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Retain Donors Through Effective Stewardship

Retain Donors Through Effective Stewardship

Retaining donors is one of the most difficult initiatives for a fundraiser to do. With more organizations asking people to support their cause or mission, there has never been a more important time to optimize donor retention strategies. One strategy that helps with donor retention is stewardship.

Instilled in people from such a young age is the concept of saying, “Thank you.” How many times have you, or someone you know, given a child something and the adult with them says, “What do you say?” and they look at you and say, “Thank you!” Probably countless times! Being a fundraising professional should encourage you to use this phrase now more than ever. Simply thanking donors and showing the impact of their donation can go an extremely long way.

Stewardship is a vital part of an annual giving plan as it helps you retain donors – if it’s not a significant piece of your plan now, this is something that you should take into deep consideration for the future.

Here are 5 stewardship tips to help retain donors:

  1. SIMPLY SAY, “THANK YOU.” A thank you can go a long way. It makes people feel that they are appreciated and when they feel appreciated, they will start to build a loyalty and sense of pride to your organization. Saying, “Thank you,” through all different platforms is a great way to show your donors how much you appreciate them.
  2. SHOW THE DONOR HIS/HER IMPACT. Infographics are a great visual tool to show donors how they made an impact. By associating the contribution – whether it be a dollar amount, time, or other resource – to the exact area(s) it impacted, people are able to say, “I helped make that happen!” Without your donors, it is impossible to reach your goals. So, when they donate, show them what they did and how they helped make the organization better.
  3. PERSONALIZE THE THANK YOU. Personalization helps build a bond between you and the donor. It makes them feel that they are special and unique. Yes, most occasions and initiatives call for individuals to receive the same designed piece. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to personalize or segment it. Data segmentation and personalization enable you to target your donor or donor segments. For instance, you can have different variations of the stewardship piece, with personalization, if you segment donors by areas they contributed to.
  4. DON’T JUST WAIT UNTIL YOUR FYE. Have you ever thought about incorporating a stewardship campaign into your annual direct marketing plan? You might want to consider how many times per year you are currently thanking donors and how many times you could be thanking donors. Is it once a year? Twice a year? After each time they donate? You can never thank donors too much. Wondering some ways that you can thank your donors? Some clients thank their donors through designed postcards, letters, self-mailers, or other creative direct mail pieces. Connect with us to view samples.
  5. IF YOU ASK THROUGH A CHANNEL, THANK THROUGH THAT CHANNEL. There are many different channels nowadays where donors can be reached. If you ask through a particular channel, you should thank through that channel. For example, if you are sending your donors asks through direct mail, and they expect to hear from you through direct mail, then you should send a thank you through direct mail.

Interested in seeing samples of stewardship pieces?

To sum it all up, stewardship is critical to success. You did so much work identifying and acquiring your donors, you can’t forget one of the most important parts – retaining your donors. By thanking your donors, you’re one step closer to retaining them. They’ll feel like they made an actual impact as they start to build or continue to build an affinity to your organization.

BCG Connect helps clients to identify, acquire, AND retain donors through effective annual direct marketing plans. If you need help implementing stewardship pieces into your plan, or would like to talk about different direct marketing ideas for your organziation to effectively identify, acquire, and retain your donors, connect with us to learn more!

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BCG Staff Writer
Storytelling - What's Your Story?

Influence Donors through Consistent Storytelling

As development professionals, you aim to successfully influence how your audience thinks and feels to get their support for your organization. A key component of reaching and influencing your audience through direct marketing efforts is by storytelling.

Once upon a time in a…

school far away, there lived development professionals who sent appeals after Labor Day.

nonprofit far away, there lived development professionals who were getting appeals ready for their next Giving Day.

healthcare organization far away, there lived development professionals who were starting to think about Giving Tuesday.

No matter what type of organization you’re a part of, having a consistent story for your brand is key.

 No, you don’t have to be Dr. Seuss.

 No, you don’t have to be Nicholas Sparks.

 No, you don’t have to be Stephen King.

 Yes, you do need to have your own story.

One of the first things to ponder is, “How am I going to make sure my story consistently connects through each platform that we send something out?” Well, it all comes back to having a strategic annual giving marketing plan. By having this plan, it’s easy to map out your storyboard and the messages you would like to send throughout the year, the channels you’d like to send them through, and when you plan on sending them.

Storytelling is strategic, especially when it comes to fundraising. It does not simply mean that you must get numerous stories from people saying how the organization had an impact on them and send those out through various channels. This can be a great tactic for some organizations but every organization’s story is different.

Here are some other ideas that might spark your storytelling muse:

Listening: Before developing your story, you need to listen to the stories of your donors. Listening helps you truly understand donors and what parts of your organization are near and dear to their hearts. It can help you align your story with theirs. When crafting an ask with this information in mind, you are more likely to relate to them and convert them to loyal donors. Take the time to listen to a handful of your potential donors and learn about what’s most important to them – you might want to think about incorporating a survey into your campaign, which can allow you to learn a lot more about your donors than you already know.

Values: An organization may have a set of 3-5 values that are core elements that support the vision of the organization. If your focus of the year is on the organization’s core values and mission, think about how you’re going to get that message across throughout the year. An idea could be to feature a different value on each appeal and incorporate a quote or story that correlates with that value. This not only shows how important values are to the organization, but it also enables you to remain consistent throughout the year and strengthen your emotional connection with potential donors.

Photos: One of the most common English idioms is, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Photos can go an extremely long way when storytelling. It gives a visual to the audience of what you want them to see and helps support how you want them to feel. Depending on the type of appeal being sent out, you can incorporate a photo that is indeed worth a thousand words in addition to a powerful message that is consistent with the organization’s story. Photos are a great way of increasing an emotional bond with a potential donor and influencing that person to donate.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, this blog post is quite repetitive using the word, ‘Consistency.’” It is! Consistency is vital to incorporating storytelling into your fundraising efforts. When telling your story, remember these three things:

  1. Listen to your donors and create a story for your organization that your donors want to support.
  2. Build an emotional bond with your donors and make your donors feel a certain way when they receive your appeal.
  3. Tell your story consistently throughout the year through creative direct mail appeals.

…And the storytelling fundraisers lived happily ever after!

To learn more about how BCG Connect can help you consistently deliver your story through direct marketing initiatives, connect with us!

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BCG Staff Writer
Stewardship

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! – The Importance of Stewardship

Did you know that Thanksgiving doesn’t only come in November? You might be thinking to yourself, “Huh? Everyone knows that it’s always in November…” Well, stop for a moment and think about Thanksgiving and the strong aura of gratitude that time of year. Thanksgiving is known to be a time of thanks and appreciativeness for what and who you have in your life.

This should not be the only time of year for that feeling, especially when it comes to fundraising professionals.

You should not only be thanking your donors after they donate to your annual fund throughout the year, but also at your fiscal year end. Donors want to know how they made a difference and feel that they are appreciated.

There are different ways that you can implement stewardship ideas into your campaign. The best stewardship campaigns typically have a combination of the following:

1.Direct Mail: Often, organizations send out an impact report or a “Donor Honor Roll” to recognize everyone who contributed to the annual fund. If you’re thinking you want to send an additional direct mail piece or deviate from an impact report thanking donors, you might want to consider sending out a postcard, letter, or self-mailer. Direct mail is a terrific way to incorporate data segmentation and personalize the thank you based on each donor’s contribution.

2. Email: By sending a thank you message via email that remains consistent with the stewardship campaign brand, you can reiterate your appreciation to your donors through another channel.  Email is a great compliment to direct mail.

3. Social Media: Social media is an effective way to thank those donors who are followers. This is typically used for a broader way of saying, “Thank You!” and is less personal than other communications. A great graphic to share alongside the “thank you” text is an infographic that shows results from the annual donations.

4. Video: Video is a strong element that can help strengthen your brand message and it is a powerful way to deliver a thank you. It provides the opportunity to develop an emotional bond between the organization and the donor through influential visuals of the impact donors have made. A video or a link to a video can be distributed through different channels such as your website, direct mail, social media, and email.

An effective way of thinking about your stewardship campaign and the best channel to send a thank you through is: if you ASK through that channel, THANK through that channel.

Take a minute to think about this scenario:

You just got married and received numerous, thoughtful gifts from your wedding guests. The gifts all varied in price but nonetheless, each gift was a gracious gesture.

In this day in age, it’s common to see a broad “thank you” posting on social media from the two getting married, thanking guests for making their day so special. However, it is ALSO typical to receive some sort of thank you through the mail – sometimes they are handwritten; sometimes they are typed; sometimes they are extremely detailed and personalized; sometimes they are more generic.

Relating your fundraising efforts to other life events makes you realize just how important a thank you is.

Now, ask yourself, “Have we made our donors feel valued?”

Always remember that you can never thank someone too much! It shows that person how much of an impact they had on you (and your organization). By showing someone that his/her donation is appreciated, they will start building a loyalty to your organization. You never know… a thank you could make a first time donor a lifetime donor! Don’t let the aura of gratitude only come around Thanksgiving.

Recognize your donors. Praise your donors. Thank your donors.

The growth of your annual fund is in their hands and you have the power to make your donors feel appreciated.

BCG Connect can help you implement your stewardship campaign into your direct marketing efforts and remain consistent with your organization’s brand – connect with us to learn more!

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BCG Staff Writer
8 Fundraising Trends

8 Trends to Spring Your Annual Fund Marketing Forward

There’s something intricate about annual fund marketing – especially if you want to go beyond the basics of annual giving and create actionable strategies that will help you expand your program for long-term success.

It’s our goal to leverage our industry knowledge when working with clients to provide them with optimal marketing solutions for their fundraising program.

With spring around the corner, it’s time to start comprehensively assessing your annual giving program and determining how to take your program to the next level – how do you relate to these 8 trends?

  1. Implement a Strong Multi-Year and Annual Plan. Developing and maintaining a strong annual fund plan provides the opportunity to comprehensively assess your annual giving program, articulate short and long term objectives, and align all objectives with the plan appropriately. This advanced planning offers the opportunity to revisit initiatives regularly and stay up to speed with expectations. As a key step to long term success, effective annual fund planning is built from strategic development, partnerships, and long-term connections with donors.
  2. Stewardship, Stewardship, Stewardship. Annual giving professionals always need to keep at the front of their minds that stewardship is a key element of annual giving. Great stewardship is crucial to high retention and should be encouraged at all levels of the donor pyramid, including thank you notes all the way to donor impact stories in different types of publications.
  3. Have You Implemented #SocialMedia Into Your Campaign? If you haven’t increased your social media presence yet, now is the time to do so. Having a campaign that shows consistent branding, from the direct marketing all the way to social media, increases the engagement of the potential donors. Donors tend to feel more involved and having numerous touchpoints is important to donor relations.
  4. Mobile is King. At the CASE D1 conference, it was stated that 14% of all online donations are made by a mobile device. It is vital that your donation page, along with any corresponding emails, attachments, or graphics on social media, are mobile enabled. Similar to the importance of mobile with the annual fund, convenience is a significant factor in getting donations through the door.
  5. Big Data and Personalized Analytics. Big data and predictive analytics are evolving annual fund giving. By analyzing donor engagement and giving over their time with the organization/institution, engagement with them improves significantly. When you know about what they are passionate about in association with the organization/institution, you can tailor a personalized approach to them that could increase the chances of a donation.
  6. Storytelling is Not Just for Children. Tapping into your donor’s emotions can engage them, connect with them, really show them exactly what you want them to see and how you want them to feel. By providing better stories, you can raise more money because people are more dedicated and proud to support the fund. Storytelling can be incorporated in appeals, giving days, challenges, stewardship, among others. Take a step back and really tell the donors why their donation is impactful, who it has helped, and why they truly make a difference no matter the amount they donated.
  7. “What Was My Impact?” – Respond to Your Donors. It’s important donors know that their donation goes to a larger cause – that it is truly impacting something. Impact reports, case studies, stories, statistics are all vital elements to provide to your potential donors to show how exactly their donation helped. Did it help fund a new building? Did it provide more resources to the organization/institution? Tell them! They want to know their impact and by providing tangible information of what their donation helped, they will be more inclined to donate again.
  8. Change is Constant. Successful annual giving programs effectively adopt the changes that will work, while still maximizing the old tools that continue to work. The saying typically goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” However, it is rather a delicate balance between using the old with the new. Learning how to adapt the new with the old can improve the likeliness of a successful annual giving program. For example, doing a direct mail piece highlighting a giving day can be complemented with a social media campaign incorporating the branding of the Giving Day.

These are just a few of the annual fund trends that should be on the forefront of your mind when developing your annual fund program. Do you need any help incorporating any of them into your campaign? We’d love to connect with you to share how we can help strengthen your campaign!

P.S. Attending the CASE District II conference in Baltimore? Let us know if you will be attending – we would love the opportunity to connect with you there!

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BCG Staff Writer
Keep Your Donors

Keep Your Donors – You Earned Them

Welcome to July—a new fiscal year for many organizations, and with that comes new fundraising goals.

Wait, what is that? You still need to close out last year? And you feel overwhelmed doing both at the same time? I get it! That’s a lot to manage at once.

Don’t freak out! Just like I walked you through how to show the impact of a gift in my last blog post, I’m back to help again.

This time: I’m going to help you single task your way through this transitional part of the year so that you can focus on what’s important: keeping your donors.

Tip #1: Focus on donor retention now, so you don’t need to focus on finding new donors later.

Did you know that one of the most cost-effective tools you can focus on to increase funding is donor retention?

What is donor retention, you ask?

Simply, donor retention is a measurement of how many donors continue to donate to your organization year after year.

everyone is talking about donor retention

If you think those rates are really low, you’re right! Organizations that have low donor-retention rates need to continuously find new donors.

Tip #2: Know the numbers. (aka: It costs HOW much to acquire a new donor?!)

what's the big deal?

That’s a huge return on investment! And we all know how hard it is to find a new donor in the first place, right?

Tip #3: Remember the second golden rule of fundraising: you can never thank your donors too many times.

Taking that advice, thank your donors now, thank them again later, and then thank them again. (And again.)

keep your donors

BCG worked with Kimball Union Academy, a private, co-ed, preparatory, boarding school in Meriden, New Hampshire, on their stewardship campaign. At the end of their fiscal year they thanked donors by showing the impact of their gift through specific metrics.

you did it

Looking for more examples of stewardship programs that work? Want to learn more about how BCG can help you keep the spectrum of your donors? Check out our portfolio for more great ideas and contact us to learn more.

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BCG Staff Writer
Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Stand Out From The Crowd(ed Mailbox): 5 Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Add some muscle to your next appeal letter to help it stand out in a crowded mailbox.

During the holiday season, everything that comes into your mailbox, from bills to credit card offers, are adorned in festive colors and glitter. So, it helps to add something special to an appeal letter to ensure that it will stand out from the colorful crowd.

Have your next appeal letter move into the spotlight, no matter the time of year, by including one or more of these strategies:

1. Include Images in the Letter:

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Adding photos to the body of the letter helps to give a face to the story, to the need, and to the reason a donor is giving. Photos also help engage a reader in the letter by helping them make a personal connection to it.

2. Add a Colorful Buck Slip Alongside the Letter:

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This mailing insert, approximately the size of a dollar bill (which is how it gets its name), provides room for additional graphics, images, and appeal information that can help enumerate the impact of a donation.

3. Use Color and Unique Typography in the Body of the Letter:

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By adding color and typographical emphasis, the reader can easily find the most important parts of your appeal letter. This also helps to break apart larger blocks of text to be easier to read and thus keeps their attention longer.

4. Add Artwork or a Tagline to the Outer Envelope:

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The envelope is an important part of the overall appeal package, but is so often overlooked (both during the design process and once it’s in the mailbox). The design of it helps to encourage the donor to open it.

5. Personalize the letter by including:

  • The recipient’s last gift amount: this helps to remind the donor of how much they previously gave and also gives them a point of reference for another gift.
  • A targeted ask amount: by personalizing the appeal letter with a specific ask for each letter, rather than a general ask, this helps to give the donor an understanding of how they can specifically help.
  • The recipient’s class year: by referencing a specific year, you help remind them of their experiences at the school and the reasons for giving back.
  • Add a P.S. line that repeats the call to action: use this important part of the letter to summarize the entire message – the ask, deadline, and call to action – so that when the reader’s eyes go to the bottom of the page, they have all the information.

What techniques have you used? These 5 ideas are just some of the wonderful strategies available. What have you found to be helpful?

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BCG Staff Writer
The Current Environment of Annual Giving

The Current Environment of Annual Giving

Recently, the BCG team attended CASE’s Senior Annual Giving Conference, and we want to share some great information we learned on the current fundraising climate, donor retention, acquisition, reactivation, and who to target and when.

5 things you should know:

  • Today, 60% of all schools are making 2 or more asks per year and have success with multiple ask programs.
  • New Donors who give their first gift of $100 or more have a 71% retention rate
  • The longer lapsed the harder to reactivate. Those who are 1-2 years out are the best prospects to reactivate.
  • Parents are great donors and should be the first target for major gift officers.

Download more need-to-know facts from the Senior Annual Giving presentation.

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BCG Staff Writer