by David Gunn, Enterprise Account Executive Salsa Labs
It’s January, and across the country, Development departments are returning to work, crunching the numbers on their End of Year donations, and reporting to their boards about all those wonderful new donors. Whether these new supporters were motivated to contribute to your organization by the holiday spirit, or an especially effective year end appeal, or maybe just their accountant’s advice, your job is now to convert these one-time donors into life-long supporters.
Thank and Acknowledge
This first step should go without saying, but in the chaos of the holidays, and with the flood of year end donations, it’s easy to fall behind on your gift acknowledgement plan. Marc Pitman at npENGAGE reports that an informal survey of donors indicates that up to 70% of their end of year gifts go unacknowledged! This can easily be avoided by using Salsa’s built in email auto-responders to automate that initial gift acknowledgement and get that thank you in their inbox as soon as the donation hits yours.
But it’s important to remember that an email form letter is just an acknowledgement, it’s not a “thank you”. For many of these donors, this end of year gift will be the first gift they’ve ever given to your org. Many of them are testing the waters, getting a feel for what your organization does with that money and how they treat their donors. Make it a new year’s resolution for your entire org, from the front desk, to the board, to make more of an effort to thank your supporters. Divide an conquer – share a list of these new supporters with your staff, and get everyone to participate. A hand written thank you note from your programs staff, a quick call from one of your board members, even an anonymous personal story from a client who has personally benefited from your organization can go a long way toward engaging that first time donor and showing them you care.
Donor Centered Approach
Once that initial thank you note is out the door, begin thinking about your next steps towards supporter engagement. It is tempting to inundate your new supporters with info about your organization’s needs for the new year, or how a sustaining gift can help your organization continue to provide services for years to come, or how great your ratio of operations overhead to services is, but these approaches focus on you, not the donor.
Try focusing instead on a donor centered approach. Let them know the impact of their gift on your organization, and how much it has already helped. Tell them about that monthly giving program, but tell them how that sustaining gift saves them time and effort. Ask them why they’re giving in the first place. Discovering their motivations for giving will tell you a lot about what will make them likely to donate again in the future.
Find Out What Resonates
As you continue to engage, take advantage of Salsa’s email reporting tools to find out what messaging is resonating with your audience. Keep track of your open and click-through rates. Is your donor responding to personal emotional appeals, or more objective, outcomes-based reporting? Try doing some A/B split testing to find out. What subject lines have the best open rates? What about the sender?
Paying attention to these small details can go a long way toward increasing engagement, and showing your donors you care.
Don’t Forget the Ask
Once you’ve done all your can to ensure that these new supporters are engaged with your organization, and begin to feel you’re more than just a year-end tax deduction, you’ve got to be the one to ask them to take that next step. Take a donor-centered approach and ask them (in a tone you know works for them) to support a giving program that appeals to their interests. Remember, donor retention is much, much cheaper than donor acquisition. Once they’ve made that initial contribution, it’s up to you to take them the rest of the way.