FundRaiser Blog

The FundRaiser Software Blog is an excellent resource for nonprofit organizations looking to learn more about fundraising, donor management, membership management, and much more.

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Dear Kim,

I have tried to follow the advice in the Grassroots Fundraising Journal and from you, Andy Robinson, Stephanie Roth, and other grassroots fundraising experts. What you all say makes sense. Having said that, I hope you don’t find my question rude: where do you find the time to really implement all this advice? I am a relatively efficient person and I already work my 40 hours and then some every week. Being in touch with more donors, doing research on prospects, keeping our social media presence vibrant? Something is always not getting done. Any tips?

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The nine basic truths of fund-raising listed below are taken from the introduction to my book It’s a Great Day to Fund-Raise, and they are the foundation of my successful career as a development officer for and consultant to nonprofit organizations.

  1. Organizations are not entitled to support; they must earn it.
  2. Successful fund-raising is not magic; it is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared.
  3. Fund-raising is not raising money; it is raising friends.
  4. You do not raise money by begging for it; you raise it by selling people on your organization.
  5. People do not just reach for their checkbooks and give money to an organization; they have to be asked to give.
  6. You do not wait for the “right” moment to ask; you ask now.
  7. Successful fund-raising officers do not ask for money; they get others to ask for it.
  8. You don’t decide today to raise money and then ask for it tomorrow; it takes time, patience, and planning to raise money.
  9. Prospects and donors are not cash crops waiting to be harvested; treat them as you would customers in a business.

Learn more about how FundRaiser can help you acheive your fundraising goals

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As mentioned in earlier blog posts, I tried my own hand this year at fundraising for an organization I support. From creating my first fundraising campaign, to doing a little extra donor outreach with FundRaiser to reach our campaign goal, I enjoyed the experience and look forward to more. 

One of the very satisfying things was not just reaching the fundraising goal, but also an additional and important side benefit that I had not foreseen:  Based in part on the work our fundraising committee did, we had a wonderful turn out for the event in spite of some challenges that hit just before the event took place. Here's what happened...

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Mixing Oil and Water and Making it Work in a Non-Profit Organization 

The receiving and the handling of donations made to non-profit organizations are simple to do, but very often poorly done. When that happens, a vital block is taken out of the foundation we strive to build in an effort to ensure donor loyalty for future gifts. Lost or misplaced checks and other communications from donors, late and erroneous recording of gift/pledge dates and amounts, delayed and otherwise neglected acknowledgments, spelling errors of donors’ names, etc., all lead to lost or upset donors. 

We can all agree that this critically important process must be done right. And it starts with the very first check or pledge from a donor when it arrives in the mail room. But in many non-profit organizations, there is a sharply divided opinion regarding just where those checks, pledges, and other donor communications should go next in order to ensure that all goes right with the receiving, posting, acknowledging, reporting, and banking process of donations. 

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Dear Kim,

I am writing to you as a donor. I give away 10% of my income every year and support about 25 organizations with donations in the $20-$50 range with a few at $100. I live on social security but I don’t have many expenses so I can do this. But I read recently that gifts of $20 and $25 aren’t that useful to organizations because it costs so much to process them. The article said to make fewer gifts of higher amounts. I like giving to a lot of organizations but I don’t want to waste their time (or my money.) You are in fundraising so what do you think?

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Membership programs may have many practical benefits, but the biggest benefit to an organization is their potential to increase donor loyalty. Someone who sees herself as a member of an organization will generally feel more ownership and involvement in an organization than someone who sees herself just as a donor, even if the member never has any more concrete involvement than simply giving money.

In addition, enrolling a donor as a member gives a concrete reason for sporadic donors to become regular donors, at least once a year when their membership renewal comes due.

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A common question that I receive in support is how to see a list of donors who gave in subsequent years. Along with the question, they also want to know who gave multiple times in a year, or even in multiple years. It’s easy to find out the answers to those questions, and more, when you begin with a grouping.

When creating a grouping, on the “common patterns” tab, there are multiple options for different types of donors. The LYBUNT or SYBUNT categories capture your donors who gave last year, but not this year, or some year, but not this year. However, how do you capture those donors who have given in multiple years?

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That’s the subject line of this morning’s email from our local JCC, asking for my input on its member survey.
Give whatever you are oding and whoever you are with the gift of your attention
My immediate response was to delete it, because it’s all about the JCC’s needs and not about what members like me need. At least that’s what the subject line conveys!

Has your organization ever alienated its audiences doing something like this, something totally narcissistic?

Here’s what’s really annoying: The JCC folks do get it right in the first sentence of the email itself — There is only 1 week left to take our online JCC feedback survey. Please take a few minutes to complete it. Your opinion is extremely important as it helps us focus our improvement efforts on the areas that matter most to our community. We hope to hear from all of you!

But that’s the only sentence in the entire wordy email that speaks to serving the wants and needs of us JCC members. And most folks won’t even get there because the subject line is so JCC-focused.

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The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers

Dear Kim,

We are a 50-year-old social service agency and we have done a gala wine tasting event for the past 20 years. For many years, it was really fun and was the place to “see and be seen” in our community. About 300 people always came and we netted more every year. Our highest net was $75,000.

We had a strong volunteer group who did most of the work and a list of sponsors who said yes almost without being asked. But in the last 5-7 years, several things have happened which have depressed our income and the fun of the event, and almost all of them have to do with aging. Our main volunteers retired and many of the regular attenders started saying they don’t like to go out at night, or their doctor has said they can’t drink wine or they can’t hear and the event is unpleasant for that reason. Needless to say, some have died. Last year, staff did most of the work on the event and we netted about $25,000. About 200 people came but that’s because we let staff invite five friends for free so we only had 120ish paying customers.  

My question is this: is the event worth it? Should we change it up entirely? People have a lot of loyalty to this event but it seems to be slowly dying.

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Build donor relationships with mutual interestsDear Kim,

We are being advised by a consultant to stop trying to build a broad base of donors and instead to focus on high net worth individuals and seek six figure gifts from them.  The consultant says it will be faster and more lucrative which makes sense to me.  Why do you advise focusing on small gifts?

~Seeking Efficiency and a High ROI

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1887
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The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the daily details of lifeFund-raising has many engaging and inspiring sayings. Three that give insight into donor cultivation are:

  • People give to people.
  • You don't raise funds; you raise friends.
  • Fund-raising can be summed up in just three words - relationships, relationships, relationships.

At its heart, donor cultivation is about an organization's staff and leadership developing relationships with those capable of giving support and making them friends of the organization.

I define donor cultivation as an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor.

I can't stress enough how important this definition is - how important it is to the future of an organization's fund-raising efforts. Every successful fund-raising operation cultivates its donors - builds relationships with them. The most successful do it constantly and systematically.

Let's parse this 48-word statement and examine its key components. Again, the definition, this time with its key components in bold type:

Donor cultivation is an organization-wide strategy and process to learn more about each donor's interests, desired professional and social contacts, lifestyle, and philanthropic desires so that we can better initiate and respond to contact with a donor in order to develop a stronger relationship with that donor.

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One of the best ways to cultivate a relationship with a donor and strengthen that donor’s loyalty to an organization is to foster the donor’s connection with key staff. Obviously, executive directors and other very senior staff are naturals for this. But there are other approaches.

For one thing, you can introduce donors to staff members with whom they share interests. Another possibility is to invite donors to lunch with senior program staff. The donors get to hear the inside scoop on what the organization is doing, and staff develops an appreciation for the donors. That’s a win/win situation in my book.

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Tagged in: donor loyalty
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1742
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Take the chance to communicate in person with donorsIt’s not always possible to bring donors to your organization in order to get face time with them. So, does that mean you give up on your efforts to have in-person communication with donors too busy to commit to visiting? Not by a long shot. Take the initiative and make a site visit of your own—to a donor’s site. Schedule an appointment to pay a call on a donor you wish to cultivate, and have a reason for that call. Share information on new projects. Bring along a staff person you would like the donor to meet.

Maybe best of all, set up an appointment with the donor to ask the donor’s advice about something. Asking someone for help is the most flattering thing you can do. There are few things that will draw donors closer to an organization on a professional level than having the organization turn to them for their knowledge and expertise. Just think, there you are asking for something, and it isn’t money.

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Take time to personalize thank you lettersDear Kim,

As a new fundraiser for a mental health provider, I would like to know the etiquette and proper mode of thanking someone for either an in-kind gift or a monetary donation. It is bad form to send a pre-printed card to acknowledge the gift? I am referring to monetary gifts under $100.
~Ms. Manners, Jr.

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Tagged in: donor loyalty
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 2092
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Take the time to speak personally to your donorsThere is no better way to expose donors to the good works your organization does than by having them visit your facilities, or than by taking them to another location to see the results of a project or program of your organization. We call these events site visits and when donors are on site:

  1. You have their undivided attention.
  2. They can be shown exactly how contributions are being used.
  3. You can introduce them to key staff.
  4. They can meet individuals benefiting from the organization.
  5. They ask questions, the answers to which may allow for additional contact.
  6. They acquire information that they will share with others.
  7. They end up feeling good about being a donor.

Another way to bring donors to your organization is to comp them to events or performances you host. This is easy to do if you are an arts or education organization. However, other organizations also have events. There is always the annual meeting. Make sure donors receive an invitation and make it a “special” invite.

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Tagged in: donor loyalty
in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1809
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Good communication avoids many future problemsDear Kim:

I have been working for 10 years as the director of a social justice nonprofit that I founded. Since we have no development director, I’m the primary fundraising staff. I am considering leaving my position to stay at home with my young child. Many of our donors were brought into the organization through me, and I’m concerned some of them may stop giving if I’m no longer on staff. What can I do over the next three-four months to encourage as many of them as possible to remain part of our work after I am gone?

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in Non-Profit Fundraising Tips 1965
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