[VIDEO] Why Good Gratitude Boosts Retention, Loyalty and Engagement
In this webinar, Beth Ann Locke will provide stats, real-life examples, and her own tips on how she authentically connects with donor and prospects through thanking.
Steven: All right, Beth Ann. Is it okay if I go ahead and get us started officially here?
Steven: All right, cool. Welcome everyone. Good afternoon if you are on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Why Good Gratitude Boosts Retention, Loyalty and Engagement.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. So, if you have to leave early or you want to review the contents or share with a friend, have no fear. I’ll get all that good stuff in your hands this afternoon. Just be on the lookout for that later on today.
Most importantly, as you’re listening today, throughout the entire hour, please feel free to use the chat box right there on your ReadyTalk window. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. So, don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands. We’d love to see your questions and comments throughout. Both Beth Ann and I will see those. You can do the same thing on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed as well if you want to send us a tweet.
And one last bit of technical note. If you have any trouble with the audio through your computer, we find that the audio by phone is usually a little bit better. So, if you don’t mind dialing in by phone, if you can do that, try that before you give up on us completely since it doesn’t rely on a software or internet connection or any of that good stuff that can sometimes bog webinars down. So, if you want to dial in, there is a phone number you can dial in the email from ReadyTalk that went out when you registered. There’s another reminder that went out about a half hour ago as well. So, you should be able to find it there.
If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars almost every single Thursday. We love doing them. It’s one of our favorite things to do. But if you never heard a Bloomerang besides these webinars, we are a provider of donor management software. So, if you’re interested in that or kind of want to learn about what we’re all about or maybe you’re shopping right now, check it out. Wait until the presentation is over because you guys are in for a real treat today for sure. But we’d love for you to learn more about us later on if you are interested.
Speaking of that treat you guys are in for, you really are in one for one because I got one of my favorites ever here with us today. The first Bloomerang webinar. I can’t believe it’s taken six years to get you on here, Beth Ann, but I am glad we finally made it happen. How’s it going? You doing okay?
Beth: It’s great. I will say you didn’t ask me six years ago, but . . .
Steven: It’s true.
Beth: I’m glad and I’m excited to be here.
Steven: I guess it is my fault.
Beth: This year we found a time. No, no, no. You got a lot of people to have on. And you’ve had such great content. I love . . . I actually really enjoy. I find that . . . But I don’t always attend, but then I can listen to them later. So, that’s one of the great things.
Steven: I was too intimidated by your awesomeness because I would see you at events and like, “That’s Beth Ann Locke. I got to meet her. I got to meet her.” And now we’re buddies, so I’m very thankful.
Steven: I just want to brag on you real quick because you got a lot of good stuff for us. If you guys don’t know Beth Ann yet, you got to know her or follower on Twitter. Look for her at events because she does a lot of speaking herself. She is currently the Director of Advancement over at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. And she has been a fundraiser her whole life. She’s worked both in the U.S. and in Canada, raised millions of dollars. She’s worked, like she said, you may have heard of before we got going on, she’s worked in lots of different sectors and lots of different cities.
Super involved with her AFP chapter in Vancouver. She’s actually a President-Elect right now and she’s also a former co-host of Gratitude Camp. You see her all over the place online always giving out great advice. Definitely, one of our favorites. So, Beth Ann, I am going to pipe down and turn the mic over to you and tell us all about gratitude. So, take it away my friend.
Beth: Awesome. Well, if you know me, you know that I really like to use gratitude as a tool to bring people closer, bring them closer to my organization, bring them closer to me and to convene people. So, when Steven asked if I wanted to do a webinar, I wondered if he might want to talk about gratitude. So, I want to talk today about how good gratitude boosts retention, loyalty, and engagement.
Oh, I shall say that if you want to tweet about it, you can use this hashtag if you want. But you should definitely include BloomerangTech and you can use my handle, which is FundraiserBeth. And please ask questions as we go along.
So, I just wanted to talk a little bit about what we’re going to cover today. We’re going to talk a little bit about the state of donor retention. If you’re pretty much any kind of fundraiser, except not yet, a fundraiser, you know where that sits. We’re going to talk about where we typically invest in fundraising. We’re going to talk about where gratitude fits in into the donor journey. We’re going to talk about gratitude in action. So, actual places where employing gratitude has helped increase giving. And I’m going to give you a few tips about writing your next note of gratitude. Let’s go.
So, the state of donor retention. If you aren’t familiar with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, this is an effort across a lot of sectors in the U.S. and Canada about looking about what’s happening in donors for giving, for retention. It’s cut a lot of different ways. It’s a great thing to read. And I looked at the 2018 report and what we’ve got for every 100 donors gained in 2017, we had a 99 donor loss. So, for new donors gained in 2017, we lost 99 donors from attrition. The overall donor retention rate is 45%. So, this is not good. If this was a business, we’d be having all sorts of alarm bells going off.
And so why is that? And there are a lot of reasons. Sometimes donors don’t feel we communicate with them well, sometimes they aren’t thanked. Sometimes it doesn’t appear that we’re deserving. Sometimes they die or move, and so they’re not in the region anymore. But what I want you to think about and what I want to start out today is, it’s the fundraiser’s job to make a supporter feel good about supporting your charity, the charity where you work.
And Stephen Pidgeon is a great fundraiser who’s done fantastic work, especially with smaller donors. You have to love your donors, the money will follow. And I think we have a strong focus sometimes in our profession about asking and a little less about thanking and appreciation.
So, what is it about strong retention rates? Why is this important? So, it’s a sign of a healthy program. I believe that donor loyalty lengthens and strengthens donor relationships so the loyalty can go both ways. The donors are loyal to us, but we also as the organization or as a fundraiser, reach out and connect back with the donor with that loyalty.
So, acquiring new donors if you don’t already know this, and I’m going to go quickly, that it’s more expensive than retaining the donors that you already have. The donors that you already have already been excited about you. They’ve already stretched their hand out to you to say, “I’m in.” As I heard from Tammy Zonker when I attended her session at AFP, it takes almost two years for donors to make their most generous gift to our organization. So, when we’re cycling through donors, we’ll never get to that part where they’re starting to feel comfortable to have trust and loyalty and they want to make those kinds of impact gifts.
Adrian Sargeant, you may have heard of him. He talks about how just a 10% increase in a donor retention rate will increase the lifetime value of a donor. If you’re not familiar with that, you can Google that, but it’s basically a way we are able to measure the value a donor has to an organization, which, of course, can’t just be measured in numbers, but how we do that for people who like numbers, and it can increase that person’s giving to us by 200%.
And better-engaged donors open their circle of peers to us. So, if you’re doing events, if you’re doing major gifts, as people become more engaged, they’re going to transfer their trust that they have in our organization to their peers by inviting their friends to come to events or by opening networks so that we can ask for gifts.
So, it’s too bad that we don’t have an easy way to track that donor engagement. A lot of us don’t even necessarily know our donor retention. How many people here . . . I’ll just take a quick little blah, blah. How many people here know what their donor retention rate is? I’m just going to watch the chat box. You can say, “Yes, yes, yes,” or, “We do. We do.” “I wish” is a good one. Yeah. “No.”
I mean, a lot of you do which is great, but I would say in my organization, which is a fantastic organization, but I don’t think we have an overall donor retention rate. I’m sure we do at the annual giving level, but we haven’t looked at what it is for all of our donors.
Kate says, “We only started talking next year.” Jackie says, “Isn’t that with the unicorns?” But it’s important to know that. And in fact, if we were looking more at what our retention rate is, instead of the number of donors we have, if we have 1,000 donors every year that we’re churning through them, we’re not actually making progress on what we need to do to build those bridges with our donors to the work that we’re doing. And we’re not able to leverage the kind of giving a community connections we need to really do the outreach and the community groundedness work that we almost all are doing in the work that we do.
Well, except for one thing. We do have Bloomerang, right? Because, although we don’t use this where I am . . . I love what they talk about and what they do and they are able to show what engagement and generosity levels because all this stuff about retention and loyalty is sort of baked in. Steven can talk about this more because he is the actual salesperson.
But I love this, and as a fundraiser who opens up many, many donor pages every day and just these, you know, what their past giving is, what their addresses is, if they’ve attended an event. That isn’t something that I can quickly come through. So, if we were able to see this and if we were judged on what retention and engagement were, I think we would approach some of our fundraising a little bit differently.
So, number two, where do we invest in fundraising? And I know there’s always a push towards acquisition because a lot of us or our boards measure how many donors we have. It’s an easy thing to get. We can quickly run that in almost any kind of software program and get that number spat out. But if we aren’t keeping our donors, the number of donors don’t really matter.
And I believe we heavily invest in all kinds of success for asking, but how is that investment paying off? I love Tom Ahern. If you don’t know that, he is a writer, a communication specialist, and he talks a lot about raising money through the communications we do. And he says, “Donors never tire of hearing how important they are to our cause.” And sometimes we talk a lot, us fundraisers in organization, about the work that we’re doing and how amazing it is and we hired this new breast cancer research and yada, yada, yada, but we leave the donor who’s given money to support this work out of the equation and it’s out of making something amazing happen.
So, I don’t know. We have people from all sorts of areas here. I think we have a lot of people in donor relations listening in today. But when we talked about galas. We pay someone sometimes to do the décor. We get the right emotional video, sometimes we pay a lot of money for that stuff. We get the right speaker.
For major donors, we sometimes pay people to work on the cases for support. We invest or maybe we even have on staff someone who writes proposals. We build the boards, get the right people in place.
For direct response, we also sometimes hire consultants. Sometimes we just outsource the whole darn thing.
And same with planned giving. Sometimes we only have a very small plan giving program and we hire an external vendor and we just imprint our logo and whatnot, our contact person on that.
Peer to peer events. We invest a lot in that sometimes and get big results. Telethons which can be like this but that are on TV or on the [farms 00:13:30]. We do a lot of investment on that end, but we don’t do that much on the other end.
And here’s what’s kind of interesting. With all that investment we’re doing, and with all the charities that are out there, and all the asking, and all the learning we’ve done through science, and all the best practices that we try to employ, we’re still hanging around what somebody labeled as the stubborn 2% of GDP. And these numbers are from the U.S. if you’re in Canada. That Americans gave over $400 billion to charity last year, but it still represents just over 2% of our gross domestic product. And that hasn’t changed.
We’re all making more money, we’re all have more money to give, and yet, with all this investment and us team, we’re still trying to bringing in even dollars looking at the GDP. But I’ve got a little solution for you, and that, that we invest for a change in some more gratitude.
One of the things that I think is so important and so arresting is when we give someone individualized attention. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a kid to Disneyland, but it’s filled with thousands of people. But when they see Mickey, it’s like the two of them are the only people in the whole wide world. That kid feels like he’s the only person getting to talk to Mickey Mouse.
And we’ve had those iconic moments we see sometimes in movies where two people see each other for the first time or through a crowd or through a haze. When we feel like we’re getting individualized attention, it feels so good. And when a donor has done that after making a gift and we turn and say to that person, “Thank you. I see you and I want to thank you for what you’ve done, joining us in the fight, joining us to change this part of the world.” It’s extremely powerful.
And if you don’t want to go for all that emotional stuff, just think about differentiating yourself, standing out from the nonprofit riffraff by prompt, “What?” charming and engaging thank yous. Those can be either the created thank you letters that come out of your organization, and it can be different kinds of thank yous like a handwritten note, a phone call, even a good, a really well-constructed emails can feel great when it comes fast and is written in language that we use when we’re talking.
I also think that authentic appreciation. So, not just something slapped together, but really connecting to the donor and something specific about them helps connect donors to us. I don’t like to talk about just a cycle all the time. We talk about how we engage donors in a cycle. I want you to think about each touch point is almost like a needle and thread sewing the fabric of our organization and the donor together, because that’s what happens when they feel like we’re really connecting with them.
Again, I mentioned that gratitude opens more donor relationships and more relationships from donors to their network. And there’s a little side benefit too that gratitude enhances empathy and it’s great for the recipient, and to the giver.
So, here’s how we talk about donor journeys. First, you identify, then we qualify, then we cultivate, then we solicit blah, blah, blah, or we’ve got the ask, thank, report, repeat. We’ve got another identification asking, etc. I would say to you in this first one in number three, we don’t even talk about where the thanking comes in. We talk here about stewardship which is a little bit different. I think we can do a thank you that’s meaningful and moves relationships forward at each stage.
I’m sure some of you who meet with donors or meet with the chair of an event or somebody other significant, you do send a thank you. I do even for internal meetings. I send that by an email, “Thanks so much for making time to meet with me.” We can insert lots of little gratitude and thank you point to tell people we appreciate what they did.
And here we do do a thank you, but this, to me, is kind of a truncated way of looking at this and doesn’t add as much gratitude as we could have. And this has a thank and recognize. Recognition can be important for some people, but I think just putting it in a process like that can end up dehumanizing what we do. We can do a lot better because I’m going to tell you that the competition is doing a lot of stuff like this and they’ve only got one or two thank yous coming for each gift that the donor makes.
This is what I was talking about this attention and being seen and noticed and actually just taking time to do something like a note because time is actually one of the scarce things and even wealthy donors can’t necessarily buy time to themselves. When we invest time in making that nice one-on-one connection or more personalized connection if you’re scaling up, that means something to people.
So, how should we show our appreciation? What I want you to think about doing is having prompt charming and engaging thank yous. And this can be really difficult. At Simon Fraser, I love the place, it’s really great, but I was asked to redo a thank you note just yesterday and it was from our chancellor, a chancellor is like the provost in the U.S., who had made a gift, a very generous gift. They just plugged in the typical thank you letter. So, it was the president of the university thanking the chancellor for helping advanced SFU in the community.
And I mean, these people just spent an entire week together in convocation with events. Sometimes the people who are merging our letters up don’t necessarily have time to actually see who the letter is for. Thank goodness there’s a relationship manager like me on this. So, I was able to say, “No, we don’t want to do that because Andrew and Ann actually work together all the time. Here’s the kind of language you want to have.”
But people who are doing tons and tons of thank yous and just have a process in place will sometimes let that go. And it’s so disappointing for a donor to not be recognized for who they are. I mean, it had her home address, but it didn’t have that she was our chancellor. It didn’t have anything about that.
So, it’s important for you guys to work with the staff that are doing those kinds of thank yous to be sure to notice the people or have other ways where there’s a pop up or you have a list of your board members if they don’t know them to be able to say, “Wait. Is this one of our key donors? Is this one of our key employees? Is this one of our key community engagement people?”
Has anybody had that happen to them where it’s like, “Oh, my gosh. Is that thank you going out like that?” Oh, wait. Somebody is scrubbing their data right now. They say, “Do I have . . . ” Aaron is asking me if I have Canadian data on this. I’ll have to look back to which slide you were speaking of. So, it’s important to make sure that we’re doing as much as we can to make things personalized even if we’re scaling up.
Here’s how we fail donors. We think of merged letters as being personalized, which they are because we’ve got the data, we’ve got the dear Bob, we’ve got their actual home address or their preferred address, but they’re not personal. They’re not personal at all. And we’re not fooling anybody. This isn’t the sort of ’80s where something merged is like, “Wait. Well, they could do all these letters and it has my name on it?” No.
And anchoring everything around a transaction is actually not a great way to spread gratitude. So, sometimes you’ll see people who have monthly donor to either put them on the… They’re getting the thank you every time the credit card goes through or their EFT goes through, which means they get 12 or 24 a year or they do them . . . Excuse me. So, they’re only getting them once a year, which I think is even worse because they don’t want to get them every month. So, they’re only get them once a year. And I think that’s a complete disservice to our monthly donors who are allowing us to reach into their pockets quarterly, monthly, or bimonthly. We really need to do that.
And I’d really like you if you have uninspired language or phrases that you’re using, and “on behalf of” honestly. When is the last time you’ve used the phrase “On behalf of”? I mean, I never use it in my regular life. So, I’d really think if you’re not using “on behalf of.” I’d love you to dive into your thank you letters with something about the mission, something about why they give.
A lot of nonprofits do this. I mean, I think ours is a little bit like that. We have some movable texts, but sending the same thank you letter for all of your gifts, no, no. Especially if you have different campaigns going on, if you have different projects, it’s way easier for the staff. Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s not what we’re doing when we thank, right? We’re not trying to make it easiest for the staff.
And sometimes we do this where we send a thank you and then we’ve got like, “Why don’t we just put a little response device in it, so a little wallet flapped envelope so they can send in another gift right away if they want to. Your thank you should be a thank you and it should be wholehearted just like when you thank for a Christmas gift from your grandmother, a wedding gift. I mean, any other kind of gift you’ve gotten. You usually don’t say, “Okay, thanks so much for that wonderful teddy bear that you gave me. By the way, birthday is coming up, just to keep that in mind. You may want to think about doing this stuffed unicorn next time.” No, that’s not how we do real thank you in our lives.
And when we kind of go into this trying to straddle things like doing an ask and the thank you at the same time, it fails miserably because donors don’t feel fully appreciated. They feel like they’re being queued up for another ask and that doesn’t feel good.
I’m just going to read a question here. I’ve got a couple here. “How often should you thank those monthly donors?” So, what I’ve done in the past at an organization was to do them on a quarterly basis, but then I offset them so that each month I was doing some donor thanks, but it was sort of a third of the donors. You could do them three times a year as well, but you need to be having touch points that are away from just when they transact.
And then you can do something . . . You can segment those potential monthly donors maybe by the program they’re giving to or just segment them in some other way maybe by where they’re coming from regionally or their level of gift, and then they won’t feel like they’re just tied to that.
Let’s see. Christian is asking, “Do you think it’s okay to do the standard thank you merge copy, but then adding a personal handwritten note on it?” Yes, I think that’s good. There’s one thing I absolutely can’t stand, it’s no actual signing of the letters, so it looks like it was untouched by human hands. There’s no joy in that. And if it feels like we can’t take the time to actually do a handwritten signature when we probably deposited the gift as soon as we got it, I think that’s really bad form.
And even if you have a lot of letters going out, 400 or more a day, if your president or your top banana can’t sign that, then send it to a different banana. Segment that so that your major donors are getting thank yous from the top person, but that some live person is actually doing a thank you.
What if your CEO President wants the language to be super formal when it really needs to be personal? Hello, academia. Yes, this is one of the challenges we have. I mean, I don’t think our letters are too stiff, but there are those people that are like that and that won’t change their mind. And so what I would suggest you do is to try to do a workaround on them. I don’t know how many gifts you’re doing there, which is either picking up the phone and having a couple people call and just say thank you leaving a message.
Don’t worry about getting the person but saying, “Thank you, we got your gift today for spaying and neutering puppies,” or, “Thanks for the gift for the blah, blah-athon.” You want to get something that’s more engaging. And for people like me that are working in a bigger organization, I try to subvert all that kind of process by sending my own thank you even if it’s a thank you in the mail that takes a little while. If I know it’s going to take three or four days just in the post [plans 00:26:22] here with Canada Post, it’s better to get that going and it feels more personal. So, you’re getting an extra touch point and you’re getting the most personal touch point.
Oh, here Julie said . . . I’m just going to answer a few more questions. Julie said, “I thought our monthly donors would appreciate a return envelope and donation slip that would make their giving easier.” You know what I’ve done with that? And it costs a little bit more money. But I’ve actually sent them 12 months. If you want to do that to be able to sort of help them, “Here’s your handy envelop,” I sent that with . . . in the whole stack, so that’s going to cost a little more to mail, that’s true, but these incremental investments I’m going to tell you feel like more money, but they’re not as much money as we paid some consultants to help us do the asking work.
And then I can write a little note like, “I can’t believe what a generous supporter you’ve been . . . ” put in the last number of years . . . “for the last three years, and I just wanted to send this to make it a little easier for you.” Sometimes I’ve sent stamp to find out if the person’s older, and sometimes I haven’t so that they can put it on themselves and save a little money. And then it has to my attention, so it’s not just the name of the organization, I’ll put my name on it, so that they feel like there’s a person standing behind it. So, it is possible, perhaps, for monthly donors, but I’m going to ask you to take that to the next level and do something thoughtful for the whole year.
“What threshold do you set for more high touch thanks?” ask Kate Strisinger [SP]. And that, I can only answer by knowing more about your organization. So, sometimes what I do is I do more thanks for longevity. So, I’ve done something like pull donors who’s done eight years of giving in a row for when organizations that was not that many people and they were able to . . . we were able to kind of work that donor segment which was quite loyal.
Often major gift donors are some questions that we get a lot more attention. So, I think if you can work another segment, like, your mid-level donors, monthly donors, you could have to a certain program where you’re doing a little bit of additional touch. And then also recording the group that you did that to and how they’re giving changes over time, I think that’s an excellent idea.
I’m just going to get back on the webinar and then I will answer some more questions in a little bit. So, one thing I’d like you to think about, a lot of times the letters that we use are delivering news. “We received your gift, enclosed is your tax receipt.” I’ve definitely seen that one. “We’re on track to the school we’re building in Tanzania.” That’s kind of blah, blah, blah. This was an actual title of our endowment report. “Report on the endowment annualized rates of return,” completely fascinating. Or, “Your scholarship along with many others to helped students.”
So, for me, these are pieces of information that don’t necessarily connect to the donor and they don’t cause an interaction. And what I’m going to suggest when you look over your donor letters, which I hope you might consider doing, is to think about how we can turn these phrases which I call news. They are bits of information telling us facts into stories. So, instead of talking about all this tax receipts stuff, that can be at the bottom.
For those of you that don’t live in Canada, tax receipts are important part of what we do and we need to give those. In the U.S. I think it’s $250 and above gift, you need to provide at least a thank you letter to prove that the gift was received. But why not talk about something like you are giving our pediatric burn patients a better start to the day. Like, just launching into something that they’re doing that’s amazing.
Instead of talking about the school that’s being built, I want you to see the classrooms that you were building. It really takes the donor there and give them more feeling of ownership. Yes, it’s true, the nonprofit is doing it. We don’t necessarily want somebody asking if they can get a flight over to Tanzania to do this work.
And for me, endowment reports, the lives you’ve touched, or even the legacy that you leave, these are more things about the donor and about the power of the gift for endowed gift.
And then on this, and we do a lot of scholarships where I am, “You’re the difference between hoping to attend university and enrolling in classes. Lisa wants to say thank you.” And sometimes we include a copy of a letter from a student. I think if you think about this shift of just getting the facts out to really thinking about what would engage the donor if I were telling a story about what we’re doing? Even if you have a general thank you, you can use this kind of split to do that. And it feels a lot better to the donors. It feels like you’re actually speaking to them.
So, gratitude in action. I’m going to give you some examples about how different places other than where I am have used gratitude. And some of these are studies that you may be familiar with. How we practice gratitude has a direct impact on how donors feel about what we’re doing. So, they’ve already sort of given a vote of confidence to [mark 00:31:38] either by making that online donation, by joining us, hosting a table, by making a major gift. They’ve done that. And so the first part of the interaction is actually to reflect back to them the excitement they felt.
I don’t know if you’ve made a gift, but sometimes you’re like, “You know what? I really do want to help young women who are thinking about suicide and being bullied. I really want to do something to help them.” And that feeling galvanizes you into action and making a gift. And then sometimes we get that gift and we have a process where people are thanked every Friday or every second week, or whenever there’s time when we’re not doing other stewardship or asking things. And that person doesn’t feel as appreciated.
If you’ve ever waited around for wondering if somebody’s got a package that you sent in the mail, you know what it’s like when you just don’t know what happened. Or if they liked it, you need to get in touch with that feeling and remember what it feels like to be appreciated.
It helps also, doing gratitude helps with other relationships outside donors. And if you haven’t read the “Underdeveloped” report about the turnover and other challenges in our sector, you really should. And I think that the way we appreciate our colleagues, and yes, this is the work perhaps you’re supposed to be doing every day. And the way we do that can not only help employee retention, but it can help us work a little more easily. And what I like to say is bust silos that happened to be in a lot of organizations, and it’s good for you too.
So, I love Mark Phillips. They’re not one of your donors. And we talked . . . A lot of us talk about our donors. So, I’m going to go see my donor. That guy is our donor. No, we are one of their charities. And they can leave at any time, and especially if they’re not feeling appreciated.
So, doing board thank you calls. If you aren’t familiar with Penelope Burk, she does a lot of studies. You can go Google her. One of her first ones was looking at what would happen if board members called within 24 hours of receiving a gift and they worked with the charity where they randomized people who are called and not called after receiving a gift?
So, four months on, the donors were re-solicited and those who were called gave 39% more, so their actual dollar fee. If they’d given $100 they gave like, say, on average $139 more. And then 10 months on, so that same group that had been called 10 months on, the donors were still giving, and overall they gave 42% more than the controlled group. So, this is why engaging people other than staff . . . Having staff call is fine, but having someone who’s not paid by the organization is even better. So, board members, volunteers, we have volunteers that call some of our planned giving donors. It’s a great way to engage.
Be prompt. For goodness sake, again, it’s . . . I wish we couldn’t deposit the money until the thank you note went out because it would really get us going on that, because as you know we have a lot of electronic online and other kinds of text to give type things. And except for checks, that stuff comes in right away way. And we often are lagging behind on how we thank.
So, McConkey International did some work. They’re out of the U.K. though they’ve merged with another organization. First-time donors who received a personal thanks within 48 hours, this could be staff, could be non-staff, were four times more likely to give again. So, that first-time donor segment is an important one that we want to be able to welcome to our organization to tell them more about how their gift is making a difference. And if you perhaps even just segment out this group, you’re going to get a little more boost and also retain donor loyalty.
I’m just going to look to see if there are any little questions here. Oh, somebody loves top banana. Okay. “Does it work to do a thank-a-thon once a year,” says Christina Price, “where we call our donors to say thank you? We used to do this a month or so before a holiday campaign. Is it better to phone donors as gifts are received?”
Well, I like a thank you . . . I like the thank-a-thon. I have done those in the past. I think they’re effective. You kind of get to have that group feeling with the group you bring together. The very first place I worked, we did one of those. Some board members came, but we also invited nurses to come. I worked at a trauma center, and also the fundraiser . . . But there are three of us in the office, so the three of us also called. And first of all, it felt really good to have everybody they’re doing thanking. So, there’s a nice . . . kind of bonded the group together. We were a new development office.
And it was a way when . . . I’ve had it where I’ve asked board members to call and you don’t always get information back about whether they called, about any of the information they gleaned. When we did it there, they could hear us talking like we made . . . We gave them a sample script, but they also could hear us making the calls and leaving messages and things like that. I like having that. It kind of depends on what your board is like or if you’re getting volunteers to call, etc. And I don’t give those people the amount of the gift. I did give them giving levels like this was a major donor or this is a monthly donor. I try to give them a little bit of an explanation about who the donor is, but not what the actual gift amount has been. And so I like that idea.
Sometimes it’s hard to . . . It takes a lot of time, I believe, to wrangle volunteers and board members and follow up on them. So, this can save staff time when you do it all together. I like it when they’re received, if you can. If you can set up half an hour in the day depending on where you are in your staff where what you’re doing. Are you stewardship? Are you major gifts? Setting up half an hour to be able to thank for gifts that have come in. I only get a weekly report on gifts that have come in for $500 or more. But we can then, one, do a thank you, but two, also ask the faculty members to send the thank you.
How do I feel about board thank you emails? I think they’re better than no thank you from a board member. I think a call is more personal, and they don’t have to get a hold of the person. Leaving a message because we know people screen their calls and we know people are afraid that they’re going to get crazy robocalls and they’re going to get asked for something on the phone. It’s okay to say “Oh, hey, I’m Christina and I’m calling from the SFU board and I just wanted to call to say thank you. I heard you made a gift recently and we’re so delighted that you did that. The community support is important to student excellence, getting students to college.” Whatever that program was for. I think that’s really important.
Media phone . . . Lauren Laporte says, “Media phone calls from staff like the development director for first-time donors equals better than no phone call at all?” Yes. So, I’d say a quick thank you from somebody is better than no thank you from anybody. And fast is better than slow. And if your organization is going to be sending out a thank you, like, what I would call a merged acknowledgment letter for the gift, that is going to be a touch point that they get. I just think, however, you can personalize.
The problem is that . . . I see the problem is, people will say, “Yes, we’ll be happy to have the CEO set aside time to go on a call that’s an ask, but not so much for the thank yous.” And that’s the kind of mind shift that I’d like people to understand that these quick thank yous are going to increase our donor retention and increase giving. So, I’m going to just pop back. I want to see how much time because I don’t want to run out of time here.
Don’t ask. Again, do a thank you call. So, Union Gospel Mission here in Vancouver, they had a really big stewardship group. And in November of 2012, they just did 2,500 new phone calls to new donors. So, they just did that all day every day. And by March 2013, so just about four months later, 800 of the people they called had made a second gift with no additional solicitation. So, those people just made another gift on their own. That’s almost, how many of that? It was almost a third of those people.
They also did another thing to move up mid-level donors. They started with a pool of 3,000 mid-level donors and they just did calls, handwritten notes, and then they did some donor visits. They don’t do . . . They usually have a kind of a reason like [poinsettias 00:40:41] or something else that they use to get the donor visits. That team reached out doing about 250 touches a month, which is amazing. And the following year, 30% of that pool of 3,000 gave a second gift of $200 or more, worth $200 and more, and 10% of them became major donors. So, this is why personal touch, why using gratitude to make those personal touches is so important.
So, I would suggest find a segment. Most of us don’t have enough staff that we can just go and right now switch and start massively thanking donors. So, start with a segment, start with a segment that you can use and start with one that sounds good. So, for that group where I went for eight years of continuous giving, it was eight years of continuous giving out of 10, by the way, so if they skipped a year, I still included them. When I did 10 years, we just didn’t have enough people. We hadn’t . . . That was a Parkinson’s organization and that population didn’t have the same longevity perhaps.
But you can also use pull up wealth ratings, look at engagement. Whatever you do, get that group, tag them as a group you’re going to work, and then do additional thanks, and then track them after one year, track them after two years. Maybe you can track them after three years and see what they’re doing because then you have the proof of how your donors work.
And set aside time to do this. So, for me, that’s about marking time on my calendar. I mark work time, time that I need, desk time, or to work on a proposal. I’ll mark that off so I don’t get somebody making an appointment on top of me. And I also marked off half an hour every day to do a thank you note or to do some thank you calls. That’s the best way to get it done. And honestly, if you did two thank you calls at the start or end of day or wrote notes or whatever you wanted to do, you’d have an additional 200 . . . That’s just if you have your usual work time with vacation. You have at least 200 more special touch points.
What I like to think about is having your donor feel like one in a million instead of one of a million. And those kinds of slapdash merged things or where the data isn’t very good or you got the wrong husband. I’ve been places that I’ve done that before, or not the current husband, I should say. You usually only have one husband at a time, but you want them to feel special, because a lot of donors know, especially responding to direct response that there are a lot of people coming in. They don’t want to feel like their gifts are just being raked or using a leaf blower into a bank and that it doesn’t really matter.
Now, some of you are probably thinking, “You know what? Handwritten notes are really good for old people.” So, I will say, absolutely. This picture on the upper left is actually my grandma just died. She is from the GI generation. And these, she had many, many, many, many groups of letters from different people, including, she’d returned all the letters that I’d ever written her and all of my siblings, but these are letters her brother wrote her during the World War II. And she cherish these.
So, people in older generations, this was a precious way to communicate. There weren’t a lot of ways. Phone calls were way too expensive if you even had a phone. And it was the thing that was sort of most democratic. And as those people got older, so the people born up until 1945, that was the typical way. Again, I mean, I remember not being able to talk too long in long distance phone calls because my dad would get all mad because it cost real money back in the day, right?
For boomers and Gen X, handwritten notes signify an investment of your time into them. And again, time is one of those scarce things we just can’t buy. So, it feels like you’ve prioritized them by sitting down and to write a note or taking time to make a call. And that’s the part where an email ends up, I mean, it’s better than nothing, but it ends up cheapening that relationship a little bit, or it doesn’t quite feel as valuable because many of us are all the time all day on email.
And for our younger generation cohort here. And if you’re raising money for people born after 2014, I’d love to hear about it. But personal notes are that sort of like artisanal like paying five bucks for buttered toast at a restaurant. They are unusual. Our brains are taught to look for unusual patterns or unusual things because we’ve all gone paperless so much in the different things that we do. We don’t even get things like . . . In the old days we used to get bank statements, your hydro or electric bill in the mail. We don’t get that anymore. So, seeing a non-number 10 envelope arrived in the mail is something to kind of get excited about.
So, writing your notes of gratitude. I have so many people who say to me, “I just don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to write.” So, I always set out with the intention of creating connections. And I just did a bunch of thank you notes for people who made gifts in my grandma’s name, and, of course, I didn’t really know any of these people. But what I did want to do was figure out who the group or person was and why they gave to the charity they gave to because we just asked for that, “Give to your favorite charity.” That’s the kind of connection.
Or I said, “My grandma really enjoyed getting together with the retirees. It was an important part of her life after retiring from the school district. So, thank you so much for thinking of her because you were important.” Making that connection and finding what that connection is, even if it’s a light touch connection will make it feel very authentic and make it feel especially personal. And if nothing else, you can connect the donor back to the mission, to the event that they attended or sponsored, or to the campaign that you ask them to give to.
Steve Jobs talked about his favorite things don’t cost money. But time was that one most precious resource. And so that’s what I want you to think about. It does take your time as well to do that, but that’s what makes it valuable.
The other thing when you’re writing these, we often think about our donors sort of been in the stands. We’re doing this work on the . . . Here I use this football image, but it could be hockey. It could be soccer for the World Cup, right? So, that kind of football. And, like, our donors are cheering us on and we’ve got all the frontline people doing the work down on the field. But actually, of how the donors want to feel is more like this, that they’re in the huddle, that they’re with us advancing our mission, saving another acre of the Great Bear wilderness or making sure that kids have a safe place to go if they’re in a domestic abuse situation.
That’s how they feel. They feel like they’re going to be partners with us, and that’s what we want to draw on, is those feelings. Instead of distancing them and just saying that they are ATMs, that they’re just giving us money, bring them in. Even if they’re not actually doing the work, they’re really shoulder to shoulder to us feeling as if they are doing the work, and we need them to do the work.
So, how do I start a note to a stranger? So, I use this. Sometimes your gift just came across my desk. Now, the truth is that I don’t get any cash across my desk. Very rarely does a check come to me. Sometimes it arrived at a faculty member. But it has the donor feel like somebody touched it, somebody opened my letter if they’re sending a check that way, and it feels like it mattered.
Why has the person been supporting for years? So, when I’m doing thank you notes, I always open the record and try to take a look at how long the person’s been giving, what have they given to, I can kind of get a snapshot of that. And I’ll reference that. “Well, you’ve been giving for a long time. You’re one of our most loyal supporters.” Or I look at how they were connected. So, for me, that could be somebody who is an alumni or a former faculty member or retiree from staff or faculty. And that’s what I will mention. Those things then feel like, “I was remembered. It mattered. I’m not just one in a million.”
So, I’m going to answer a few questions and you can look over, I’ve got seven tips for note success. So, what have I got here? “We do an auto receipt and then a welcome series.” This is from Haley. Auto receipts, I’m guessing that’s from online giving. “A welcome series is great and first-time donors get a phone call. Should we be doing more?” I think that’s great. I would suggest you take a look at your auto receipt. Can that be more personalized or can the language be warmed up at all? Because it’s nice to speak in a conversational manner, although I recognize that there are some boxes that are not into that. I think that that’s good.
What you might do for . . . Because you’re doing this for first-time donors, is there another segment? So, that . . . It could even be people like your internal family, your board, your staff that are giving. Is there something we could do that’s a little more special for them? Because I noticed we don’t . . . So, being a giver to SFU, I noticed we do . . . Because I’m giving to a scholarship I get personalized attention, but anything else, I don’t get personalized attention. I think that kind of sucks. So, I think that’s great. And maybe you can just add another segment in, Haley.
Lucinda is asking, “How do you . . . ” Oh, that’s the board. Thank you. Lauren. “Can you share a sample script for a thank-a-thon?” My email is at the end of this presentation and if you can email me and ask for that, I will do that, but I won’t go into it now. And then let me know like what your charity is and maybe what your major gift level is or who you might call.
Christian says, “Are there strategies to get board members to do thank you calls? Our board seems resistant.” Your board seems resistant in part because people are like, “I don’t like thank you calls.” Like, “I don’t like getting people . . . ” or, “I don’t like calls that interrupt my day.” They are imprinting their own feelings and projecting that onto donors. What I would do is to make sure to give them a few donors to get started with or even at the beginning of a board meeting to give everybody one call to make and you make two to model that.
They haven’t had the experience of having a donor be so appreciative of the work that you’re doing. They’ve never felt that. My first time was at that trauma center. Some of you may have heard this story. And I was calling donors that had given to us. This guy had given $500, he was from Florida. It felt so exotic because we were up in Seattle. And I was like, “Oh, you know, what prompted you to give?” And he said, “Well, when we were out on the Puget Sound for our vacation, my daughter’s arm was severed by a boat propeller and you guys took care of her and I just about threw up.” I mean, I should have guessed for a trauma center, but I had no clue.
And he was so appreciative of the care that she’d been given, even though it was obviously horrific and was probably the worst day of their lives, when you’re doing the kind of work that makes a difference in people’s lives, the appreciation is so deep from the bottom of their heart and they want to do something to help others that are in that situation, or if you’re doing something for any environment to keep one square of the world from being paved over, whatever your mission is. Until you’ve heard that yourself, you don’t understand how people can just love to hear from the organization.
So, what you might do is kind of give them some easy, what I’d call a lob, something that you know it’s the donor who’s given, they are longtime donors, they’ll be delighted by that and an older donor will also be more likely to potentially respond to the call. So, that’s one strategy.
So, my seven tips I’m just going to go back to that before I see Lauren’s question there. Write with the intention to create connection. So, how can I connect me myself to that donor or connect back that donor to the gift they gave and what we’re doing as our work? Get in touch with your own appreciation. Again, if you are feeling appreciated, I’m going to tell you sometimes we get a little burnt out by this really important work we do, which isn’t always the best compensated. We don’t always have enough people to do all the work that needs to be done. It can feel very urgent in this day and age of wanting to kind of heal the world. You need to find a way that you can be thankful.
And one exercise I suggest people do is to just write a thank you note back to the first person who was your first mentor or who gave you the first job and let them know where you are and tell them thank you for the gifts that they gave you or hiring you for that first job or whatever they might have done and wait for the response back to that. It’s usually pretty incredible.
Organize your thoughts before you sit down. I do not write a note and then rewrite it because I think you lose the feeling in the moment. But I’m going to thank these five people for giving to the gala. So, set that down so you know that’s what your message is. “Thank you. Here’s what we’re doing with the money raised.”
Also just find the threat of commonality if you can. So, again, when you’re thanking for a guest and if it’s especially first time gift or the donor you’ve never met, you will probably drive them back to the gift. But if you’ve met them, you can say, “It was really great . . . ” I do this for meeting donors all the time. “It was really great to meet you. I loved hearing your story about your time at SFU.” Or in another example, you might say, “It was fun to hear about how you spent your summer vacation and I can’t wait to meet with you again later in the year and see what you’re doing with your family over the holidays.” You just want to reflect back that you were listening, paying attention, and connecting with the person with some little comment like that.
When you’re writing the note, after the salutation, “Dear, Beth Ann,” or, “Dear, Steven,” try to start with “You” instead of “I”. A lot of times you start, “I want to thank you for . . . ” Try to find a way to turn that sentence around or think of something where you can say, “You . . . ” Just anything that starts with “You.” So, “You’ve been an amazing supporter. You made . . . You came in with the first gift to this campaign. You are amazing for giving to us.” I mean, you just need to find something that can start with “You”. It feels so much better.
As you know, everybody has two names in their life, the name they were given, the one your mom and dad call you, the one your friends call yourself. And then there’s the word “You” because people call you “You.” “You’re cute.” “Oh, hey, you . . . ” everybody will turn, right? So, “You” is an important word to also use.
Be specific use vivid examples. Please don’t use boring language. If you can use slightly more interesting adjectives, please choose that. We tend to use the same two or 3,000 words every day, so try and find something that’s a little more exciting for your donors.
And lastly, the most important thing in the world is to get the donor’s name right. So, if actually, your donor’s name is Beth Ann Locke, but they go by Ann, but they go by Ann. In my family, everybody goes by their middle name, not me, but my mom’s level and above. You want to make sure you’re not calling the person Marlene when her real name is Charity. It’s just such a clunker.
If you’re doing thank you notes to donors, I usually try to use an unbranded card and I put my business card in, then they have a hold of it. Business card is another inexpensive investment. I know some people like to not have to order too many, but really, they’re super cheap and it’s a way to always have a way to stay in touch with you and your nonprofit.
Use a live stamp. So much better, it looks like real mail instead of something with that ink thing on it. Those are ways that you can have people feel a little more delighted when they see you in the mail.
And then find cards that are charming if you can. So, we do have some typical ones that come from SFU or some with just our crest on it. But I love, love, love looking for fun notes. And one of my passion projects is making cards that are just for donors. So, that’s what I’ve done. And if you can do that, that reflects the work you do. So, yeah, get something with a dog if you’re working with pets, or get something with kids if you’re doing something like that. Have people make cards, have kids at the summer camps do a picture on the front of just white folded card that you can get at a place like Papyrus in the U.S. or other places that are blank cards, and then use those. I mean, it’s super charming for the donors. And always try to deliver more gratitude than expected.
So, what time is it? Oh, wait, I have a bonus. Gratitude and employees. That’s right. When you use gratitude to retain people, even people who are doing the work that they’re supposed to be doing, it really helps bond the team. It makes people feel appreciated. And I’m sure you have no conflicts where you are, but sometimes places like communications, we feel like they don’t spend on a dime for us when we need something quickly, or finance doesn’t quite get how we really need part of this gift to go here or they ask to make a new account. When we start expressing gratitude even saying thank you for the simplest things that we’ve asked to be done instead of assuming people ought to do them, it really starts creating a better feeling.
And finally, bonus, bonus. You yourself can have better gratitude. How you can feel better? There’s a whole academic industry coming up around gratitude. You can Google this about why gratitude is good for you and read about these studies where it improves physical and psychological health. It creates better empathy and reduces aggression. It helps you sleep better probably because of these other two and improves self-esteem. And as I said before, it opens more doors . . . It open doors to more relationships.
More than anything, whatever you can do, whether it’s making a donation to your own organization to see what kind of gratitude you’re giving others, if you can send off a thank you letter to a mentor today, anything you can do to start. It’s about having some attention as starting to use a little bit more. And honestly, you’re really going to differentiate yourself. So, I’m just going to look at . . . How are you doing, Steven? I think . . . Did the time come up because it looks like we still got a few minutes? Is that okay if I keep talking?
Steven: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Beth: So, again, I know some people might have to go. “We do try to get the personalized letters out,” says Lauren, “48 hours. So the phone calls would be an added bonus?” They would because, I mean, even if you’re in town with the U.S. Mail, which I’m sorry to tell you Canada. I love Canada, but the Canada Post is so freaking slow compared to the U.S. Mail. It will help and get that and especially if it’s not a paid staff member.
Our ED often wants to be the one to thank people firstly and sometimes doesn’t do it so quickly. Well, I have that very problem in one of my places. I want to sign all the letters and then I could see them sitting there and it would really like make me grind my teeth at night. So, I think you can tell your ED that’s so great that they want to thank them and you understand that they’re very busy.
So, what you might do is try to show them some of the studies about prompt thanking and tell them that you’re going to do kind of a really quick turnaround thanks which could be phone calls, it could be email, it could be something else, because I don’t know if your ED, Ali Rice [SP], is doing it by phone or what, or if he or she is reporting back and saying that they haven’t done it yet. So, I don’t know how you know that they’re not doing it. But yes, I think you can do a go around.
Again, this is about the donor and I get that people have good intentions but if they’re not prioritizing the thanking, it won’t get done. And that’s again that thing about investing and asking, people will set aside time for asking but not so much for doing the gratitude appreciation and thanking.
Susan is saying, “Do you have good strategies for capturing phone numbers?” Well, I don’t know like which segment you’re talking about. I mean, you can ask for that information. I think people are sometimes a little more reluctant to give that at the very first because they don’t necessarily know your organization and they’re afraid they’re going to get on these kinds of crazy call lists. I think there’s a real worried about privacy or people have a heightened awareness about privacy in Canada. I think people have already had more awareness about that. But in the U.S. with some of the breaches, we’ve had people are a little worried.
So, I think the best way to do that, sometimes I send an email saying, “Thank you so much for your gift. I would love to call and talk to you, but I didn’t have your number and I get that, but if you’d ever care to share your phone number, I would be delighted to have a chat about why you care about the BCS PCA.” That’s one way to do it. I mean, if you’re finding that you have a way to capture it and then not putting it in, I think making it a required field is a little much unless you really need the phone number.
Julie is like, “Would you have samples of first-time donor acknowledgment letters and notes?” So, again, if you’ve got . . . That’s bethannlocke.com. If you don’t mind emailing me with that very question and maybe where you’re working so that I have a healthcare, education, religious, whatever, then I’ll have a little . . . Oh. I’ll have a little idea.
“What do you mean by light touch connection?” Well, some people are . . . I’m going to tell you very sad story and that’s, but they actually don’t want to get deeply involved with you. It’s just like regular people. We had a half million dollar donor, half million dollar donor at United Way of King County, and we weren’t his charity of choice. He, I think, did that kind of out of duty. He cared about the community, but his rule was, “I want to hear from you in November. I don’t want any other mailings. I just don’t want to hear from somebody trying to make me go to events. I don’t want to have someone trying to meet me. I just want to be able to make my gift in December.”
And so we needed to keep it at a relationship level that the donor wants. So, trying to grab them and bring them closer when they’re not into that or maybe somebody in their family had to health interaction or something like cancer, now they’re turning their . . . getting attention to something that feels more urgent to them, you need to keep making opportunities for them to connect with you, but you can’t force them to get more deeply involved with you. But sort of having open arms or an extended hand, as I like to use that imagery, of, “We’d love to tell you more. We’d love to have you more involved.” Having that so they can come closer when they’re ready. So, that’s kind of what I mean about light touch. Some people just only want so much connection or they’re afraid that you’ll sort of hound them. They’ve had bad experiences with other charities.
Michael Nieman or Nyman, I’m not sure, says, “Most systems are glorified mail merges.” Yes, it’s true. “Do you know of any systems processes that automate thousands of highly personalized thank you letters, hand notes?” I guess, handwritten notes and automatically wrote. VIP donor letters or call lists to senior staff board members. So, I . . . Steven, can you cover your ears. I’ve mostly worked with Blackbaud most of my career.
Steven: It’s okay.
Beth: I’m sorry about that. So, I was used to doing those systems. Also, I’m afraid to tell you, some people may consider me a bit of a control freak. So, I like to have more control over . . . So, I like to have . . . Actually, I like to download it into a spreadsheet and I like to download additional information such as . . . So, where I have the donor’s name, address, that kind of contact information or just send it that. I’ll put in . . . Because we’ll have to give them out and the fund they gave to maybe the date of their gifts. You’ll have some of that detail. I’ll actually have them add constituencies and maybe it’s . . .
Like, if one of our constituencies is major donors or something like that or if they are VIP, if we have that marked as a smart field or a special attributes, I’ll have that go. And when I put it in the merge letter, that’s going to be in hidden text. Hidden text, if you haven’t heard about it before, it’s like a font type like underlying or bold and you can choose that. So, when it merges up so I can see that all the symbols, like the paragraph marks, I can see that. I’ll be able to have the person see, “Are they a VIP?” and then I could arrange them.
The other thing you could do is to seg . . . I don’t know how many you’re doing, Michael. You seem like you have a lot of mail. What you could do is as those are downloaded to be merged, you could segment, so anybody that has the VIP/major gift constituency, however, you’ve got those or attributes. Pull those aside and have them done a little bit more one by one.
I think what SFU does is it’s by dollar figures, so the president is signing certain letters and then they route them to the relationship manager, in my case, things that are coming to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to take a look at that. But, I mean, I was . . . alarmed is not the right word. But I was worried when I saw this letter to the chancellor from the president because we can’t touch every letter, and this woman who was doing it probably just the name didn’t tweak for her for whatever reason. Or you have new people who just can’t know every single fancy person. So, if you want to have it, it does take a little more time but you’re able to add a little bit more personalization when you have that.
I also use a little bit more effusive language or, “Thank you for being a special donor.” I’ll add that into the first paragraph of the letter depending on how that first paragraph is worded. And then we need to take this symbol thing off. It won’t print, right? Most of their printing is done with . . . don’t include hidden text. So, that’s how I use it.
Oh. Eliza is here. Thanks to you, Eliza. Okay. Sarah says, “My supervisor is really strict about the donor thank you letters going out right away. She always puts a personal note on each thank you note, but it’s just a word or two.
You know what? I love that. When I have been in smaller shops where I’ve been doing the thank yous, and I’m going to tell you what a freak I am. When I first came to Canada and was working, I actually wrote a little thank you on each check. We were with an organization that did lots of hip and knee replacements, so we had a much older donor population. And because people still got the check back then in the mail every month, you’ve got your checks at bank. I sound old, but it’s true. So, it was like when I first came to Canada and I knew they needed somebody to handle that check.
And that’s how it feels when you write a little note, even if it’s just an additional thank you. And please, for the love of God, when you’re doing memorial gifts, if you do memorial, if you have memorial gifts where you’re doing or even their one-off, please warm up that language, please make sure it’s absolutely signed by a live human even if you don’t do that as a rule. It feels very disrespectful for people who’ve had a loved one pass or who are remembering a loved one to feel like it was honestly nobody really cared and it was just all done by machine. I have a lot of tech [people 01:10:01] asking is one that’s another one.
Tracy says, “We have trouble with how to sign thank you notes. Do we add title? Just sign the first name.” So, if you’re talking about like handwritten note, that’s why I put my business card in, because the one thing I’m not going to do is take the time to write, sign my name, Beth Ann, and then write, “Beth Ann Locke, Director of Advancement, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.” No. I’m not going to write all that, plus, it will take like a third of one of those pages.
So, that’s why I say, “Put your business card in, then you can just sign “Beth Ann.” But if I just sign “Beth Ann,” I mean, as charming as I am when I meet with people, they may not remember who I am, right? You want to make sure . . . Or sometimes people just don’t remember things. You have to always keep that home.
Let’s see. I’m getting some people talking about what they’re doing, which is great. So, I’m Andrea Hat says, “In your tips for note writing, success you say for professional notes include your business cards.” Oh, what I mean is . . . Actually, this is transferable skill to thanking friends and doing, which I try to do a little note of gratitude every day as part of my practice. Or if I can’t do it every day, at the end of the week I have a reminder that comes up on Tuesday. So, if I haven’t done thank you notes for a couple days, I will do those, I mean, like 8:00 o’clock at night, because I really like to connect with colleagues who’ve been kind to me.
So, for those, if they don’t know who I am and I have a return address label, so I don’t include my business card with that. So, that’s what I meant about professional note. But I also think you can work your muscle, your thank you muscle, your gratitude muscle by doing notes with an audience you might feel more comfortable with, which is friends and family.
“Are you open to giving feedback on a current thank you letter?” says Elaine [inaudible 01:12:03]. Absolutely. That’s at bethannlocke.com. Yeah, donor love errands. Yes, donor love . . . Yeah, that’s right. I did a donor love thing. Let’s see what else. Thanks for those who are saying you appreciated the webinar. I know some of you have to go.
Oh, Allie is doing . . . I’m sorry. This is back to the ED who hadn’t been doing the things. He does calls by phone and he tells me he hasn’t made the calls. And so I’m sure none of you feel guilty, but I sometimes do. And sometimes the pressure of feeling like you should have done it and not doing it can add more pressure. So, what you might do is like, you know what, Mr. /Ms. ED, person ED. Allie, you could say, “You know what? How about we make this deal?” If you haven’t done it by Thursday, we’re going to give you . . . every Monday we’re going to give you or every Friday we’re going to give it to you. If you haven’t done it by Thursday, why don’t I take those and do the ones? Because then we both knows that they’re going to be getting done.
Now, that means the whole week will go by, but I’m just trying to figure out a good way to talk to ED. Then we know it will get done in kind of a timely manner. And I know you’re busy, but you don’t have to feel bad about not getting to them. Or why don’t I give you . . . If I’ve been giving you 25, or I don’t know how many gifts you get in. Why don’t we just start by me giving you the top five?
I think you have to . . . Just like we do with donors, we’re so gentle with donors and we’re not very gentle sometimes to the people we work with. If a donor is like, “I didn’t get to it,” you’d be like, “You know what? That’s not a problem, but let me help you. How can I help you with this?” And that’s the kind of way you might need to take because you need to remind them that your shared goal is having donors feel good and having them feel appreciated, creating deeper relationships which will then get more money which will help you do your mission better. So, that’s . . . You’ll need to know your ED’s personality that may or may not work with him or her.
What’s the best way to keep track of thank you calls? I don’t want our most loyal donors have a different person or worse, the same person call them up once a year to ask, “What’s your connection with Big Brother?” That’s true. So, one is you can . . . I don’t know if you do a little summary. So, in notes, you could create a new type of note that’s a summary of the person.
We have this or I like to use a part of where we’re tracking the asked portion, what we call opportunities where I am. And I like to give a little recap of this person, why they’re given to this, what their little history is, so is an alumni, etc. That kind of thing is useful to download, but if you . . . For VIP people especially and people can get tired of repeating that. So, one option I’m going to suggest to you, is you create a new note called Donor History or Donor Overview, Donor Motivation. These are the things that are going to give you the high level about why the donor is connected to your organization.
And that, depending on what your program is, you can at least in Blackbaud. Are there programs I’ve used in the past? I can choose what type of note is going to come out to send to the person that’s going to make the call. So, I’d kind of make in raised events they have a thing called Funder Phone Notes which kind of give some general information person, spouse, etc. So, I would put that out on that. And then you have that.
You could also just make sure that the VIP people are only getting called by VIP staff or board members. You can also have them not ask that question. You can have them ask, “What’s been your favorite thing that we’ve accomplished over the last two years?” And there are other things you can ask to help elicit a connection, not just, “Why did you start with us?” I find that with a lot of organizations that have longevity in their donor base we haven’t tracked that information. We don’t necessarily know. And it’s great to have that discovery. Sometimes we’ve made assumptions about why they’re connected to our organization.
“You need to honor the donors’ wishes absolutely. The more personalized the better and don’t make it look fake,” says Gary. Absolutely, agree to be sensitive. Thank you. I’m glad you like it. Gary uses Bloomerang and we’ve got one in the house at least there, Steven. So, anyway, I think I’ve covered all I wanted to do. You can ask more questions, but . . .
Steven: That was awesome.
Beth: I could talk forever on this. [inaudible 01:16:49]
Steven: Oh, I know. And I’m a believer too. We could talk thank you cards all day.
Beth: Yeah, exactly.
Steven: How can people get ahold of you?
Beth: Well, I have to truncate some of mine. They can tweet at me, they can do the Beth@ . . .
Steven: Yes. Can you talk about your thank you cards? You were so bashful about your thank you cards, so you guys should check this because she can buy thank you cards and Beth Ann.
Beth: Yeah, I did. It’s kind of a brand called giveXthanks, givexthanks.com. And I’m just getting started with it because I feel so passionate because it’s not good thank you cards to send to donors and I really . . . donors volunteers, community leaders, people that were engaging, and so I’ve started . . . I’m just self-financing this. But just started with these two. I have tons of little things like this. They’re letterpress. They’re done on a Heidelberg letterpress. They’re actually kind of nice quality. I’m selling them in Canadian dollars, so for you Americans who don’t understand what that means, it’s like a 25% discount.
So, the cards are like $6. There is through the month of June, I think every card sold at 10% off and I think there might be another one called Sweet Thanks. If you tweet at me or send me an email at bethannlocke.com, I’ll share with you a discount code. Oh, my gosh, there’s only a few days left. Maybe I’ll extend it through Canada Day and Fourth of July for my bi-nationality persona. But, anyway.
Anyway, thanks so much for having me on. I just love what you guys do. I really do love what you do. I really would love to be able to go to organization where I’m able to use Bloomerang because I think donor retention is really where it’s at, not the number of donors. The amount of money is also important, but donors can make more room in their heart to give to you if you’re telling the story, if you’re connecting with them.
I’ve raised money through two downturns, through the Dot Com Bubble and through the 2008/2009 when I was at United Way. And I’m telling you, we asked people for more money because we did a little mini-campaign for $11 million for basic needs. So, for keeping lights on, for heating homes, for rent, for people in deep need in King County. And some people couldn’t give because they were letting people go on their corporate rent and things like that. They were trying to help but others did. When you’re able to talk about what you’re doing and how you’re touching people and you’re able to do it authentically and have authentic conversations, donors will give more.
Gratitude is one way to start that. So, anyways, thank you so much again and thank everybody for coming on. And for those of you listening afterwards, I hope you enjoy it and feel free to get in . . . Oh, I can do a broadcast, everybody. I can give the website, right? Broadcast all is givexthanks.com. There it is. Sent. Yeah, gone. I just have two right now, so don’t get too excited. I’m trying to come on . . . I have more. I just have to get to the printer and get them done.
Steven: Check it out. Follow her on Twitter.
Beth: Yeah, check it out.
Steven: Or send her an email. Obviously awesome.
Beth: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. I’m sorry to [inaudible 01:20:17]
Steven: Oh, thanks, Beth Ann.
Beth: Yeah, yeah. It’s my pleasure, honestly. You guys are so great. And I can’t wait to see you again. I really want to come out there sometime because I feel like you’re getting a little philanthropy belly button of America where you are in Indianapolis, right?
Steven: I know.
Beth: Isn’t it?
Steven: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think so. I’ll see you. I’ll see you this year, I’m sure.
Beth: Yeah, yeah.
Steven: This is great to have you. This is a nice way to end the fiscal year. So, all of you who have fiscal years ending this month, good luck. Hope it goes okay. Take some time off in July, but don’t sleep too long because we got good webinars coming up. We’re going to take a week off for the fourth year in the States, but we are back in two weeks, two weeks from today with Mazarine Treyz, one of our favorites. She’s going to talk about some career advice for you. And maybe if you’re struggling with maybe your salary or advancement within your organization, check it out. It’s going to be a good one. It’s two weeks from today.
Beth: She’s so good. She’s so good.
Beth: She lives in Oregon, right?
Steven: Yeah, she’s in Portland. That’s right.
Beth: All right. Thanks again. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Steven: All right, guys.
Beth: Take care.
Steven: Look for an email from me with the slides and the recording and hopefully we’ll see you again on the next Bloomerang webinar. So, have a good weekend, have a safe week with the holiday if you’re here in the States. If you’re in the States, stay cool out there and we’ll talk again soon.
Beth: Canada has a holiday. Hey.
Steven: Oh, yeah, that’s right. You’ve got a holiday, too.
Beth: Canada has July 1st Canada Day. Don’t just skip us over, man.
Steven: It’s a great holiday week for everyone.
Beth: Yeah, it’s a whole week. We should all take the whole week off.
Steven: All right, guys.
Beth: Take care.
Steven: I’m going to do it for sure. Bye now.
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