All of us know that donor communication is very important for the non-profits of today. To retain donors and convert one-time donors into recurrent ones, to also encourage them to feel like a part of the cause, and to spread the word within to their kith and kin, the importance of donor communication is well-established. But what does communicating with donors mean? Is it a thanks note, an appeal to donate again, or an update, or is it all of the above? What makes a donor tick?
There can be different scenarios in this context, for example, a happy situation can be when you have sent an appeal for funds and the donor has donated. Another one can be same case for corporate or big donors. On the other hand, there may be follow-up required if you have sent an appeal but have not heard from the donor after that. Or lastly, the most dreaded situation when the request is turned down. It is okay, for not everyone you approach will donate. So, dealing with all of the above situations must be taken as a fundraising outcome, even denial. So, let us try to understand the good practices of fundraising follow-up with donors.
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1. After receiving donations:
- Thank you notes/ mails:
The first thing you need to send to your donor is a ‘Thank you’. A thank you can be sent through notes or emails now-a –days. Many organizations maintain a donor database, and donation tracking systems. This makes it easy to broadcast thank you messages to all who donated, with little customization as per name of the donor, amount donated, etc. There are also many websites that allow one to maintain donor databases and manage donor communication for free. Take any one, and start sending thanks to your donors.
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- Regular communication:
Now that the donor is in your database, remember to send regular communication to maintain donor relationships. Send out messages, regular updates about activities, achievements, and most importantly what difference their donation is bringing. You can also ask them to subscribe to your newsletters or any other regular publications, if you release any. You may also ask them to become ambassadors for your cause, and spread the word within their network if they wish.
2. After sending appeal to a donor:
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- Reminders/ check-ins
If you have sent an appeal to a donor (s) and you are yet to receive a response, there are chances to convert a ‘probable’ donor into a real one. It is your chance to get one more donor. Remember, fundraising is a way to allow those who wish to donate, to do so. So, give it a shot. Send reminders about your communication or any previous meetings. Ask the donors if they are willing to donate.
A reminder will work well with a little information or a snapshot of your organization, what it does, its impact on the ground and the context for which you are seeking donations. Send donation appeals specifically designed, reminders, and other relevant information about your organization. You can try your best to ‘convert’ this ‘maybe’ donor into a real one.
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3. After fundraising appeal is turned down:
It is okay to hear a ‘no’ from donors (er… prospective). It is natural to hear many ‘no’s before a ‘yes’. Be prepared for this outcome also, as it is a part of the job of a fundraiser. Take it professionally, and not personally. What communication can be done now, you must be thinking.
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- Thank you:
Send thank you mail for their time and consideration. End the matter on a positive note, with hope for future collaboration and association.
- Information about the work you do:
This can be done as per your discretion. If you feel there is still hope, you may send some communication to update about your work and impact stories. Or simply ask them if they would like to subscribe to the communication. This way, you can make sincere attempt at donor cultivation. However, if it is a no for any communication, remove the donor from your subscriber list and database if they do not like it.
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With time, you will find a way to strike that perfect balance between yes’s and no’s from donors, what information to send, how much and how frequently. Keep trying, but don’t overdo it. The best teacher about this topic is ‘experience’. Don’t keep on just asking for money; rather focus on donor cultivation, growing strong relationships with donors to make them ambassadors of your cause, rather than just donors.