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The Loyalty Letter

E-news that helps you keep donors connected (and giving)
to your cause.

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January 2013
Published by Lisa Sargent

Welcome, Nonprofit Professionals:

If you've never heard the phrase "low-hanging fruit," you can picture it: plump fruits. Easy to reach. Ripe for the picking.

Little effort. Big goodness. Who doesn't want that?

So it goes with January's article: "Donor Retention's Low-Hanging Fruit: What to Fix First."

I wrote it for you as my answer to the plethora of "new year's must-do" lists flooding the nonprofit kingdom... what you must do to get more money, more donors, etc.

Problem is, most of these must-dos are jargon loaded. Slow moving. Sweeping. Toothy.

You need steps to start keeping more donors today. Now.

Believe me, there's much (MUCH) bigger stuff that needs fixing before you "give your supporters better tools," or "develop one cause marketing partnership."

The good news is, it's low hanging fruit. More donors. Happier donors. Progress pronto. Starting now.

Let's get granular. "Donor Retention's Low-Hanging Fruit: What to Fix First." See below. (And see you next month!)
Thanks, as always, for reading,

Lisa Sargent
Sargent Communications

P.S. Last month I offered a free PDF of 44 open-ended questions you can ask for better interviews. Then I found StoryCorps. The questions now number 65. Get the updated 65-question PDF here. Still free. Thanks!

Donor Retention's Low-Hanging Fruit:
What to Fix First (And Why)

Meet the fleeing donor. Research tells us at least half of all new givers (and 20+ percent of your regular givers) won't be around this time next year. But that doesn't have to be your donors... does it?

First the why.

Over half a decade ago I wrote an article for Fundraising Success Magazine on the sorry state of post-acquistion donor communications.

I'd gone "mystery shopping" (20 donations, 20 charities). In return for my generosity, virtually all of said charities treated me to silence and indifference, post-gift.

Aghast, I cited the Chronicle of Philanthropy and an eye-popping statistic from Dr. Adrian Sargeant (no relation)...

"Boosting repeat donor ranks by just 10 percent can improve your returns up to 200 percent."

That's just one additional donor out of every ten.

Fast forward six years. I find this post from the always excellent Grizzard Communications Blog. Chip Grizzard, it seems, had gone mystery shopping like my "trip" of yore...

... Hooray! thought I. Chip's got good news.

How wrong I was. Chip's results, as of the blog post:

* 63% sent Chip a thank you letter. DOWN 14% from last year

* The fastest turnaround was 14 days (Billy Graham Assoc.)

* Chip requested email updates from 13 organizations. (ZERO have emailed him.)

* He asked for planned giving information from three organizations. (ZERO sent him anything.)

* He never received his promised free item in return for his $20 minimum donation.

* And one organization sent Chip information on its sustainer program a week before he received a thank you.

Which means according to Chip, and since my 2007 shopping trip, post-gift donor care has tragically... incredulously... gotten worse. Worse!

Now for the bright side. That retention opportunity --- that up-to-two-hundred-percent boost in revenues --- still waits.

You CAN be the organization that gets donor care right. Now. This year.

What to fix first -- donor retention's low hanging fruit:

1. Thank you letters and emails:
Designate a thank-you guru. Visit my free thank-you letter clinic on the fabulous SOFII. Follow the step by step examples. Update your thank-yous until they sing with donor love and gratitude. Don't worry about sending in 48 hours yet. Start with once a week. Pull your gift list. Every week. Send thank-yous. I repeat: every week, without fail. Update thank yous often.

2. Donor service:
Include an email and a phone number on all your donor communications. If you have a checkbox on reply slips, once a week, look at them. Promptly and personally answer any emails and calls and letters that come in. Stop what you're doing for any donors who visit you.

3. Reply slip checkboxes and their ilk:
From this day forward, you are forbidden to place a check box on your reply slip until you can promptly respond to donors who tick the boxes. If I give you my email via a direct mail reply slip, send me a friendly, human-sounding test message to confirm it and to thank me for supplying it. If I tick the box for planned giving information, you need to have something wonderful and inspiring and ready to send me. (And please-oh-please don't slap the planned giving label on that tick box! Say "Please send me information about making a gift to XYZ Charity in my Will. I wrote about legacies here.)

4. Premiums and other promises:
If you make a promise to your donors, keep it. Send premiums promptly. Fire direct mail vendors that fail to follow up. Consistently publish any and all communications that you promise special giving groups: president's circle updates, bequest societies, etc. Don't promise what you can't deliver.

5. Post-gift communications flow:
Follow this dead simple rule: I will NOT ask for another gift UNTIL I have sincerely thanked my donors AND reported back to them on how their gift is being (or will soon be) wisely used.

Folks, I know this stuff isn't as shiny or sexy-sounding as chasing down cause marketing partnerships or posting cool stuff to your blog or filling your Twitter feed.

But at one of my clients, I've been a proud (virtual) part of a fundraising team that, for the past four years, has focused on one thing and one thing only: getting the basics of good donor care right.

Believe me when I tell you. With the right communications, and a desire to treat your supporters right, donor retention can improve by leaps and bounds.

And the revenues? Suffice to say, Professor Adrian Sargeant was right. They do follow.

P.S. Subscribing to The Loyalty Letter is easy:
scroll up for handy sign-up form at the top of this page. 

And lastly, if ever you have a question on donor communications,
send it along to The Loyalty Letter. All you have to do is:

Email me.

Or call: +001 (860) 881-7009.

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I just called...
to say...

Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog
reveals an easy way to keep more donors in three minutes (or less).

1. Pick up phone
2. Call donor
3. Talk about donor and what donor did that was amazing for real people...

See what happens when you do. The surprising results in Katya A.'s article, link above.

Full disclosure: I don't get a referral fee for any of my recommendations. Just sharing for sharing's sake.


Sargent Communications 
PO Box 814, Wolfeboro, NH 03894
Voice: +001 (860) 881-7009

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