Appreciation Breeds Loyalty

Written by Amy Quinn on . Posted in Fundraising, Goodwill

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Royalty Amy PicWhen my husband and I checked in to our hotel room last Friday, we discovered an appealing cheese plate and hand-written thank-you note to welcome us back to the property for yet another ski season. The note from our reservation agent reflected our own excitement about kicking-off the ski season. She wished us many happy powder days and, of course, a good stay at the hotel. Bellmen and the concierge staff also offered us a warm welcome greeting us by name. I thought repeatedly about how I needed to learn their names too!

This hotel is not the Ritz Carlton and we’re not “big spenders”. Rather we’re repeat guests, who indulge in a few hotel stays during each ski season. Put together, all this attention makes us feel valued as customers. Booking rooms for next year seems probable already.

Do your donors feel this type of appreciation?

I can’t help but draw a parallel with nonprofits cultivating long-term supporters and our recent hotel experience. How do nonprofits greet repeat donors and keep them feeling valued? 

Here are some tips I gleaned from our sense of loyalty for the Vail Cascade Resort.

Relationships

The hotel staff knows us by name and gladly engages us in conversation, whether to learn about the ski conditions or if we need help with a dinner reservation. By the end of the ski season we will know each other even better. How often do nonprofits interact with their donors?  When do conversations actually occur?

Tip: Create a quarterly action to “check-in” and connect with repeat donors.

Who are your loyal donors? 

Most nonprofits are well aware of their Major Donors and have routines in place to cater to these important supporters. But, what about those repeat “Steady Eddie” donors who make consistent donations year after year? Does your organization know these people and how they wish to be recognized? Repeat donors represent a pipeline of consistent revenue and potential.

Tip: Study your database of annual donors to identify patterns. Learn how repeat donors have become linked to your nonprofit and use this connection to design logical outreach.

What’s the big deal?

Some nonprofits make no distinction between a repeat donation and an annual gift. Yet a repeat gift is a huge benchmark not to go unnoticed. Make a big deal of the second gift (and then the third, fourth, fifth, etc.)

Tip: Create a “tickler” file in your Constituent Relationship Management database for second-time and repeat donors for certain actions to occur. Perhaps for second-time donors, an additional letter is sent from the Executive Director or Board Chair.  For the third and fourth gift, send out an additional post card with an amazing photograph. For a fifth donation, send a link to a brief thank-you video from the ED or staff or invite them to your offices for a VIP tour.

Frankly first time donors also need extra attention so as to feel motivated to make a repeat donation. Create an extra–special “Welcome” package inviting them to enjoy a special relationship with your nonprofit. Make sure to check in with these first-time donors again during the year about their interests and share progress on your nonprofit’s mission advancement, before a second solicitation is sent.

Cultivation events

Admittedly with a huge donor-base it’s difficult to reach everyone. Here’s when a series of well-organized “turn-key” gatherings can help. There’s nothing like in-person contact! 

Tip: Create simple personal events to share news and celebrate your work.  Maximize events already in place with clear communication upfront and strong follow-up. After the gathering, reach out to those you met as well as others you didn’t have time to connect with. Call them, write a note, or send an email, whichever mode of communication fits best with their preferences.

IAmy salt and peppahn 2014 it’s time to add sincere sugar and spice to repeat donor relationships.  Offer a platter of specific ways to connect with loyal donors.  Spend the year learning who exists behind first and second introductions. Appreciate and sincerely grow your relationships. Make it real.

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Employee Engagement and Creating A Loyal Corporate Client

Written by Amy Quinn on . Posted in Fundraising, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights, Volunteering

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According to the Giving USA 2013 Highlights, corporate philanthropy totaled $18.15 billion in 2012. As compared to individual giving and bequests, which totaled $252.34 billion, corporate donations only represent 6 percent of the total given during 2012 ($316.23 billion).

Why the Big Difference in Contributions

Between Individuals and Corporate Giving? 

Development professionals cater to corporate goals with sometimes only a blurry focus on the employees involved within the organization. Perhaps it’s possible to engender more loyalty toward corporate philanthropic goals through the very same people that are giving their time and money? The answer is “yes” and therefore, to grow corporate philanthropy we should increase individual outreach concurrent with corporate social mission.  

amy's clockHere’s how we might embrace both the individual and the company in corporate giving campaigns.

A two-prong goal: alignment of corporate social mission and individual benefits

Ideally the best corporate philanthropic program is one aligned with a company’s social mission. In other words, there is a logical reason that the company has chosen a specific nonprofit.  Consider Home Depot’s commitment in 2012 of $80 million over five years, for housing, on behalf of veterans. Ms. Banaszynski, who oversees the program for Volunteers of America explains: “This (Home Depot’s focus) seems like a deep company-wide commitment, not just a philanthropic gift… the hearts and souls of their associates have become involved.” Further, Home Depot estimates that at least 35,000 of its employees are veterans. The first goal of every corporate philanthropic program is to find the synergy between company and the cause.

 But, let’s set a concurrent goal focused on individuals, the people participating in the campaign. As mentioned in a previous  blog, a recent study by True Impact of 28,000 employee volunteers, 87 percent reported feeling extremely satisfied and 94 percent believed that their volunteerism was a ‘core component or positive influence on job satisfaction.”

This second, concurrent goal defines the benefits of employee involvement in giving programs.  How will employees benefit by donating and or participating in a corporate campaign? 

In Home Depot’s efforts employees “don’t sit there and eat doughnuts and drink coffee, rather, they show up at 7 in the morning and go all day”, feeling very satisfied and enthusiastic about the difference they can make. In addition, Home Depot employees who have also been veterans are able to demonstrate to the clients that’s it possible to “make it” in a traditional workplace environment. Who wouldn’t benefit from Home Depot’s campaign?

Never have too much cache

When planning how to engage employees, there can never be too much recognition, education and celebration: 

  • Consider how to make your campaign materials stand out and feel personal to the employee.

  • Use videos and strong visuals to communicate messages.

  • Celebrate corporate leaders who are leading the charge — just like any other peer-to-peer event.

  • Set up contests, morning treats, evening “wind-down” events —whatever makes sense for the culture and corporate environment.

  • Make sure there’s a clear plan for thanking each donor and, if possible, hand-write notes.

Outcomes  

Junior Achievement reported last year that it spent “$5 million over the past seven years documenting the effectiveness of its programs – something that companies are increasingly looking for,” according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy article, “With Cash Giving Flat, Companies Offer Other Aid.”  Make plans to follow up with employees on how their donations made an impact. Hopefully it’s not necessary to spend millions. Rather chose a few key metrics to demonstrate success.

Cultivation events

Cultivation events offer the chance for individuals to become familiar with your nonprofit.  Create “Lunch & Learns”, “Coffee Chats”, “Pep Rallies” with a fun hook, a clear presentation about who you are and why your cause should matter. Offer some prizes and yummy snacks for extra incentive. Provide additional volunteer opportunities and survey attendees at the end of the event to gauge interest. Make sure the presentation is well orchestrated, to the point and leaves time for Q & A. An event is only as good as the follow-up so reach out afterwards to employees who expressed interest.

What else besides the check?

Junior Achievement of Colorado proposes that its corporate volunteers can “unlock youth’s potential.” In other words, it’s not just money that makes a difference but they, the employees, who can make an impact through volunteering! 

Sometimes there’s a logical way to involve employees in a cause.  For example CWEE, the Center for Work Education and Employment, offers a myriad of ways for involvement:

1.  Attend our Professional Connections Networking Event…

2.  Host a Tour for Participants at Your Company…

3.  Assist participants in Informational Interviews…

4.  Volunteer to be a Mock Interviewer…

5.  Become a Guest speaker about your organization or industry…

6.  List a current Job Opening with us…

7.  Host a Hiring Event.

When there is not a logical fit, capacity-building projects are another way to involve employees. The key, as described by Alexander Shermansong, principal at Civic Consulting Alliance, is to be an outstanding “matchmaker”. In other words, outline the project and its components and define what type of help is needed. Here’s more information on how to be the right matchmaker.

Just as we value individuals and their impact on philanthropy, we need to remember that concurrent with a company’s social mission are the benefits for employees when participating in a campaign.  While employee-giving campaigns continue to raise funds, it’s worth cultivating stronger ties with the individual employees through events, capacity building and volunteering opportunities. Just like individual solicitations for an annual fund, we want to create long-standing relationships and loyalty with the employee. In the end, as always, it’s about the relationships we create. Relationships will sustain and grow corporate philanthropy.

 

 

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Nonprofit Fundraising: How Do You Take the Pulse of Your Donors?

Written by Lyn Slater on . Posted in Fundraising, Nonprofit Insights

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With fundraising the most necessary element of continued growth and success of any nonprofit organization, regardless of size, we spend a lot of time in this space discussing donor recruitment and retention. The second part of that equation is has been lacking in many nonprofits despite being so essential. As major donors in particular tend to develop loyalties for specific organizations, keeping donors happy should be a high priority—so why do recent reports indicate that donor retention rates have fallen below 30 percent?

The only way to start working on improving these numbers is to find out what’s driving donors away, but how can an organization know for sure what their donors are thinking?

images3DADXFMIThere are a few options available for taking the pulse of your donors. Whether it’s a good old-fashioned survey using more traditional outreach like email, phone, (gasp!) snail mail, or a more technology driven communications plan, this sort of effort ought to give you a good idea of where you may improve in order to increase donor satisfaction. Before you begin, it’s best to turn the questions internally: what sorts of communications with donors are you doing regularly? Do you have a calendar for outreach? Are you only touching base with donors to ask for more donations? What is your strategy for thanking donors, and is it different for major gifts (i.e., a personal phone call or hand-written note vs a standard-issue form letter)?

What’s the best approach for turning these questions on your audience? To answer this question, Nonprofit Quarterly recently went right to the horse’s mouth and asked a donor directly to provide insights on best practices for reaching out to your donor base. With his recommendations and sample survey questions, you can find out how your donors are feeling about your fundraising efforts, your use of their generous donations, the direction of your organization, and more. The post from October has quality advice for putting together a comprehensive donor survey that will capture your donors’ feelings on all these topics and more.

From the post:

Building Donor Loyalty also provides you with questions about relationship-building performance by the nonprofit. For example, how well do you do in these areas: Thanking donors for their gifts. Being polite in all communications. Informing the donor about how you’re spending donor money. Demonstrating that you care about the donor.

Maybe you think you’re doing well. But ask the donor.

Ask the donor. Ask questions about donor motivation. Ask donors where else they give. Ask donors about your communications. Ask donors about volunteering.

Ask your donors and you will learn important stuff. Then use what you learned.”

As Frank Barry points out in a recent post on NPEngage, if the current trends in donor retention keep up, we could be seeing average retention rates dropping below 20 percent in the next ten years. That number is pretty staggering. As a guide for nonprofits looking to avoid those types of numbers, Barry curated a solid list of tips from experts in nonprofit fundraising to boosting retention rates. While not focused specifically on donor feedback, they all stressed the importance of communications—and not simply financial asks but thank you’s, newsletters, and other forms of engagement to make the donor feel included and appreciated:

“The key to keeping your donors is building a relationship with them. That relationship starts with thanking them in a thoughtful and meaningful way for their gift and it progresses by telling them frequently how they are making a difference.  As their giving grows and you learn more about them you can retain them and get them giving more by developing a cultivation plan that honors their interests and sets a revenue goal for your ask. If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there, but with a plan everything is possible.”

How are you reaching out to donors to determine their level of satisfaction with your organization? Let us know in the comments!

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How Skill-Based Volunteering Matters More Than You Might Think

Written by Amy Quinn on . Posted in Fundraising, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights, Volunteering

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Checkbook philanthropy is fraught with peril, especially in the workplace. Donors often grow weary of writing a check to the annual employee giving campaign. Even the blessings of payroll deduction can undermine the emotional connection donors once felt for your mission. Even worse, employees may donate only out of a sense of obligation or peer pressure rather than from any genuine connection to your cause.  Collecting checks is a necessary routine, but focusing on the transaction alone may adversely affect the long-term success of an employee giving campaign. Thankfully there are alternative ways to involve employees in your nonprofit mission.

hands for Amy

 A more satisfactory partnership with your corporate partners involves the time and talent of employees, not just their cash. Richard Crespin, Senior Fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation put it this way: “although volunteer hours are unrecognized and thus, limited and discouraged by our tax code, one of the most powerful ways to engage a leading company is to ask them to lend the time of their employees. A consulting firm or other ‘white collar’ firm, as in the financial or technology sector, have great knowledge workers…”1  Over the past few years, such skills-based volunteering has accelerated as demonstrated by a Billion+ Change.  A Billion + Change, a campaign aimed at American business, has motivated more than “500 companies to commit to providing more than $2 billion worth of skills-based volunteer services to help nonprofits address critical community priorities at home and around the world.”

Why does skill-based volunteering work? According to research by True Impact, tendering skills builds nonprofit capacity more than any other type of volunteerism and those contributing their talent feel great satisfaction as well. In a 2011 study of 28,000 volunteers, 87 percent reported feeling extremely satisfied and 94 percent believed that their volunteerism was a “core component or positive influence on job satisfaction.”

A company typically employs individuals with a wide-variety of skills to bring to the table. Imagine the satisfaction an individual feels when allowed to use their skills to benefit a cause. That’s not to say that an employer will readily “lend” an employee to a nonprofit. But with some planning and clear objectives, skills-based volunteerism, also known as pro-bono volunteering, is a viable option, creating impact in both directions.

Three Steps for Starting A Skills-Based Volunteer Program

1.  Identify Alignment. As with all corporate philanthropic programs, pro-bono engagement must evolve organically in a direction that matters to the employees.  Ryan Scott of Causecast reminds us that, “effective pro-bono initiatives feel authentic, springing naturally from an alignment between employee interests, community needs and company programs.”

2.  Be Ready! Time is precious and your nonprofit needs to maximize the skills of any volunteers. Use this “Readiness Roadmap” assessment tool created by a Billion Plus Change to determine how your organization can prepare before soliciting help.

3.  Create Your Project List. An employee volunteer can’t solve every challenge but with clear objectives and defined skills needed for each project, the possibility of finding the right fit improves. In this regard, the Taproot Foundation provides a very useful worksheet for “Understanding Your Pro Bono Project Needs”.

Start with alignment, prepare for readiness and plan your strategic goals to enable skills-based volunteering. Not only will your volunteers feel increased satisfaction using their own talents but they may also concurrently make a fiduciary commitment to your cause, enabling a praiseworthy “double whammy”.

 

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