Hopefully by now you’ve tried out some free ways to stay in touch with your supporter base and attract new supporters and you are ready to test out spending some money on direct marketing. I’ll start with your existing donors.
Often, thank yous are an afterthought or a legal requirement. In reality, they are a great way to deepen a relationship with a donor. Every donor should get at least one thank you, generally in a similar format to how they gave the gift. That is, if they mailed you a gift, mail them back a thank you note; if they gave a gift online, make sure they get an email receipt.
Please note I say “at least one thank you.” Gratitude is something to be practiced throughout donor communications largely for its own sake, being the right thing to do and all, but it can also be profitable. A way to dip your toe into the mail water is to start sending thank you letters to online donors of a certain amount or more.
What is that amount? Whatever you are comfortable with to start. You can dial back if the mailings get too onerous (a nice problem to have) or expand the program once started.
This mailing does a couple of things. It conditions the donor to expect things from you in the mail and that those will be good things. Also, just as it is better to be a bit overdressed instead of a bit underdressed in everywhere except the tech sector, it is better to be just a little bit more appreciative of a gift than your competitors other worthy causes.
To keep your early losses to a minimum, start your mailings with a few tried-and-true pieces. Some that generally work well are:
- Membership pieces. Even if you are not a membership organization, creating a supporter club or whatever name you feel comfortable with gives your donors a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves alone, which is great, because they are. Also, you then have a reason to ask for renewals each year.
- Holiday giving, especially end of year. Online end of year will be its own topic at some point (incidentally, I count nine topics I’ve promised to talk about after only six posts; I may be creating a monster), but during the holidays works well for mail as well, where a holiday spirit generally increases response rates. It’s also a good time to thank your donors and wish them well in the New Year and with whatever holiday(s) they choose to observe.
- A newsletter. While traditionally a cultivation device, you can write ones that will more than pay for themselves. We’ll talk more about that in another post (ten!), but if you are champing at the bit, I strongly recommend Making Money with Donor Newsletters by Tom Ahern. You get what’s on the tin.
So that’s what to do with current donors. How do you talk to potential donors without breaking the bank? We’ll (try to) cover that Tuesday.