How do you say “thank you”?

In philanthropy, it’s easy to get caught in the asking mindset. You begin to look at the year as a series of campaigns and strategically craft just the right message to just the right audience. And while I’ll be the first one to applaud a well-thought out annual development plan, I want caution that failing to balance asking with thanking and thoughtful recognition creates donor fatigue, and worse, donor turnover. As we head into Giving Tuesday, here are 3 things to ask yourself if you’ve spent most of 2016 with an asking mindset:

  1. Who is the most important donor segment to your organization? Nothing replaces deeply knowing and understanding your donor file. The more you familiarize yourself with your donor segments, understand their giving patterns, and talk to actual donors about their interests in your mission, the more effective you will be at finding new supporters and keeping current ones deeply engaged. Because retained donors are becoming keenly more aware of how your organization is asking for their support and equally more savvy in their evaluation of how their dollars are being put to work, soliciting their perspective can make your future efforts more informed and impactful.
  1. What does the cadence of your stewardship campaigns look like? While many organizations have refined their annual development processes, they may not be taking a comprehensive look at how their stewardship efforts parallel-path or overlap their timed development tactics. This is an important next step in providing a holistic donor engagement experience. Consider this exercise based on your current End of Year campaign. First, look at how many emails you have planned. What is the “thank you” process if someone gives after the first email? Does this differ or stay the same for donors who give after subsequent emails? What if someone gives multiple times? Do they receive the same “thank you” twice? Is there any donation level which would trigger a special thank you gift the first week in January? Is there any donation level where your major gift team might call and extend the offer to visit that donor in the new year? Take the extra step to walk through use-cases like this with your Development Team and you will start out on an even better foot in going into 2017.
  1. How have you reinvented your donor acknowledgement in the last 1, 3, or 5 years? I’m all for process and automation. And I’m a firm believer in standardization. That said, creating a stewardship matrix with associated templates doesn’t mean you and your development colleagues “set it and forget it”. Each year, designate a time to revisit, evolve, and improve these tactics. Discuss whether long-standing donors are still being given a genuine and unique appreciation process. Consider whether the organization has had or will have any milestones which could be worked into your acknowledgement process. If you are feeling extra innovative, ask your newest or youngest employee to propose a totally new stewardship matrix/process. Getting a new perspective may be a simple way to delight and wow your donors!

Happy (almost) Giving Tuesday! And thank you, thank you, thank you for passionate, thoughtful campaigns this holiday season.

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