The most important words in fundraising are “Thank you”. It doesn’t take much to remember or say those words, yet it is remarkable how frequently they are forgotten, or how short the timeframe is during which they are remembered. You would think there is no problem saying “Thank you” at the moment a gift is given. Yet even that can prove difficult, if your gift management protocols have not been fully agreed. Start at the end, when you are embarking on a fundraising campaign. How good is your donor appreciation?
Much of the reason for apparent lack of gratitude is organisational flux. People move and take their knowledge with them. The next person in post has no knowledge of or personal connection to the gift. It’s vital to build an environment where continuity of stewardship is a primary goal. Rather like the baton change in a relay race it needs constant focus and practice. Neglecting this aspect of fundraising has significant downside consequences
That’s why I say “start at the end”. If you don’t have your donor management and stewardship plan sorted, your fundraising effort will be like collecting water with a sieve. Lack of gratitude is the surest way to lose donors. Your most likely donors are those who have already given. If you don’t nurture them you will lose them. It’s a lot harder to recruit a new donor than maintain an existing one. So it is very careless to let them slip through your fingers.
Instant and effective response is important however it is most effective and engaging when the longer-term stewardship plan starts to work. Saying “thank you” to a person a year after they make a donation and telling them what their gift has achieved is a great way to maintain their friendship and demonstrate your appreciation. Appreciation that is consistently expressed builds rapport. Your donors will be a lot more receptive to the idea of supporting your next project.
“Thank you” is expressed in many forms. I support an overseas aid charity. Every now and again I receive a letter and some photos from someone whose explains how their family is benefitting from the support that I and others give. Very importantly there is no request for more money. I talked about organisations that treat donors like cash machines in an earlier blog Fundraiser 0: rejections 6: . Every communication presses the “cash only” button.
I repeat: embedding effective stewardship as an organisational priority is the first step in successful fundraising. Effective. stewardship means making friends with your donors and being interested in them. Two ears, two eyes, one mouth.. expands on that. Every individual donor must become collective memory so it is not lost when someone leaves the organisation.
This is the last blog in the series. I hope they have helped and informed those of you who have read them. “Thank you” for taking an interest. For those of you who have gone one step further and purchased the book Fundraising the essentials for success let me conclude with the most important words in fundraising. Thank you!