If everyone else was jumping off the Empire State Building…

I can still hear my mom saying that to me when I was a kid. Probably in response to me asking to do something because “everyone else is.”

She wasn’t wrong then and it still applies today.

Best Practices

When it comes to your fundraising and marketing, there are certain best practices we know to be true. We have the data to back them up. The odds will be in your favor when you follow them.

But when we confuse best practices with practices of the masses, that’s where we make mistakes.

Just because “every other organization” is doing something doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Giving Tuesday (GT) is a great example of that.

In my analysis of emails from that day, you can see how almost all nonprofits concentrated on the money in their email asks. Not how donors can solve a problem or the impact donors will have in their community. It was just a big cash grab.

And yet, just because everyone else is asking doesn’t mean you have to! In fact, it’s possible you would’ve stood out by doing something different. Given that end-of-year campaigns started right after GT was over, you could’ve gone a completely different way and seen an uptick in end-of-year revenue.

Gratitude Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

I’m a big believer in being grateful to supporters as often as possible. People give their money, time and efforts to further your mission. Proper and constant gratitude go a long way to strengthening the relationship with each donor.

On a day such as Giving Tuesday, when every single organization is asking for support, what would happen if you went in a different direction?

Have a look at this email Overdose Lifeline emailed their subscribers on GT (hat tip to Adam Clevenger for sharing this with me):

Overdose Lifeline email thanking supporters

Simple, heartfelt, sincere. Excellent use of the P.S. to reiterate the gratitude!

This is the kind of email you can send on GT, January 1 (after you bombarded people with end-of-year asks) or any time during the year. Gratitude doesn’t need a reason. It just needs your organization to make it part and parcel of their fundraising and marketing efforts.

When you change Giving Tuesday into Gratitude Tuesday, you’ll stand out.

Fundraising and philanthropy expert Adam Clevenger works with Second Helpings, a community kitchen in Indianapolis. Each GT they hold a phone-a-thon: Staff and volunteers call donors all day long to say thank you and NOT ask for a donation.

I asked Adam how it went this year. They made 2,259 donor calls!!!

Think about that for a second: Those donors who received a phone call felt the love. I mean, who calls people these days?! That’s why it stands out on a day when everyone else is busy asking for money.

When Second Helpings does make their next ask, donors will recall those phone calls of gratitude. And I’ll bet the organization will receive more donations from more people.

Adam Clevenger and the team at Second Helpings calling donors to say thank you on Gratitude Tuesday

Adam Clevenger and the team at Second Helpings calling donors to say thank you on Gratitude Tuesday

We Pause This Campaign…

Right after GT the end-of-year campaigns get into full swing. Direct mail. Email. Social media.

Have a look at this email Fenway High School sent out on December 6:

Fenway High School thanks its email subscribers

Robin Cohen, their Director of Development, knows how to do gratitude!

For starters, I love the smiling faces that greet me when I open the email. As fundraising expert Beth Ann Locke says: “Don’t put any space between your donors and your beneficiaries.” That’s exactly what this header does.

The content of the email is full of YOU, the donor. The gratitude is for everything YOU do (not we, the organization). It makes the donor feel good and know their gift is appreciated.

Now imagine if you included a gratitude piece every quarter. Whether someone gave or not yet, you let them know you’re thankful for their support. Your retention would soar.

A day later I was forwarded an email from social marketing expert Nedra Weinreich. The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America sent this to their subscribers:

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America seds a gratitude email to its subscribers

What I loved about the email were the final two sentences: “In this time of giving and caring in the holiday spirit, MSAA is grateful to have people like you in our corner. Thank you for all your support of MSAA and we wish you a joyous holiday season.”

It’s so easy to say thank you and it goes so far!

2023- Year of Gratitude and Retention

I know that 2023 is looking like a year of financial uncertainty. Potential recession.

This is why I am going to be focusing a lot on gratitude and retention.

Fundraising expert Dr. Adrian Sargeant says, based on his research: “The thank you is the single most important piece of communication that your donors get. They have a higher recall of it than the appeal that generated the gift.”

Read that quote again. We work so hard on the fundraising ask and getting the copy just right. Yet what will donors remember? Whether our thank you was memorable.

I know that some of you might be in survival mode. I’m here to tell you that 2023 can be a year of more than survival. Go for thrival!

Want to succeed this year and every year? Show proper gratitude and you’ll boost your donor retention.

Now that’s a best practice you should follow whether or not everyone else does!

Want to learn how to boost your gratitude game and watch donor retention grow at your organization? Contact me about my gratitude and retention training for your staff. Learn the many different ways to show appreciation, how thank yous build relationships with donors and how upgrading your gratitude game will help more people stay as supporters of your mission.