone’s fridge.  How did I do it?  Cute, funny creative graphics people were willing to look at for a while.  Can you play “where’s waldo” with your annual report?  Can you make your results a board game?  What if you went digital and made your annual report a video or a Prezi?  How can it be vibrant, meaningful, unexpected and break the mold?

Say thanks promptly, personally and meaningfully.

If there is anything that drives me insane it is the sad fact that most gifts don’t get prompt or personal acknowledgement.  I made a gift in honor of someone recently and they let me know they were notified 6 weeks after my gift.  That is better than never but as evidenced by Kivi Lexroux Miller’s annual giving experiment  but still unacceptable.

Saying, “well I just don’t have time” is not acceptable.  How much time did you spend recruiting me to make a gift?  The reality is donors making a first time gift to you could be giving you much more!  They aren’t though because they want to see what you will do with the gift they made.  Will you take the time to call them and thank them?  Will you write a handwritten thank you card?  Will a leadership volunteer (board member) call to say thanks?  Sadly, for most organizations the answer is no.  This is why that donor doesn’t give again and we have 50% attrition in our industry.  If you invest the time to acquire me why not invest the time to steward me?  If you do I will give more and give for longer amounts of time.

Finally, say thanks in a way that is well crafted, thoughtful, poetic and personable.  You want THIS to be the thank you card they keep forever.  Don’t just say “thank you” and use a mass addressed card.  A good thank you card sets up the next ask.  Approach it with as much thought as they did when they made your gift to you!  Here’s an example: “You must have heard the cheers and squeals from the Liz Carpenter School for Young Women CEO’s and presidents when we told them that you are funding the senior trip to the White House!  The students delight is matched by our deep appreciation for your belief and support of our work empowering girls as future leaders.”   Hungry for more?  Donor Centered Fundraising has an amazing do’s and don’ts section on writing thank you cards that deliver!  And whatever you do, do not ask for another gift in your thank you!

Let them know their gift made a difference!

This is the ROI that makes a donor want to give again, knowing their gift has an impact.  That is the recognition donors want.  Donors stop giving because of a failure to communicate.

I have a New Year’s challenge for every organization ready to dramatically increase their fundraising results.  Steward your first time donors like you would a major gift prospect.  Have a board member call them within 48 hours of receiving their gift.  Send a personal thank you note.  Call them again out of the blue a month later just to tell them how thankful you are and how their gift is making an impact.  Prove me wrong – because I am betting that person will be ready to make a major gift in a matter of months.

Here’s to a great 2013!

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