Have you ever thought about why donors don’t respond to your gift requests? Are you receiving the silent treatment from those you know would support your programs?
A friend messaged me in despair. Let’s call her Terry. Terry is now the interim executive director of a nonprofit following the quick departure of the executive director. Fortunately, Terry had served on the board for several years. Now three months after taking the reins, she is frustrated and at a loss. Here is what she shared with me:
I launched a new initiative, and I am trying to find corporate donor funding. The problem is nobody responds to my emails. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I try and try to reach donors, and it is just radio silence. The initiative is actually pretty cool. (She shared her two-minute video).
I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to get attention from donors or maybe which donors to contact.
This is all new to me, and I am really stinking it up. I need help. Is there a golden nugget of advice for an old friend? I would appreciate it.
Specifically, there are two key questions Terry is proposing: 1) which donors to contact and 2) how to get their attention.
We don’t want any of that – donors don’t respond to my emails or requests!
Before asking for money, Terry and every nonprofit leader must get in front of their past major donors and make sure they feel valued.
In fact, we should spend bucoodles more time thanking our donors than asking them for money.
Certainly, we want our current donors to continue to support our cause. There are reasons why donor don’t respond anymore and it’s important to be ahead and prevent it.
Three Steps to Take to Remedy When Donors Don’t Respond to Your Gift Requests
Do this before seeking support from any donor (individuals, corporations, foundations) for your organization:
1. Identify Your Top Donors
First , create a list or pull a report from your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) of your top donors from the last 12 months.
Hence, if you are a small nonprofit and do not have a CRM, take the time to create profiles on each donor. For example, the profile should include such items as biographical information, giving history to your organization, giving history to other nonprofits, areas of interest and engagement, community involvement, professional history and affiliations, and last staff contact. Depending on your organization, you will have other areas to add to the profile like alumni or membership.
Divide your top donors into a manageable list so that you can focus on 10-20 donors at a time.
2. Schedule Visits with Donors to Say Thank-You
Second, you will schedule face-to-face visits with each donor on your list. Since these are your major donors, you want to make sure they know how much you value and appreciate them.
In fact, you will visit them to say thank you, not ask them for money. Donors don’t respond well when visited often for requests for gifts.
Work the list until you have contacted all the people on the list.
Even more, if you are new to your position as a nonprofit leader (like Terry), you will use this opportunity to get to know your top donors. It is a priority of yours to make personal visits and learn as much as you can about each person on this list.
3. Visit Donors to Seek Advice, Share Updates, and Learn More
Finally, it’s time to thank the donor for their past giving and discover more about them.
In these face-to-face meetings, you want to engage in sincere and meaningful conversations with your top donors.
Indeed, the first words to cross your lips on your visit will be to thank the donor for their ongoing support. In other words, you want to be specific in thanking them for their gift and share the impact of their investment.
To further prevent reasons why donors don’t respond, here are three tips on your donor visit to say thank you:
Share Your Impact with a Story
Namely, take something special to share with your donors. For example, share handwritten letters expressing how someone benefited from the program the donor funded.
Along with sharing the letters, tell the story to the donor that more explicitly illustrates the impact the organization is having in someone’s life or on the community. It is best if you witnessed this story and saw the transformation yourself.
Remember, the hero of the story is the donor. Plan ahead and know what story will resonate with the donor. You are letting the donor know that their gift meant something. Share the struggles that will continue without the support of people like the donor.
This is evidence of why their gift is so important. Help the donor to understand by showing them firsthand the impact of their giving. Tell your story with passion.
Be a listener.
Additionally, allow each donor to share why they are so passionate about your organization and why they continue to make financial contributions. For example, ask why they give. Or seek their feedback on programs. Maybe ask what they see as the greatest impact the organization is making.
Consider providing a one-page report that summarizes the organization’s impact. Numbers are good, but they have less meaning without a good story. Include a quote and photo in the report that gives evidence of success and engages the donor. There is no need for a fancy, slick document.
This also combats why donors don’t respond to gift requests.
Try to visit at least three major donors a week for six weeks.
After these visits, you will be ready to seek continued and additional support from your major donors.
No more of that donors don’t respond to my requests!
Question: What unique ways are you showing gratitude to your donors?
UPDATED: August 9, 2019
Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising guide. She provides overwhelmed nonprofit leaders with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].
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