The following is a story.
Two out of three of my recent giving experiences have been negative.
Within a three week period, I gave to three different organizations, one large, one medium, and one small:
- Org A – Larger higher education institution
- Org B – Medium higher education institution
- Org C – Small organization within a higher education institution
Each organization was having a short campaign to raise a set amount within 24 hours, and each one is close to my heart for different reasons. I knew I was going to donate to them as soon as they asked because I have had such enjoyable experiences with them in the past.
I didn’t realize it at the moment, but this became an experiment in building donor relationships.
And there was a clear winner.
With each one, I received an email approximately a week before announcing the campaign and providing details on how to donate. Then I received an email day of with a link to use to donate. Pretty standard really.
Two smaller organizations (B and C) struggled for almost the exact same reasons:
- From the very beginning, it was not clear exactly why they were fundraising. They were asking for me to donate my own funds to “impact the organization” but there were no details on how the funds would be used.
- I have a specific connection with each of these groups, and both sent me a generic “friend of the organization” email. Literally, it said, “As an alumnus or friend of Organization B.” They didn’t even include my name in the email greeting and it was obviously a template.
- They kept asking for more during the campaign period. Even though I gave within the first hour, they constantly emailed me, stating, “there’s still time to give.” It seemed that someone was just sending email blasts without actually checking who they were emailing and with no regard to who already contributed.
- They did not send a thank you message to me. There was no email and no acknowledgement whatsoever of my gift.
The other organization (A) took a completely different approach. They had a variety of specific projects that they were raising funds for and made sure that I was informed of those which would resonate with me.
- As soon as I got information about this campaign, they customized the language to my specific connection with their organization. They mentioned my previous role and why they were reaching out to me in the first place. It made me feel special because they knew my history and used it to ensure that their language was personal.
- They were clear about where the gift was going and what it would be used for. This worked in conjunction with the first point, as they made sure that the cause they were sending my funds to was connected to my history with the organization. They made sure I would care.
- I donated once, and they started sending me “update” emails rather than “ask” emails. It was fun being kept up to date on their progress on all of the causes they were raising for that day, not just the one connected to me.
- They sent thank you information promptly as well as reached out a few weeks later to thank me again for my support. It was just an email, but it was professional and polite.
The difference is clear and the larger organization (A) made a much larger impact on their projects and my impression of them.
One might argue that, since Organization A is a larger organization they had more resources to devote to this campaign. But what made it stand out wasn’t the approach or quality of the email design.
They took the time to customize what they were sending me. They took into account my previous history with them and used that to find a project that would resonate with me. In short, they put in more effort to ensure that I felt valued, while I was nothing but income for the other two.
Fundraising is not about constantly asking for money. It is about building a relationship with your donors so that they believe in what you are raising money for. When you connect someone with your mission, they will give without hesitation and very easily could be stewarded into major gift levels in the future. You are investing in your future relationship with them.
Needless to say, when Organization A reached out a month later with another project they were fundraising for, I gave again.