Lori L. Jacobwith will show you five powerful and simple “must do’s” to cut through year-end fundraising noise, help increase your Giving Tuesday success, and increase donor retention.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Lori, I’ve got 4:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Lori: I think we should. Yeah.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us. If you’re watching this as a recording, I hope you’re having a good day, no matter when and where you are. 

We are here to talk about Five “Must Dos” for Year-End Fundraising Success. Yes, it is year-end fundraising season. Can hardly believe it. Kind of has been for a little while, so this is obviously a very timely topic. I’m so glad all of you are here. 

I’m Steven over here at Bloomerang. I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always. 

And just a couple of housekeeping items. Just want to let everyone know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording and the slides later on today. So if you have to leave early or maybe get interrupted or you just want to review the awesome content you’re about to hear, don’t worry. I will email that to everybody later on today. 

But most importantly, we love for these webinars to be interactive. So use that chat box. Use that Q&A box. We’re going to save a little bit of time at the end for Q&A, but we’d love to hear from you. Introduce yourself now if you haven’t already. Give us the weather report. It’s one of my favorite things. I don’t know why, but I like to know the temperature.

Lori: I do too. I don’t know why. I love it.

Steven: It’s weird. So do it if you want. You can even send us a tweet. I’ll keep an eye on Twitter. But the bottom line is we would love to hear from you over the next hour or so. 

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. I think we come pretty close to 50 sessions a year. And one of the things we’re most known for is this webinar series. So I’m so glad you stumbled into it if you’re a first-timer. 

If you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, if you’re wondering what the heck is Bloomerang, beyond these webinars, we are a provider of software. We’re a donor database. That’s what Bloomerang is. So if you are interested in that or maybe just curious, check us out. Visit our website. There are all kinds of great videos, case studies you can dive into and kind of get to know us a little bit more. 

But don’t do that right now. Wait at least an hour because . . .

Lori: Wait an hour.

Steven: Listen, there was only one person that I wanted to invite to do a year-end giving session. I thought about it for about three nanoseconds and I said, “It’s got to be Lori Jacobwith,” and she was so awesome to return my email and say yes. 

Lori, how’s it going? Are you doing okay?

Lori: I’m doing okay. I don’t have a cold. So I’m feeling healthy and strong. And I know you’ve got a little cold, but that’s what children give you. They give you the gifts that keep on giving.

Steven: Yes. And I’m on the upswing, so if I sound a little groggy, that’s why. But luckily you get to hear from Lori, not me, and she is a billion times smarter than I am. Dang, she’s done a lot of Bloomerang webinars over our 10-year history and is just one of my favorite people. And like I said, I couldn’t think of anyone that I wanted to cover this topic any more than her. 

So I’m going to pipe down. I’m going to start sipping my green tea, like you said. So, Lori, let me stop sharing my slides here and you can bring up your beautiful slides and see if it works.

Lori: I sure will.

Steven: Here we go.

Lori: Thank you for that really warm and generous introduction. And what I want to say is thank you to Bloomerang. You guys are quality all the way through. We were talking before the webinar started about the onboarding process. I’ve used Bloomerang in different gigs. I’ve been in the trenches and this webinar series is . . . I learned stuff. I come be on your webinars to learn from my colleagues. So thanks for letting me join in. 

Today, we are going to talk about five must dos for year-end fundraising, but I want to do a little disclaimer. Each of the five must dos could be your own webinar. So I attempted to sort of rein myself in and not overwhelm you too much. 

Do type in questions during. I’m happy to read through the chat and kind of see them. And I know, Steven, you’ll partner with me and keep an eye on things if I forget something. You can put the questions in the Q&A. That’s the place to put them. I will be asking you questions and your answers will go in the chat. So that’s my housekeeping stuff. 

Thank you for what you grow and the communities you build and all that you do and the work that is seen and unseen. I am awed when I get a chance to sit down and talk to folks like yourselves, so thanks for being here. 

I have a poll question for you. Steven is going to bring it up. Do I need to stop my share to do that, Steven?

Steven: I don’t think so. Let me see if I can get it going here. Here we go.

Lori: So what I want to know is, is it the end of your fundraising year, or are you in that midway place because you’re on a fiscal year? So go ahead and just answer the question. Will give us a sense of who we’re talking to today. Oh, wow. Looks like almost . . . Oh, more people are year-end. Got it. Okay. Yeah.

Steven: Yeah. Almost two-thirds to a third almost. Now 60/40. Interesting.

Lori: There you go. Thank you for doing that. That helps me know too. I’m going to end the poll, if that’s all right. Share the results so everybody can see them. Yeah, 60/40. Wow. Cool, and good, because everything that I’ll talk to you about is usable by everyone. 

Just a bit about my background. I live in Minneapolis. I’ve lived here most of my life. When I was 9 years old, I told my parents who were volunteers in a lot of ways, our church, the summer celebration, political campaigns, I told them that I thought I wanted to help everyone in Minnesota, and so I should try to be governor of Minnesota. And at 9, they sort of patted me on the head and laughed and said, “That’d be lovely.” And I said, “If I can’t be governor, I’d like to be a flight attendant because I like to travel and I would want someone to pay for me to travel.” 

Well, in 1990, I got a chance to work for the governor of Minnesota and I realized I didn’t want that job. But I worked on a couple of political campaigns. My background is political science and communication. And I learned a lot about fundraising before the internet, when you just dialed for dollars and sent mailings and had a lot of house parties. 

But the governor became a friend and then I took my skills to the nonprofit sector, and I’ve been executive director, development director, board member, you name it. Been a part of our sector for a long time. And in 2001, I joined a training company and worked for them for five years and then set out on my own in 2007.

So I help organizations tell powerful stories that have raised collectively around a half billion dollars. And I believe that when you do that, when you add those stories and the ease of telling a story to your tool chest, if you will, that you are building a strong foundation to be sustainable, to help people understand what it is you do, what you need, all of that, and that really you’re building lifelong supporters. 

So our job together anymore is to simplify what has become complex, whether that is because of the pandemic or the work you do is more challenging than ever, or the populations that you walk alongside are more stressed than ever. I think our days and our brains can sometimes feel like this calculation. 

What I know after nearly 40 years of doing this work, I know what it takes to be successful. I’ve made a ton of mistakes. So I’m going to teach you what works so you don’t have to make the mistakes that I did. I say, “Make new mistakes if you want to.” 

But what we’re going to cover today is some of what works and some of what can work between now and December 31. 

So type in, if you would, to the chat box, what do you want people to do? What specifically in your community do you want people to do? And I mean like, “No kidding.” See Maria Drury is here. I am so excited about that. Hello, Maria. Thanks for giving a shout-out. 

“We want people to deeply engage.” How so, David? 

“Donate.” How much? 

“Understand our mission.” Okay. 

“Give.” Be more specific, though. How much money? Talk about you how? Attend a meeting? Be an ambassador but tell a specific story? 

“Join our monthly giving program.” That helps. That’s more specific. 

“Advocate for girl as futures and give 20% more than they did last year.” Thank you.

So the specificity matters. Here’s why, folks. We are competing for attention at a level we have never seen in our lifetimes. People have full plates. Kids are down the hall. Not everyone has gone back to the office to work. So you want to keep things as simple and clear as possible when you’re inviting support, and especially this time of year when you’re scooping up your thimble full of the many hundreds of billions of dollars given to charitable organizations.

So here’s what we’re going to cover today. Really simple, five must dos, some Giving Day tactics, and then some next steps. And I call it Giving Day tactics, not just Giving Tuesday because I know that some states, like in Minnesota where I live, we’ve got Give to the Max Day. You may have a statewide Giving Day in addition to Giving Tuesday. So these are applicable to whatever it is that you’ve got going on in your state.

All right. Love it. “Join our legacy circle. Make a five-year pledge for $1,000 a year.” Bam. Got it, Margo. And what I want to know is then what am I buying? What does that make happen? 

So your first must do is very simple. It is to humanize your mission. What do I mean by that? I want to have a face on what I make happen, but I also want to know what does it take to make that happen? So how many volunteers, how many hours, how many dollars, what kind of space? Have me understand what it is that is going on when I give money. But, and here’s the key, cause me to feel something when you do that. When you’re communicating, you want me to feel something.

So here in the Twin Cities is the international home of the Center for Victims of Torture. One of my longtime clients, they do work all over the world, literally, and they used to bring people into their healing center in St. Paul to teach them a bit about what goes on in Ethiopia, or Uganda, or wherever their camps are. And that all stopped last year. So we’ve created a way for people to get a sense of what their work is, and we call them the rebuilding lives experiences. 

Recently, they took us to Georgia, and I learned that in Georgia, it is called the Ellis Island of the South by refugees who come into our country because there are more people that come in through the Atlanta airport than there are New York City and what used to come through Ellis Island. 

They made sure that we got to hear stories from some of these folks, but they put a face on what our impact would be if we gave. So they do these every month, especially right now, and they have to 20 people or 40 people. There are more people attending their virtual “put a face on it” experience than they ever had coming into their healing center. Who has time to drive in rush hour traffic to get somewhere and learn a little something that we think we already know?

You’ve got lots of ways to put a face on and humanize your mission for me. So emails, social media, your website. This is the giving page for the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. I love the copy as well as the picture. 

“Fighting for 25 years. A quarter century of going toe to toe with the tobacco and industry has proven the power of relentless advocacy to save lives in the U.S. and around the world. With your support, we are fighting for health for kids, for equity, for change, for all of us. Together, we’re taking on the toughest fights.” I already was going to give when I went to their donate page, but now I’m really going to give because I get it. And they put a face there so I know this is making an impact for someone.

Some of the folks that do a really great job of taking pictures in the field are the folks at Charity Water. They make sure that they use not stock images. I don’t know that they ever use stock images. They have someone that goes out to take photos, learn stories. Even during the pandemic, Tyler was out in the different communities around the world, and very carefully . . . he’s got a newborn little boy at home, but he has a cameraman, a videographer, and a still photographer that travel with him. 

So making sure that you are putting a face when it’s time for us to give but you’re also telling us what does the money do. So humanizing and telling your money story at the same time. Forty dollars a month gives 12 people clean water. On this page of their website, there’s a carousel. So there are different pictures that happen. 

If you can’t put a true face to your organization, use a silhouette. I was just on a webinar just before this and we talked about body parts, hands. You could have a hug. You could have a part of something so we don’t see a face. I have one organization that serves children and they show the smile or the eyes of the child, but we don’t see the actual whole person. And they do use stock images because they can’t show the actual. So hopefully that helps just a little bit.

I want to touch on when you’re humanizing, putting a face, you have to also talk about the money, especially right now. And your money story means you’re telling me that there’s a person but what it takes to fully fund your mission. 

So it may be that you’re a $1.2 million organization, $900,000 of that is philanthropy, and you’re at the end of your calendar year and so far you’re at about $790,000. You’ve got a gap between where you are today and where you must be by the end of the year. 

Notice I’m not saying we need anything, because you don’t need anything. You require some dollars, you’re fundraising, because of that face, that person whose life is different because you walk alongside them. 

So you want to talk about what it takes to fully fund your mission and share some updates, especially weekly right now as we’re leading up to Giving Tuesday or whatever your Giving Day is. Make sure your messages are inspiring, specific, relationship-building.

So another client of mine, Upstream Arts, they provide programming in the Minneapolis schools, the Milwaukee School District, and I think they’re going to a couple other states now. They’ve been using this term “funding gap” for many, many years. And this is their founder on the left, Julie, and their assistant associate director, Bree. They call me their lifesaver because when they first met me, they were raising $23,000 a year from individuals. Now it’s well into the hundred thousands.

But a couple of Decembers ago, they had a donor call and asked, “What’s our funding gap? I want to make sure my year-end gift is enough.” So this person had already given, but they educated their community by putting faces on who we’re serving, what does it take to serve, and here’s our gap. So they humanized this to something that’s well beyond a goal and a thermometer. So that was number one.

Number two, I know you are doing this, but I want to turn the volume up. I want to ratchet up a little bit. Creatively thank. If we are competing for attention, we want to compete for also the kind of feelings that people are feeling when they’re thanked and stand out in the crowd. 

So you can be focused on more than just a thank you note, right? Social media shout-outs, short videos, board member thank you calls and handwritten notes, the subject line of the email, that’s the auto-responder, follow-up plan of some kind, and the welcome strategy for first-time donors. 

And then what I want you overall to think is just engagement beyond that letter. So a few examples that I have for you, one is as you’re shouting out . . . This is a shout-out to parents and guardians from the Red Cloud Indian School. They were saying, “This is a message to our families from our teachers. Have a great weekend.” 

What they didn’t do that I wish they had done, and we talked about this, is tag either your board members, tag volunteers, or tag specific people that you want to pay attention to this, because they’re your followers already, and then they will start to see it. It will come up in their feed either on Instagram, or Facebook, or even on LinkedIn, and then they will start to comment, or like, or share, or do some of that engagement. So use your social media in a way that’s another notch above just posting a picture and saying thank you.

The next example I have here is a true story. And I love this story. This is a stock photo. This is not the matriarch of the foundation. But I worked on a campaign a few years back. We were raising $5 million for a capital campaign. This is an organization that had no donors when we started, zero. They’d never raised money before. 

They’d started to reach out to some of the community members and the players in the community, and they got word through that envelope in the mail that they were going to receive a grant of a half million dollars from a specific family foundation, the Smith Family Foundation. 

They had a huge development staff of one and the CEO, so a development director and the CEO, and then they had a communication staff of one, George. George heard about this and he grabbed his phone and he videoed a whole bunch of people saying, “Thank you to the Smith Family Foundation. We are thrilled.” And some people were cheering and they ended with the CEO saying thank you. And she was holding the letter and she had tears in her eyes. 

It was sent to the matriarch of the foundation within a half an hour, 45 minutes of receiving their mail. She called. Mrs. Smith called the CEO and said, “We have never received a thank you that warm that quickly, and with so many people thanking us. The video alone brought us to tears. Here’s what we’d like to do. When you match our first half million,” notice the language there, “we will make another grant of a half million.” 

And I think the CEO at that time about passed out because they never had donors before, let alone a million-dollar gift. And they did get the second half million. They went on to get another million from somewhere else because they had that first million. But this whole thing started with this little video. It was so sweet and so homespun, but it made a difference on the receiving end.

All right. So thanking creatively, we’re talking about. When that screen pops up, what does the screen say? I love that this one populates with, “Thank you, Christina. Your gift has been received. Your efforts will not only improve lives, they will transform futures. Together, we’re bringing help for today and hope for tomorrow. 

“You can now take the opportunity to share your gift with a loved one through a personalized e-card.” Love that. Sharing, right? “Follow the link below to personalize and send your exclusive e-card.” 

So you don’t have to have a ton of tech savvy to do things like this, and you don’t have to include the e-card part, but make sure the page that pops up when I make a contribution at least has some warm words. And you can borrow some of these from this page from World Health.

The next is an email I got a few years ago with the favorite subject line I’ve ever received. As Steven knows and a few of you on the session here know, I don’t have children. And I wanted to be a mom forever. Well, I happen to have some bonus grandchildren from a long-term relationship that I’ve been in, and they call me Lala. But I don’t have kids. And so kids have been my thing. I give to kids’ organizations. I love volunteering with kids’ organizations. 

So Free Arts Minnesota, I gave them $100 gift. It wasn’t a lot, but immediately after that gift was processed online, into my inbox popped this email that said, “You helped a child today.” And then, “Dear Lori, if not for you, da-da-da.” I have to tell you, I felt something so big. I actually wanted to go make another contribution so I felt that again in that moment. 

What is the subject line of the auto-email? Make sure to get creative. And you can borrow . . . “You helped someone like Emily today,” and tell us about Emily. Or Emily might have been in the letter that you talked about. Creatively thanking. That’s what we’re talking about.

So my longest time group of people that I’ve worked with is called Volunteers of America North Louisiana. Last year during the pandemic, they had to cancel their donor thank you event that happens in the off time when . . . They have their event in the spring, and then in the fall, they have generally this event that thanks. It’s at someone’s home. 

And so this was the home it was supposed to be at. Well, they got signage and put it in their front yard and they had people drive to it. They also had people stop at a different location if they couldn’t get to this home. But they got a little bag. They got cookies. They got the little Volunteers of America logo. They got thanked. And people were overjoyed to be able to smile, to do something that got them out of the house. They didn’t have to . . . they socially distanced, so it was safe. But it was simple and it was powerful.

The thing that I’ll tell you is donor retention is what we’re talking about. It’s not just getting people to give, right? It’s having them stay giving long term. And how you treat them now today matters for “Will they come back? Will they give again when it’s a different time or a difficult time?” 

I’m going to share my screen for a moment because Volunteers of America North Louisiana is . . . I’ve been working with them since 2001. We’ve raised many, many, many millions of dollars together, I think close to $23 million or $24 million. 

At 2:01 p.m. today . . . it’s now 3:25 here. I got this email, “The CEO is retiring, cheers for Chuck and more.” They are already working towards their spring event and they were inviting me as well as their people who live in Shreveport, Louisiana, to this drive-by event called Cheers for Chuck. He’s retiring. “He’s the reason I give. Chuck is the kindest man I know.” But he will be retiring and they’re going to have a drive-by to thank him for his 33 of service. 

These folks get it about donor engagement. They have someone assigned to me, one of their donors in Minnesota who doesn’t come to Shreveport very often, who calls to thank me once a year. 

So if you want to learn a little bit more about donor engagement, this Bit.ly link is case-sensitive and you’ll get to download some information and just read a blog post about creatively thanking.

All right. So must do number three, we’ve already touched on it, and that is making thank you calls. I know that thank you calls sound time intensive. They sound scary, because who wants to talk to someone? But I will tell you they are relevant today, more relevant than ever before. People are starting to use their phones for the main reason they were created, and that is to talk to people. 

So I’m going to ask you a couple of questions, and, Steven, it’s time to bring the other poll up. We’ll share the Bit.ly link in the follow-up email that goes out. And let me go back to it for just real quick for you while Steven is bringing the poll up. It’s all lower case “increasedonorgiving” Bit.ly link. 

All right. There’s the poll if you want to go ahead and answer the questions. The questions are, do you make donor calls weekly? Do you make donor calls daily? Do you have your board members help make donor calls? You want to check all that apply. Do you track the results of making personal connections with your donors? 

Let’s see how you’re doing here, folks. All right. They’re populating. I love it. Fast. You’re answering quickly. I’m going to let a couple more populate and then winding down, going, going, going. I’m going to end the poll and will share the results. 

So it looks to me like we’ve got not many of you that make donor calls daily, but about half of you are making donor calls weekly. And I will ring my bell for you because that is awesome. 

“Our board members help,” about 50% of you. Great. 

And you track the results. Good deal. About 66% of you. 

Thank you for sharing that, and just thanks for doing that because it takes something to be organized, to be coordinated to do that.

Let me tell you another story. Cynthia is her name, real name. For little while, about nine months last year and early part of this year, I was the chief advancement officer at an organization and I made 900 phone calls in nine months. We increased giving from $100,000 to $1.4 million and we increased donor retention from 36% to 56%. And I equate a lot of that to the phone calls that I made. I was new and I wanted to know our people. We had about 500 donors, but only active was about 250. 

So I called Cynthia, and I called her in June to thank her for her monthly gift of $50, and we just hit it off. We had a great conversation. I noticed that the next month she increased her monthly gift to a $100 monthly gift. And so I had our CEO call her the next time, and then I had a board member also leave a voicemail message. 

November of that last year, she increased her monthly gift to $300. I don’t know what we did. Something else to have her feel great. We received a single gift from our mailed appeal of $6,000, and by year-end she had increased her monthly gift to $600. 

If you don’t believe that phone calls make a difference, that story should change your mind. 

And I know you won’t all have time to make 900 phone calls. I unfortunately didn’t have a board that was able to or had the capacity to or desire to make thank you calls. If I had, I would’ve instilled in them that these are great ways to participate in development and not have to ask for money. 

Here’s the statistic from Penelope Burke, our friend who’s retiring this year. When a board member makes a thank you call to a first-time donor, their second gift is up to 40% higher. That’s huge. They’re fundraising without asking. 

And donor retention is abysmal in our country. First-time donor retention is like 23%, folks. When board members make a call, two years later, 70% of those first-time donors are no longer first-time because they’re still giving. That’s fundraising without asking. 

I love, Stephanie, that you love making calls. It is great to chat. It’s also like a gift to yourself to take a break for a couple of minutes. 

So you want to create a system to know your supporters. That system can be as simple as at board meetings, you all take a few moments, go off Zoom if you’re not meeting in person, and just close your camera down, and everybody has been pre-given to people to call. They leave a voicemail message during the meeting. For five minutes, those voicemail messages are left, and then you resume the board meeting. 

Or you do some sort of Thankathon. Especially this time of year, I love to have organizations all be calling on the same night. It used to be that we would do it in person and have our pizza and our glass of wine or a beer or whatever. Well, I’m not sure we can do that as easily anymore. 

Texting is great if the donors are texters. I am. I prefer the phone call or the text versus a letter, though I am kind of partial to handwritten notes. 

So creatively causing your organization to have a system for your thanking. Right now, you could be calling . . . Well, I’ll leave that for the must do that’s coming up.

The next must do, number four, is to pay attention to who’s giving. So we’ve got SYBUNTS, some years, but unfortunately not yet this year; LYBUNTS, last year, but unfortunately not yet this year; lapsed donors. What are we talking . . . All of these people? Oh, my gosh. 

Alyssa, you can put a threshold on the dollar amount given to call donors. And I tell you to do that based on your capacity, but I actually prefer it if you . . . The threshold is first-time donors get calls, and then people who have given the longest get calls if you have limited capacity. So first-time donors always, and then longest giving, and then add in other layers as you can. Great question. 

So I have a strong desire to have data at my fingertips whenever I’m working with an organization. Hopefully some of you I’ll do too. So there are three charts that I recommend you create on a regular basis, and now is a really good time to create these charts and then notice what the names are that make up those charts.

So one of the charts is individual giving by category. How many people give at the less than $100 level, at the $100 to $499? And notice how many people are in each of those categories. Where do we want to be growing? This organization was on a fiscal year, so this was around this time of year, but it wasn’t the end of their year. 

And then how many dollars are being given in these different categories? Interestingly enough, what’s being given by these bottom three categories is well below the dollar amount that’s being given in the top two categories. And it’s by way more people down here, right? You want to pay attention to how many, so you’re not calling a lot of people when you’re a teeny tiny organization like this.

But also you want to pay attention to retention and acquisition. And if I’m correct, I believe you can easily generate reports in Bloomerang to get these kinds of downloadable data points in a CSV or an Excel file, or even . . . I don’t know. And, Steven, you weigh in if you create these charts for folks right in Bloomerang. I know you can get your retention percentage, but I like to put these side by side on a chart so we can see three to five years in a row. 

And when you do this, then you want to take a look and say, “Wait a minute. At this point in time, on November 11, who’s not given yet this year? What is the name of those people? And what are we going to do about that? Will we call them just to find out how they are?” 

Some folks haven’t been able to give. So this goes to segmenting and paying attention to “What is our donor segmenting rule of thumb here?” How do we define and understand where we want to put our time, especially if we’ve got a pretty small team? Then create that segmentation in your CRM, in your database. 

There were three charts, so I’m going to go back so Danielle sees them. So there was retention and acquisition, individual giving by dollar category, how much given per category, and individual giving by number of people in the category. You didn’t know I could do that so quickly, did you?

So we’re talking about defining, creating, then actually doing what you’re creating. So if you decide to focus on, say, first-time donors, and we’re going to all first-time donors, don’t just sort of poop out midyear. You want to be doing that all year long. And in fact, make sure that you’re capturing what happens and putting that information in your donor database. 

Keep it simple. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself with lots of things to say. You’re just calling to say thank you and, “Do you have any advice or feedback for us?” 

The thing about this is when we don’t do this all year long, it becomes a scramble at year-end. I’ve said for many, many years we don’t need a lot more donors at our organizations. We actually need to know the ones we have a lot better. We did not increase the donor count for new people giving at the organization I worked at where we did that monstrous increase from $100,000 to $1.4 million. We just sort of re-inspired people. People that were giving $100 or $50 started giving $50,000 because they learned more about what we were doing and someone was paying attention to them and we got them involved in some different ways.

There’s also paying attention in a fun, different way. And the folks, again, Charity Water, they kind of know how to do this. On their website, everywhere you look, they prioritize monthly giving. So you can’t not know that they are having you want to be a part of The Spring. That is what they call their monthly donors. 

And they give a shout-out to people who have become new Spring members. This screenshot was taken yesterday. So Drew joined The Spring on Tuesday. 

Of course, you have to get permission. And a lot of people who give to Charity Water are really proud of the fact that we give to Charity Water, and we love how they treat us. We want other people to feel good. So this is one way they do it. 

This is the other page I found or information I found on one of their pages on Charity Water. “You belong here. This incredible community is composed of generous, passionate, and determined people like you from more than 100 countries around the world. They’re world-changers and history makers, and you’re going to fit right in.” 

And this young lady gives $12 a month because it’s the ages of the girls she nannies, their ages added together. They’re 6, 4, and 2. “If she can give $12 a month, I could probably give more than $12 a month.”

There’s something about this engagement time that we have right now. If you’re seeing who’s giving, you’re giving them a shout-out somewhere and some of their friends see it, it sort of has the ripple effect. 

So what I’m inviting you to do is to reach out. Connect with people. Notice who’s lapsed, call them, and say, “We noticed you weren’t able to contribute. And we hope you’re okay. How are you doing?” It isn’t always about asking for the money. It’s about being authentic and letting people know that you care. 

Remember that fundraising is deep, profound relatedness. We are wanting people to feel great about their investment in our work, but we’re also feeding them with little moments, mission moments, I call them, about how, “No kidding, we’re able to do more because of you and the $100 you pledge every year, you give every year.”

Now, if you’re thinking that a letter will work, it doesn’t. It doesn’t have the same effect. I have a young man I used to work with, a client. His name is Stefano, and he had emailed me to say, “Would you edit this letter I’m sending to our lapsed donors? I really want to make sure I get the language right.” 

And I picked up the phone and I called him and I said, “Stefano, how many people are you sending this to?” And he said, “Seventeen.” I said, “Okay, you only have 17 lapsed donors over the last 18 months?” He said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Then pick up the phone and call them.” 

Don’t worry about the content of a letter. Actually find out who they are, learn more about them, introduce yourself, and feel great about it. And then you may know that they are never going to give again, and you won’t focus on spending time on sending the letter, or you’re going to know that now is not a good time for them, or they didn’t know you needed more.

Alyssa says, “When you thank publicly on social media, absolutely you want to get permission first, even tagging people in post.” So I make it a part of a board meeting. If we’re going to post something . . . We do this at Volunteers of America in North Louisiana a lot because they have me down for a couple trainings a year, or we’ve been doing them virtually. 

But we pause right in the board training session and we’ll say, “Okay, Trisha, have you posted that thing you want us all to go touch in some way?” And she’ll say yes. “How many of you would allow me to tag you?” Board members, she tags them right then while we’re in the meeting, and now we all get out our phone and we comment on it or we like it. 

And by the end of the board meeting, she comes back to say, “Well, we just increased our reach by 743 people. Because you all shared it, now other people are seeing it,” and she can tell some of those results to us pretty quickly. 

So it’s about making it easy and fun to do the work that we know we have to do, and that is to keep our community engaged.

All right. Must do number five. This one is going to sound like, “Oh, Lori, really? Do we have to do this?” Planning for 2022. It does not have to be hard. It can be as simple as getting big Post-it note pieces of paper and putting them on the wall in your office or your bedroom or wherever you work and jotting down the different ways you’re going to stay connected to supporters between now and December 31, and have one thing a week that you’re going to do. 

But then you’re going to start to work into Q1 as soon as you get through Giving Tuesday, and then you’re going to work into Q2 as soon as you get through year-end, so that by the end of Q1, you’ve got the whole year planned out for reminding yourself and your team, your tiny but mighty or your very large team, that, “We have had some gaps in how we have been communicating.” 

This is an organization’s communication plan with their donors, and look at these big gaps in here. Well, the good news is the fine folks . . . 

Oh, wait. Let’s see. “We call first-time donors. Thousand-dollar donors get a call from a president. All calls recorded in Bloomerang.” Love it, Judy. Love it. 

Well, the fine folks at Bloomerang, Steven and his team and I’m sure other brilliant people, have created a donor communication plan template for you so you can go download the template if you want to. And it is for both online and offline actions. It gives you some things to think about, keep track of, but you’ll keep track of all of it in Bloomerang. It just gives you the framework for “What should we be doing and what should we be tracking?” There you go. Thank you. 

So last year during the pandemic start, it was Friday, March 13, another Volunteers of America affiliate and a client of mine called and said, “We’re a little further ahead than the rest of the country. Our city is shutting down. We need help. We need to either cancel our May event or figure out what we’re going to do and get in contact with people.” 

So we got on a call with the team and we created this document. We needed to update supporters, cancel the event, do a website pop-up to give people a way to give, and understand what was going on. We created actions for how we would keep people involved. 

And I give you this document if you want to create and make your own. Not that we’re in the emergency fervor that we were last March, a year ago March, but you may have times when something happens. The power goes out, you have some sort of disaster, or you just have things that are changing and you want to keep track of, “Quickly, what do we do to get into a change?” 

This is the same document. I am sharing it. The link is right here. It is Bit.ly link. You just have to type it in and you can download it. It’s an Excel spreadsheet, but it’s a case-sensitive link. And I know Steven is great about making sure the follow-up from this session will have the links in it as well.

So the reminder is, “We’re doing fundraising all year long.” Right now, you want to actually be planning for what’s going to happen when people are done giving and it’s January 2. What are we going to talk to them about? We don’t want to bug them, but we want to have them feel great. What shout-outs can we give about . . . “We had 77 new people who gave in year-end giving this year, and that’s never happened before. And here are a few that gave us permission to give a shout-out.” You can do that on social media. You can you can do that anywhere. 

Language to call first-time donors besides thank you? There is none, because that is all you’re saying. You’re calling someone to say, “Hi, Lori. Thank you for being a first-time donor to our organization. We love that you chose us amongst all the organizations that you have to choose from. And I’m leaving this voicemail message to say if you’d like to let me know why you gave, I’d love to hear from you. Here’s my cell phone. Otherwise, just know that we noticed you and we appreciate you.” It’s that simple. 

I don’t like a script either because this should be like you’re talking to a real person, because you are, and you want to make sure that they feel warm and thanked. Nine times out of 10, you’re leaving a voicemail message.

So let’s get into Giving Day. Those are your five. There are some giving tactics. Pick one or two of these to implement. Really, this is about getting your donors ready to give on the specific day, right? 

If you get that COVID link, that’s good to know, Dahlia. I will find it and make sure it’s clear. My website was down for 24 hours yesterday and we may not have fixed all the links in all the places where we had links. So just know I’ll get it fixed. Thank you for telling me, though. I would never have known. 

So the recipe that you want to follow is pretty simple, and that is use clear, bold communication to get your donors ready to give. Use inspiring little mission moment stories. Sprinkle things through or pick one story that you’re having the culmination that we learn about on Giving Tuesday or whatever your day of giving is. Share your money story. So have us know what the gap is between where you are today and where you have to be to fully fund your mission this year, and then create some sort of experience, some sort of unforgettable experience.

So I’m going to share a quick video with you. I talk about my friends at Volunteers of America Shreveport, North Louisiana, lot because I sometimes forget how many years we’ve worked together and how much they’ve allowed me to effect change in their community by . . . they just do what I ask them to do. 

So last year, their pre-Giving Day tactics were to allow their community to invite others to make contributions by video. They made it really simple. This gentleman is 80-something. He is well known, somebody in their community, and one of their longest time donors and volunteers. They posted the videos quickly and then they tagged or they had people share them. 

Here’s what I want to do, is I want to bring this up on my screen. I’m going to stop my share for a second and then re-share just to make sure I’m sharing the very right way. Optimize for video. Great. 

So imagine that this is a gentleman who is well into the last years of his life, who I did not imagine he would know how to use his iPhone in this way. He found it so important to do that he recorded this video.

Don: Greetings to you. My name is Don Webb. On Tuesday, June 23, please join me in supporting the Volunteers of America’s Day of Hope. I’ve been a part of Volunteers of America’s efforts to give hope for almost 30 years, and I’d love you to join me as we support all the way from children who without our help wouldn’t have much chance in life to my fellow veterans who are in difficulty in our community. We’re all in this together. Hope begins here with you and me. Visit www.voadayofhope.org. God bless you.

Lori: So yeah, I’ll be sure to get the link to Steven so he can share that as well. Here’s the point. You have people who want to help you succeed. Social media is your friend. You want to lead up to your Giving Day with some shout-outs to donors who’ve already given, spotlight contributions that have been made donors of the week. You can have hour-to-hour updates on Giving Day. 

Giving Day itself . . . So this is a story of what I call a sneezer, someone who when they speak, it just goes everywhere. Lars Leafblad is a social media . . . like a prolific user of social media. So when he gave to College Possible on Give to the Max Day a few years ago, they sent over a few folks to his office, scurried over, brought him the bag of goodies, and took a picture that he posted on his social media, and they posted on their social media, and it caused a bunch more giving. 

But they specifically and strategically chose a handful of people that they were watching to see if they were giving on Giving Tuesday or Give to the Max Day, and they thanked them publicly with permission and that increased their giving exponentially.

One of the other things you can do if you have permission on your Giving Day is take over your website homepage just for the day. So this was the Shreveport, the North Louisiana, homepage top part that kept getting updated all day long. We kept seeing it on Facebook and Instagram and we got to know where we . . . and I consider me part of them. Where we were at throughout the day. And then they took it down after 24 hours, but it gave people a place to go. 

This is such a great idea. This was last May in 2020, beginning of the pandemic. They had their Giving Tuesday Now event, which was a virtual event to fill the seats in the theater. You got to pick the seats with the contributions that you gave. Certain dollar amounts got certain numbers of seats. But they posted pictures all day long for 24 hours of their main floor filling up. “Thank you for the generosity.” They had a link in every post so more people could give. It was a great way to engage folks and gave us something to do when we were sort of freaking out last summer.

This is a post I like to share often. This is another Bit.ly link with the capital M, capital S, capital I. The California Symphony had an insert with their mail appeal a number of years ago that explained what your gift does. They went from $50 all the way on up to $20,000. This was also matched. Whatever their giving was, was matched by $250,000. 

This story about this insert and this campaign was written up in the “Chronicle of Philanthropy” because it far exceeded their expectations. 

So you don’t have to spend a ton of money. You can have simple creatives using Canva or whatever you’ve got. The point is to have me understand what my gift is going to do, have me feel great. And by now, I hope you’re percolating. You’re thinking outside the box and you know that there are some things you want to do you before year-end.

So just some wrap-up for you. Please don’t make this any harder than it already is. Hope is not a strategy, right? Stay in communication with your donors. Even if they’re not giving, call them, reach out to them, text them. I would love a text from an organization. 

I do get texts from a couple of organizations, and one of them texted me on the day that we had a death in our family. Someone had died and his dad found him and it was really traumatic. And Christie texted just to say, “How are you? I haven’t heard from you a while and you’re one of our favorite donors.” And then she started a prayer circle for our family because of this thing that she learned about. 

Here are the five must dos just to recap. Humanize your mission. Put a face on it for me. Include your money story in that, though. Creatively thank. Create a system for thanking by phone, and text if you’d like. Pay attention to who’s been giving, and notice so that you’re reaching out to them between now and year-end if they haven’t. Start planning for 2022. 

Stay in touch with me, and you can do that through my blog, or I’ve got a free resources page or social media. 

But type in, if you would, what did you learn, if anything, and what’s your first next step?

And then I’ve got something fun I’d like to ask you to do. It’s a favor to me. Steven, I’d love it if you would do this as well. I just found this company called Memory Fox. They’re very small. They’re based in Buffalo, New York, and they allow nonprofits to create stories, a testimonial about why they love your organization right on their phone. 

And I’d love to try them out with you all as my guinea pigs to see what their tool is like and if I like it so I can tell others about them. I have a link here. It’s not a Bit.ly link, but it is a link, ignitedfundraisingmemfox.io/bloomerang. And when you go to that link on your phone, you can actually record a video to say what you learned, what you liked. Just try it out. 

Let me go back here and find out. “The power of a phone call.” 

“I’m going to make a list of all donors and create a timeline for calling each one.” Love it, Carl. 

“Peer-to-peer video idea.” 

“I’ve already changed our receipt header.” 

“I funded abortions today.” Wow. Powerful email that will be to receive. 

“Already updated our automatic.” Thank you. Oh, my gosh. 

“You belong here.” Yeah. Wasn’t that a powerful language? You guys are great. I love, love, love this.

I know I’m running out of moments here. So if you’ve got questions, now is the time to type it in. 

And just a reminder from . . . and you’ve probably heard this quote many times, but it’s relevant. “People will forget what you say or what you did, but they don’t forget how you made them feel.” Our job as fundraisers is to cause people to feel something. We’re selling feeling good. That is a Seth Godin quote. 

And with that, I will see if there are any questions, and there are. Let’s go into the questions. Did we get them? Not a question. “Love to discuss victims.” Sure. Talking about that. Happy to reach out. 

“When talking about humanizing the mission, how do you do that without exploiting your beneficiaries?” Hailey, we could do a whole hour on that. And I’d love to actually do that at some point. Tammy Zonker, a colleague and friend of mine, talks a lot about that.

We are talking about the hero of the story is the person, if they’ve given permission to share their story. We are not rescuing or talking about how great we are. We are talking about someone who’s had the courage to go through whatever they’ve gone through. For human service organizations, this is usually the case. But we’re talking about their choices, what they’re loving now, what they’re doing, and it is not about exploitation. So that’s my short answer. I can do a longer answer another time. 

“Results in sending text, thank-yous?” Yes, there are companies that help you do that now if you’ve got the mobile number. So that’s something you can look into. 

“Is there a tool to send a short thank you video via email?” I don’t know one. Maybe Steven does. I just embed or send them to the YouTube page or the website or have it pop up on the thank-you page when someone contributes. 

I think I’m out of time. Steven?

Steven: I told you all there was a reason I chose her to do this one. That was awesome, Lori. Thanks so much. Yeah, I know there are a lot of questions we didn’t get to. So would it be okay if I maybe sent those to you, Lori, if you want to answer them? Is that cool?

Lori: Please do. Happy to follow up with folks. Yeah.

Steven: I’ll do that because there are some good ones in here, I know. And like Lori said, we’ll get everything out to you, all the goodies that she mentioned, all the resources, and then, of course, the recording and the slides. 

So this was awesome, Lori. Thanks so much for doing this.

Lori: Thanks for inviting me. Always a pleasure to spend a little time with you and amazing Bloomerang community.

Steven: Yeah. It was cool to have everybody here. And I know it’s a busy time of year. Everybody is swamped. Lots of things going on. But if you’re free next Thursday, we’ve got a cool webinar coming up. We’re going to be talking strategic planning with our buddy . . . Sarah Olivieri is going to join us next Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Totally free. 

If you can’t make it, register anyway, because we’re going to record it and we’ll get you the recording. Even if you don’t show up live, we don’t care. It’s no problem. You won’t take up any of it. We’ve got infinite spots for registrations. 

So we’ll call it a day there. Like I said, look for an email from me here probably by tomorrow morning at the absolute latest with all those goodies. I’ll get the links from Lori and you’ll hear from us. 

So have a good rest of your Thursday. Stay safe and healthy out there. Have a good weekend. Good luck at year-end.

Lori: Year-end fundraising is yours. You’ve got this. Rock it. Have fun and send us, Steven or myself, whatever shout-outs you want to tell us about how you did something that you learned here today.

Steven: Yeah. I would love to hear it. So thank you all so much, and hopefully we’ll see you again on another session. See you.

Lori: All right. Take care. Bye.

Steven: Bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.