Effective Donor

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

So how do you make the most of your donor communications?

  1. Tailor your communications to a donor audience so that your organization’s work is put into context. Don’t just bombard your donors with every publication that you produce. You want donors to understand how their contribution is being used to fulfill the mission and vision of your organization.
  2. Make sure that each contact with your donors—by mail, telephone or email—builds on the last contact. The ideal donor communication is personal, relevant, and anticipated.
  3. Ensure your communications alternate between appeals for support and other communications to engage donors in your work. While you certainly want to ask donors to increase their giving over time, understand this will happen if a relationship is established first.
  4. Be consistent. Contact your donors regularly in order to involve and engage them. Consistency is very important because it enables donors to share in the organization’s progress and help them to plan their giving more efficiently. It also builds trust between the organization and the donor, an element that is vital to any relationship.
  5. Be grateful. Your best plan for donor communications will fail if you don’t thank your donors appropriately and promptly for every gift they make.

Today’s Tip: Calendar of Communication

True stewardship involves a structured plan, and your communications are an integral part of that plan. One idea is to organize your group’s donor outreach using a “Calendar of Communication.” Start by creating a simple table listing each month of the year. Then begin to map out your communications. Do you produce a quarterly newsletter? Add that to the calendar. Do you have some appeals planned for the year? Do you send emails to your donors? Do you have a telemarketing campaign planned? All these should be included on your calendar. Once you have everything listed, make sure that you have a good mixture of relationship-building communications and appeals for support.

Ask Ann

Dear Ann: How often should we mail to our donors?

Answer: I prefer “communicate” to “mail” because we have a tendency to forget about emails and telephone calls as part of our overall outreach to donors. That being said, it’s going to depend on your organization but generally you want to connect with your donors monthly. Sometimes that outreach will be an appeal for support and other times it will be an update on your work. But you want to avoid sending a “monthly invoice,” that is, sending a fundraising appeal every month without communicating your success—and your gratitude—in other ways.

Do you have a question for Ann? Send it to info@acfitzgerald.com

Sources for Success

A useful web site that has information about effective donor communication is that of Mal Warwick Associates.

Ken Burnett’s book, Relationship Fundraising: A Donor Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money, is a useful source for those seeking more information on building and sustaining donor relationships.

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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