The Status Quo
We’re getting closer to the end of the year, and what does that mean? Everyone’s mailboxes, both offline and online are about to get A LOT fuller. And for the most part that’s going to be from all of the solicitation's nonprofits send out to capitalize on the time of year when people are most likely to make a donation. While I’m not a fan of overstuffing mailboxes, I recognize that the results are there, whether the donor experience is better for it or not.
I would like to offer up another strategy; Cultivation. I don’t think you should turn off whichever solicitation strategy you are doing that works, just consider supplementing it with meaningful cultivation and stewardship. I also understand that resources for many are limited, and that’s all the more reason to allocate resources where they are most beneficial. Having implemented a number of year-end cultivation programs for several organizations, I believe that it is worth your time and resources. People who received cultivation renewed at a higher rate and had a higher average gift size. And over the years I’ve heard from many people that they appreciated receiving a thank your or some other non-ask, as it really stuck out from the deluge of appeals they were getting throughout the giving season.
It’s safe to assume your major gifts donors are being engaged, so this is really about your mass market and mid-level donors. I’ve often taken the approach of blending cultivation with stewardship. You’d like to convey that you’re interested in learning more about your donors; why they support, what’s important to them, while also thanking them for their past support.
While crafting your message, keep in mind that you may want to create two separate strategies. For you mass market, a series of emails thanking them and encouraging them to share why they’ve supported you could work. You don’t need to get too expansive in the feedback you’re asking for, it’s really about showing your donors that you care about their input and asking for less should result in greater responses.
With your mid-level donors, I would highly encourage some form of personal communication, and focus on the donor’s channel preference. If you they’ve given online and you have an email address, have someone on your team send a personal note. If your donor supports offline schedule some time to make phone calls and if that’s not available handwritten notes have shown to be incredibly effective, even leading to many people calling back if you leave a phone number. The value in personally reaching out to your mid-level donors cannot be overstated, and this is a great time and place to incorporate it.
So hear me out. I understand that during this time of year everyone is focused on revenue and hitting their goals. While it may seem counterintuitive to take resources away from solicitations and put them towards non-ask communication I’ve seen firsthand that the return on your investment is well worth it, and you will stand out from all the other organizations in the minds of your donors.
Good luck as we close out the year and let me know how you do!
At Causemo, our Insights platform allows users to quickly understand who their constituents are, what they care about and the channels they prefer to give through, to efficiently and effectively raise more money for their cause
Ryan Carpenter is the Director of Customer Data Analytics for Causemo, providing strategic guidance and support for our nonprofit partners. He has been in the nonprofit world for many years, previously leading the Engagement & Stewardship team for Year Up, as well as managing Donor Advancement Programs for three of the nation’s leading nonprofits (Feeding America, Wounded Warrior Project and CARE).
Get in touch with Ryan: firstname.lastname@example.org