In this webinar, Tammy Zonker will teach you about the five donor love languages and how to speak the love language your donor prefers; radically improving your donor retention rates.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Tammy. My watch has 1:00. Is it okay if I go ahead and get us started officially here?

Tammy: Absolutely.

Steven: All right. Cool. Well, good afternoon to all those of you on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “The Five Donor Love Languages.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I will moderating today’s discussion, as always.

Just before we begin, I just want to go over a couple of housekeeping items. I want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation and we’ll be sending out that recording later on this afternoon, as well as the slides in case you didn’t already get them. So, if you have to leave early or maybe want to review the content later on or share it with a friend, you’ll be able to do that. Just look for an email from me later on today with all those goodies.

Most importantly, as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on the webinar screen. We’re going to save some time at the end for questions and answers. So, don’t be shy about sending those our way throughout the hour. I’ll be keeping an eye on those and we’ll try to answer as many as we can before 2:00 Eastern. You can do the same on Twitter if you are a tweeting-type person. Send those tweets our way. I’ll keep an eye on that as well. You can use the hashtag #Bloomerang.

And one last bit of housekeeping—if you are listening to this through your computer speakers, if you have any trouble with the audio quality at any time over the next hour or so, we have found the quality by phone is usually much better to listen on. So, if you have a phone nearby and don’t mind using it, switch to that before you give up on us completely since it doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi or internet connections or all those good things. There is a phone number you can dial in the email from ReadyTalk that went out around noon Eastern. So, try that before you give up. We’d love to have you hang on the whole time.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a special welcome to you folks. If Bloomerang is new to you, we definitely do these webinars every week, one of our favorite things to do, but our core business is donor management software. If you are interested in that or maybe thinking of switching providers or getting your first system in place, check out our website. Wait until 2:00, don’t do it now, but you can learn all about us on our website later on. You can even watch a quick video of the software in action, if you want to take a look.

But for now, I am super-excited to welcome back one of Bloomerang’s favorite people of all time, someone who’s done webinars for us and is just a delight and a wealth of knowledge you guys are going to learn a lot from Tammy Zonker today. Hey, Tammy, who’s it going?

Tammy: It’s going. It’s going great. I’m so excited to be here, Steven.

Steven: Yeah, this is exciting. This is going to be a good one. I peeked at your slides. You guys are in for a treat. I’ve heard Tammy speak a few times at conferences. She’s awesome. I just want to brag on her real quick. If you don’t know Tammy, she is the President and Founder over at Fundraising Transformed. She has trained and coached and led nonprofit teams. For many years, she has raised over $450 million. Is that right, Tammy, 4-5-0? That’s a lot of money. That’s pretty good.

Tammy: It’s a lot.

Steven: Yeah, including one single gift of $27 million. This is definitely someone who knows what she’s talking about. You guys are going to see this over the next hour or so. You may have seen her on conference schedules. She is an internationally recognized speaker and trainer. She’s also considered one of America’s top 25 fundraising experts. When she’s not doing all those great things, she’s doing her own webinar. She’s got her own e-courses and trainings, lots of cool things she’ll tell you about at the end.

But I’m going to pipe down because you want to hear from Tammy and not me. So, Tammy, take it away. Tell us all about those love languages, my friend.

Tammy: Awesome. Thank you, Steven. Thanks to everyone for joining in for this session. I am super excited to talk about the five donor love languages, which really speaks to the donor retention problem that we have. I know all of us are working to solve for that problem. Of course, the five donor love languages was totally inspired by the brilliant book written by Dr. Gary Chapman, the original “The Five Love Languages.” More than 11 million copies have been sold. It’s been translated into so many different languages and of course it’s transformed a lot of relationships.

So, it kind of reveals the secrets to understanding and how people inside relationships like to be treated, kind of like the platinum rule, which is treating other people the way they want to be treated, specifically in romantic relationships. They define the five love languages as acts of service, words of affirmation, gifts of appreciation, physical touch, and quality time. So, inspired by that, I’ve come up with what I would interpret as the donor version of that, which by the way, none of the donor versions include physical touch. It’s really important to remember that. We’re not touching donors.

So, what does it really mean to have inside these five donor love languages and why is it important? Well, as I mentioned before and as the Association of Fundraising Professionals, their annual Fundraising Effectiveness Project as well as lots of research that’s done by Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Bloomerang, all of that says that we have a significant donor retention problem in the US.

Annually, we retain about 46% of our donors. There’s so much data that talks about what a tragedy this is for our sector. We spend so much time and we invest so much money in attracting donors just to lose the vast majority of them year over year. That’s the overall donor retention issue. The first-time donor retention issue is even worse. We only retain 20% to 30% of our first-time donors. That’s just not acceptable. That doesn’t honor them, the commitment to our work and it certainly doesn’t honor the work that we do. We absolutely have to solve for this. I really believe that the solution lives in donor love.

So, there’s a study that was done by Dr. Adrian Sargeant in collaboration with the Rockefeller Corporation. They did a study together and it was published, actually, in a book called “Stay Together,” which was authored by Jay Love, the founder of Bloomerang. It’s a great book. I know mine is all dog-eared. I wanted to highlight some of the reasons that donors no longer give to our organization.

So, 54% of the donors that participated in that study said that they can no longer afford it. So, that could be a very valid reason why they have chosen to not give to us again. Thirty-six percent of said other organizations were more deserving, which I really think could be about how we see communication or how we steward our donors, letting them know not only what their gifts accomplished, but what is the next big need. Eighteen percent of donors said that poor service or poor communication was the reason why they no longer give.

Sixteen percent said death. Now, I don’t know how they took the survey. Maybe Steven could enlighten us on that if he has any insights. But 16% reported that death is the reason they no longer give to the organization. Thirteen percent said they never received a thank you letter. Nine percent have no memory of supporting your organization, which again, is probably on us as organizations. It’s probably the result of poor communication. Eight percent said no information was received on how the monies were used or how they made a difference. Five percent thought the charity no longer needed them.

I think those reasons are all so sad. So, what is the solution? If you ask Oprah, Oprah says the solution to giving donors what they want is just to let them know they are making a difference and to let them know their life matters, giving them some context and meaning through their philanthropy. I love Oprah. It’s a very inspiring quote, but how do we actually apply that? So, we really need more specific information.

So, what donors specifically want is they want to know if their gift made a difference. They want to be thanked promptly and accurately. They want to know their gifts were appreciated, whatever gift value they gave, that their gifts were sincerely appreciated. We know they want to be kept informed about the area of your work that’s most meaningful to them. They want to be recognized as special and unique. They don’t want to feel like ATMs. Often times, philanthropy is a way to kind of rally and bond the family together, so recognizing them as special, both as an individual and as a family when appropriate.

The other thing they want to specifically know is that if they introduce other people to you, that you’re going to take great care of your friends or great care of the colleagues that they refer to you. I know for a lot of us, even our most beloved board members aren’t making those referrals. It’s not because they don’t love our mission. They aren’t making those referrals. They’re not opening their proverbial rolodex. They’re not making those introductions, not because they don’t love us. They’re making those introductions because they’re kind of afraid that we’ll treat their friends the same way we treat them, which is largely ignoring them until it’s time to ask for another gift.

So, we know from the research and all the surveys that these are the things that donors want. If we can give them these things, most of them will give, they’ll give again and they’ll give more generously. So, what is the solution to our donor retention problem? I say the solution is love, like very authentic, sincere love and appreciation. Love is truly the currency of lasting donor relationships. So, that’s where the five donor love languages comes into play.

So, I’ve defined the five donor love languages as number one, hands-on service. Next, words of affirmation. Thirdly, tokens of appreciation, quality time and lastly, proof of impact, again, letting them know their gift really, truly made a difference. So, what we’re going to do next is take a bit of a deep dive into each of these five donor love languages, starting with hands-on service. We define hands-on service as meaningful engagement in the mission.

So, one of my roles in life, one role that I hold very close to my heart is that I serve as Chief Philanthropy Officer at The Children’s Center in Detroit, right here in Midtown Detroit, where we serve over 7,500 children and families a year, children and families who have experienced unimaginable challenges—the challenges and trauma of poverty, abuse and neglect.

Many of our families are perfectly loving to their children. They want to do the best thing they can possibly do for their kids, but they’re limited. They’re limited by poverty factors, employment factors, transportation factors and they just are struggling to give their children who have developmental or behavioral or mental health issues all the tools they need to succeed.

So, you can see from this list some of the ways that The Children’s Center here in Detroit provides donors with hands-on service opportunities. So, it could be that one of our major donors has a real passion for camping experiences. So, we have a summer day camp program. It’s like six weeks in the summer from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. I’ll show you some photos and give you some real life examples of what that summer day camp looks like.

It could be reading with children, teaching life skill classes, whether you’re a master chef or you’re a financial advisor. You want to help kids in foster care learn how to create a budget, manage their money, get banked. It could be participating in art enrichment, so many different kinds of hands-on experiences. It could also be coming to hear a special guest speaker.

I know a lot of you on the phone may not have cute kids. We’ve got tons and tons of beautiful children. Perhaps you work in higher education and you have subject matter experts or authors and professors and folks who visit campus and share knowledge, to invite a handful of donors to that hands-on service, that firsthand experience can be powerful.

I’ve got a good friend who works with a parks system. To have volunteers come and facilitate hikes or even doing some kind of environmental education, those things are so impactful and so amazingly meaningful to top donors. So, again, you’ll want to look at your program calendar and define what are things that we could actually invite donors into experience, whether they’re programmatic things or expertise, some educator that we’re bringing in to meet with our staff. Again, your list can be limitless if you really start thinking.

Here are some examples from The Children’s Center. Renee, here, pictured, is our immediate past board chair and she’s also a children’s book author. She often comes in and reads with the kids, gives the kids copies of one of her amazing children’s books. There’s an example there. We’ve got lots of corporate groups who will come in and do urban gardening with our kids. Maybe you’ve got some major donors who want to adopt a family for the holidays or get involved with some scholarship opportunities.

Again, to meet with them and introduce them firsthand, person to person with those that are served, those that are receiving the scholarships to come to—one of the things we do at The Children’s Center is we’ll invite some of our high-end donors to participate in a foster parent appreciation dinner and to hear those first-hand testimonials and see some of our foster parents receive awards and be recognized.

Here’s an image from our summer day camp. So, Gia, one of our major donors, is here visiting from the UK. She absolutely loved doing some art enrichment with some of our kids from summer camp. This is Byamina that she fell in love with. Of course, being from Britain, she’s got an amazing accent. She’s quite a hit with the kids. The kids are always like, “Please when you go back home, tell the queen we said hello.” So, very fun and very endearing. So, how do you go about finding hands-on service opportunities for some of your major donors?

So, it literally is as simple as sitting down, maybe with a few of your program staff and getting out the calendar and identifying program activities where you can potentially create a mission immersion experience for your donors, not for tons of donors because we don’t want to be intrusive.

We don’t want it to become a donor event rather than a programmatic event, but let’s just say it was an event, a program for 20 kids or 30 students to have three, four, five of your donors who are especially passionate about that area of your work could truly be transformational and it certainly would go a long way to inspiring and retaining that donor, having them experience firsthand the impact that their philanthropy is making in the world and inside your organization.

So, start drafting out that calendar and really assess what are the volunteer opportunities, whether those are ongoing, like Gia coming to summer camp every day for six weeks, or maybe more episodic, like coming and teaching the foster kids how to make homemade salsa or something like that. So, again, episodic or ongoing, just really identifying ways that donors can experience your work in meaningful ways.

I think long gone are the days where we put on the white gloves and roll out the red carpet for our major donors. Instead, they really want to feel something real. So, I say trade in the white gloves for some work gloves and let them dig in and watch the impact on their giving. So, look at those opportunities, rank them from highest to lowest emotional impact and obviously those with the highest emotional impact you would want to save very special for this major donors or donors who you’re really cultivating for a significant gift.

And then map those experiences to your donor cultivation and solicitation plan and just create an annual plan. If it’s not in the calendar, if you don’t have specific donor names associated with these things, it really is like a wish and a good idea but it will not happen. It has to live in a calendar and it has to be in a plan. I actually do have a calendar I developed, just a fillable PDF that I’m happy to share with folks if you would find that helpful.

Okay. So, that’s the first love language—hands-on service. So, now we’re going to take look at words of affirmation. In the donor love language interpretation of the five love languages, this is really about handwritten notes, gift acknowledgement letters and gratitude calls. There’s a lot of great research about what donors find most meaningful when it comes to letters and notes and calls. So, I’m going to share that data with you now.

So, donors want sincere acknowledgement letters and sincere handwritten notes. So, the research coming from Penelope Burke and Cygnus Research says that 51% of the donors who participated in the Cygnus study, 51% said they want that letter personalized in some way. So, a real signature and a real personal note written on that letter. In fact, I will tell you that for many, many donors, they look to see is it a real signature, is there a PS? What’s the personal note? Did they get the dollar value right? So, that personalization is so important.

Thirty percent said they want that donor letter acknowledging how the gift will be used, so an impact statement. Now, I know that hopefully the vast majority of our letters are unrestricted operating funds. So, you might be thinking how do I put an impact statement on general operating funds. I’m going to show you some examples in a moment of how you can do that in very general terms and really in more emotional terms.

Sixteen percent of donors want handwritten notes and 13% want those notes and letters signed by a board member. Now, it’s tricky because they want them fast, like 72 hours, and they want them signed by a board member. That’s no small feat. It takes a lot of organization and a real commitment from your board members. So, chances are you probably have three or four of your full board who are really willing to do this and do it in a timely manner. But those three and four are perfect.

Okay. So, let’s talk about the gift letter first. So, someone sent in a check. They made an online gift. You made a face to face solicitation. It’s time to crank out the great gift letter. Again, we here at The Children’s Center, my recommendation for you is to get those letters out within 72 hours of gift receipt. Some organizations have a goal of 48. I think 72 hours is the longest. Of course, it’s a given you’ve got to have an accurate name, spelling. You’re using the proper grammar, including the gift amount. And if it is a restricted gift, you’re specifying what it’s restricted to.

I like including a grateful client or student testimonial quote. Whomever it is that you’re serving, if you can include a quote in that letter, it goes a long way for having them really feel like their gift is making a difference, not like, “Thanks for making a difference,” but, ‘Thanks for making a difference for someone like Jenny,” and Jenny’s quoted at the top of the letter.

Of course, we love Tom Ahern. Who doesn’t? Tom, I think, really introduced the whole conversation about having more “you” language than “we” language in our gift acknowledgement letters and certainly in our solicitations. Here at The Children’s Center, we’ve adopted a three to one ratio, meaning every gift letter gets scanned. There must be at least three you’s versus every we.

And then of course, brilliant, legendary Jerald Panas, who introduced the whole BOY concept, that acronym that starts because of you, really connecting the donor directly to the impact of the work. So, not, “Because of you, we were able to serve X, Y and Z,” but rather, “Because of you, a child like Jenny was served,” “a child like Jenny now is learning to read,” whatever that impact statement is. A real signature by the best person and a handwritten note on that letter. So, I want to show you some examples.

I will mention too, here, the picture, the little polar bear that’s signed by Nia—that’s an example of actually a little token of appreciation. You’ll see that stack of letters in the back. That was the stack of year end giving statements we sent out on January 15th. Each one of them had a little piece of art from a child that was actually the art that we sent out in January of 2017. In January of 2018, we sent out Polaroid photos of kids that were super cute with a handwritten note on them.

So, again, this is about the science of special and personal. So, here’s an example of a terrible gift letter. I’ve highlighted in red and put in this little box on the right what makes it so terrible. So, let me just read it to you and then I’m going to share with you the rewritten version that really addresses all of these props that I just went over.

So, here’s the terrible version, “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones . . . ” Again, if we’re really looking to build lifelong relationships, unless they specify that they prefer to be called Mr. or Mrs. or if we’re working with maybe a mature audience who we want to give that nod of respect, otherwise, I really recommend first names. So, “Dear, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, on behalf of The Children’s Center Board of Directors,” it sounds so formal. It doesn’t sound very loving.

So, “On behalf of The Children’s Center Board of Directors, staff and those we serve, we thank you for the donation of $5,000 processed on April 29th. Our work of helping to heal more than 7,500 children and families is critical to the future of Detroit.” Notice all the we’s and our’s. “We provide more than 22 evidence-based therapeutic programs through our 200 clinicians and psychiatrists and two neuropediatric psychologists,” so much jargon.

“Our COA accreditation affirms we deliver the highest quality clinical and behavioral health services available to children and families we serve. Again, thank you for your support, please keep this letter for your files as it serves as your IRS tax receipt. Sincerely, Tammy L. Zonker. PS, please contact us about including The Children’s Center in your estate plans.”

Yuck. That is the all-time worst letter. I know it’s an exaggeration, but I will tell you, I also give to a lot of different organizations and this truly is a compilation of the worst offenses I’ve received in acknowledgement letters for the gifts that I’ve made in the last couple years. This is real stuff. It truly, truly does happen. Yes, Scott says, “That is definitely a terrible letter and not far from the one I’ve received in the past.” Amen, Scott.

So, how do we all make certain that we aren’t the culprits? So, here’s the rewrite of that letter. Notice at the very top, there is a quote from a grateful parent. “I don’t know what’s ahead for our family, but I do know that we aren’t alone. We have The Children’s Center,” LaTonya.

So, then it goes on to say, “Dear Dan and Patricia, you are amazing! Your generous gift of $5,000 makes it possible for more children to be seen, heard, healed and loved. Thanks to you, families like LaTonya’s are on the path toward overcoming unimaginable challenges and realizing their dreams.

From life changing mental and behavioral health therapy, emergency crisis care services to providing summer day camp scholarships, your gift is turning trauma into triumph, despair into determination and fear into courage every single day.

If you’d like to see first-hand how you’re changing lives, let me take you on a personal tour. Thank you, again, for making a difference in the lives of our children and families.

With gratitude, Tammy. PS, can’t wait to take you on a tour and share more stories of courage and healing. You’ll see just how much you’re changing lives.”

See the difference? I mean, more importantly feel the difference. We were able to use that impact statement even though it was an unrestricted gift. Your gift is turning trauma into triumph, despair into determination and fear into courage every single day. So, I want you after this call to pull out one of your most current gift acknowledgement letters and kind of rework it using those tips and those suggestions.

The handwritten note—so, words of affirmation, this is a biggie, not only the formal gift acknowledgement letter but those handwritten notes. Here’s what I like to do. When I’m writing a handwritten note to one of my donors, what I like to do is close my eyes and to picture them. I like to think about conversations we’ve had. I like to think about joy on our faces when they see one of our kids beginning to thrive or they’ve heard a great story.

So, I picture that and I begin with a sincere compliment and then I follow with, “Because of you,” and I directly the connect the impact of their charitable giving to the impact of someone we serve, not on The Children’s Center, but on someone we serve. I include a gratitude statement and a non-monetary call to action. So, that call to action could be “come take a tour,” “come see your investment at work,” “if I can help you, please consider introducing us to your colleagues,” like that.

So, here’s an example. This is an example from a board member’s perspective. So, “Dear Jamie and Denise, you have the biggest hearts ever. Because of you, children and families who have experienced unimaginable trauma are receiving treatment to heal, grow and thrive. As a board member, I’m especially grateful for your generosity and compassion. You are literally saving lives. With gratitude, Tonya. PS, if you haven’t taken a tour, please join us to see firsthand how you’re making a difference.”

There is a question. “If you invite for a tour, would you include contact information for them to call or would you call them, assuming you had a phone number.” Yeah, I think that it depends on the relationship. So, if I’m inviting someone who—if I have a board member extending that invitation, if they don’t know the donor firsthand, then I would probably have them tuck my business card in or give my phone number.

We actually have someone here on staff whose job it is to register people for tours or they can go to our website to sign up. But the more the person writing the note knows them, obviously giving them their personal phone number if appropriate would be helpful.

Okay. Handwritten note—what if your cursive writing seems difficult to read? So, just try your best, writing your best handwriting and if you truly have the stereotypical doctor’s handwriting, then maybe your gift will be making gratitude calls. So, really, every board member, every volunteer, every staff member won’t necessarily do all of these, especially on the volunteer side. You’ll help them gravitate to the things they enjoy the most and are the best at executing reliably.

Here’s a couple of other quick examples of handwritten cards. I had the opportunity twice now to speak to the association of fundraising professionals in Anchorage. I’ll often do talks for AFP chapters and this was a handwritten card they sent me. All of the board members signed it. I literally saved it. It’s so special to me. Really think about it. From so many of us, we don’t get handwritten notes anymore, we’ve kind of lost that science of special and most personal because of email and texting.

So, a handwritten note is really cause for celebration and really feels special. So, all that to say your thank you notes can be from one person to one person, one person to a couple. It can be a group that’s signing the card. Again, it’s really all your choice, but the key is use the tools that we’ve been talking about to make it the most special.

That really brings me to another point. There is research to show that they’ve done brain scans of people being thanked and a thanks for all you do kind of message, general and broad, is far less meaningful than thanking a donor for something specific or thanking anyone for something specific. So, “Thanks for all you do” versus, “Thank you for coming to summer camp every day last summer. It made such a difference for Byamina and so many other children.” So, the more specific, the more impactful and the more likely this donor will be to continue giving to you and to give larger amounts.

So, hand address the envelope, first class stamp. Here’s what I want to caution you against. Please don’t write, “We’re writing to all of our donors today.” No. “I was thinking of you today. You are so amazing.” I think you’re definitely on board. Here’s another example of someone who wrote me a handwritten note and it’s super fun. Have a little fun with these.

I’ll actually share this with you. I created little gratitude kits for my board members here at The Children’s Center, my team gratitude. It includes a little rubber stamp and a gold ink pad and a special pen and it actually had a piece of chocolate in it as well because we know that chocolate can increase endorphins and you’re happier when you’re writing or calling. So, again, make it fun.

All right. A lot of us send out special occasion cards. So, just be certain that they’re mission-focused. I know it’s way easier to maybe buy a holiday card that has a beautiful snowy scene with a red cardinal on it and if you’re an environmental group or a bird group, awesome, do that. But for us at The Children’s Center, we want to use photos of kids and preferably our own photography, not stock photography. We have worked long and hard with our program staff to build that trust so that we can use releases and they know that we’re always going to honor confidentiality and donor stories or client stories, etc.

The more that you can use your own photography, the better. Warm, informal language—again, be joyful. This was one of the young women who is served by The Children’s Center. She happens to be at one of our quarterly tea parties. When I saw that gorgeous face and that big smile, I thought be joyful is the message for that holiday card. I think we had a variety of five different images and five different messages.

Okay. So, when you’re writing these cards, just imagine you’re writing to a dear friend. My friend Lynne Wester always says—who’s the Donor Relations Guru—she says, “I pretend I’m writing to my grandmother. Is this the language I would use when writing to her?”

All right. So, a handwritten message, a handwritten envelope, First Class stamp. Be culturally sensitive. Again, we have donors of all faith backgrounds, agnostic and otherwise, so we’re just very careful and I know you are as well about being culturally sensitive in all of our handwritten notes but certainly around the holidays.

We also are going to start sending donors anniversary cards not on their wedding anniversary, but on the anniversary of them joining a specific giving society, whether it’s our Village of Giving or our monthly Believers group, an anniversary card.

All right. Other reasons to write handwritten notes—this happened to be a handwritten note along with an article. One of our clinical directors was featured in a magazine, a local magazine talking about the issues around children’s mental health and stigma and bullying. She was featured in this article. So, of course, I cut out the article, I made copies of it. I enclosed the copies with a handwritten note to any of my supporters who were especially passionate about stigma.

So, you can read this. “Dear Kim, you’re such an amazing champion for the fight against stigma and bullying. I knew you’d enjoy seeing this article featuring The Children’s Center and the anti-stigma efforts that you’ve so passionately support. Thank you for the love and compassion you show our children and families every day. With gratitude, Tammy. PS, let’s catch up soon. I’ll call you to schedule.”

Here’s kind of the reverse article. So, this is one of our great donors and supporters who he and his colleague were employees at a PR firm and they bought out the PR firm, so it’s now their company. So, I saw this and I thought how amazing. I pulled it out, sent him the original, I thought maybe he needs extra copies, maybe his mom would want one.

I said, “Dear Peter, imagine my excitement to open Crain’s Detroit Business to see you and your business partner featured. Congratulations on your amazing new venture with your extraordinary leadership and remarkable expertise in PR, your success has no limits. You’re so good to the children and families we serve, it’s great to see good things happening for you. With gratitude, Tammy. PS, bring Marilyn in for a tour. I’d love to meet her.” Right? I want to meet his business partner.

Okay. There are so many reasons to write these handwritten notes. I will tell you my Friday afternoon is always blocked for handwritten notes. I sent a note to folks I’ve met with earlier in the week as well as I’ve got the whole system. So, you want to find a system that works for you and schedule it because if it doesn’t live in your calendars, it does not happen.

All right. So, when I’m doing this session live and in person, this is when I have you do a handwritten note. Here’s what I’m going to do instead. You can totally use this at a board meeting or your development committee meeting. So, print this out, dog-ear this particular screen. What I’m going to ask you to do right now is grab your cellphone and I want you to think of anyone in your life that you want to thank for something specific and just send them a text message starting off with a sincere compliment, like, “You are amazing,” or whatever you would say to them.

When you close your eyes and think of them, what do you think of? You are amazing. Send them that and then add, “Thank you,” and thank them for something specific and then just set that cell phone aside, turn it upside down and when we’re done with the webinar, I want you to go back and read their response. I get responses, everything from, “Who is this?” to, “You’re welcome. I think you’re amazing too.” It’s so cool to see what happens. I encourage you to do that.

All right. So, what do donors want? We’re going to be moving into the calls, voice to voice, person to person. So, donors want gratitude calls from board members. Again, Cygnus Research says 95% of the people they surveyed said the donor would appreciate a board member calling to say thank you within a few days of making the gift. If they got that phone call, 85% would definitely or probably support the charity again. Even better, 86% would definitely or probably give a larger gift if they receive that call. Share that statistic with your board members.

Again, I talked about team gratitude, creating that little kit, just a little box. It’s got blank branded agency notecards in it. The pen, you’ve got all the ingredients there that’s in it. Recruit folks to make calls and to write handwritten notes. Give them that script. Chances are, they’re going to get voicemail most of the time anyway, but it’ll be really meaningful for donors to get those calls and get those voicemails and get those notes.

All right. I love thank-a-thons. There are two ways to do them. There’s when you bring your volunteers, board members, development committee, communications committee, whomever you want, bring them together, pick a date, order pizza, tell them bring your cellphone and your charger and we’re going to all call for 60 or 90 minutes and then we’re going to come back together and debrief. I do have a thank-a-thon, guide to thank-a-thons. If you’re interested in that, let me know.

Or the second way to do it is you can say for people who you know will do what they say they’re going to do, you can give them a list to folks to call and say, “Will you call these 20 people sometime in the next three weeks or will you call these five people sometimes in the next ten days, whatever they agree to.” But they have to send you back that list with their notes so it goes in your database. A great database like Bloomerang is going to track all of those items so that you can actually get that feedback in and leverage it, even if it says, “Left a voicemail.”

Okay. Tokens of appreciation—so, these are these inexpensive, mission-related items. These are not lapel pins. It’s not the coffee mug. It’s mission-focused. It’s inexpensive or no cost at all, one of a kind and personal based on what they value. I’m just going to show you a few photos of what we’ve done at The Children’s Center. Again, I know you don’t have cute kids, but you know what? Senior citizens, kids, students, lots of folks like making valentines. Arts and crafts is kind of fun. So, these are some examples of valentines that are kids put together.

So, these are examples of Valentines that our kids put together. For our top donors, they actually went in a little box with that little thank you chocolate bar which had my business card on the back or whomever that donor, whoever owned that portfolio and a handwritten note. For some of our very top extra, extra special supporters, our kids did some tear art.

So, literally, I gave the kids some photographs of some of our donors and the art enrichment activity was you got construction paper and a glue stick. I want you to tear these pieces of art and glue them together and make these photos. It’s amazing. They look just like our donors. These kids are so talented. Some of these portraits hang in the living rooms and the family rooms and the offices of some very, very high-profile and generous folks.

This was some art that was done in enrichment and this little boy who made this piece said, “This is what it feels like inside my brain.” Wow. Pretty powerful. So, gifting these things. Again, we have art, but you don’t have to kids, you don’t have to have art. You can seriously make up some cookies. Go to the local bakery, order a couple dozen cookies. Get some face to face visits just because.

Shanon Doolittle—we all know Shanon Doolittle. I know she’s been a speaker here on the Bloomerang webinar series before. I love that after a fundraising event, she had been known to send an ice cream truck over to the corporate sponsors to the employees could go out and get an ice cream. Again, super inexpensive and just a delight.

What I like to do also, we at The Children’s Center do have a gala. A lot of groups I know have galas. So, I always give my photographer a shot list and I say I want photos of these special VIP people who are ticket purchasers and I want them taken early in the evening while they’re still fresh, before all the dancing and all the enjoyment of food and beverage. Then we’ll frame them up and, again, hand deliver them or drop them in the mail depending on where the donor lives, if they’re in the area or perhaps they flew in.

“Rainbow Fish,” this is a great book that really teaches children the joy of giving. If you haven’t read this book, you need to read it. This book is all about philanthropy. Just by happenstance, I gave it to one of my donor’s children on her sixth birthday. The donor called me up and said, “I can’t believe this. I have been trying to teach Makayla about philanthropy because every time we go to donate her used clothing or toys she doesn’t play with anymore, she throws a fit. She say, ‘I want that. I’m not ready to give it up.’ Now, after reading this book, she’s like, ‘Let’s go to my closet, Mommy. I don’t need this. I don’t need that. I want to give it to other people.'”

So, as soon as I had that aha moment, thanks to Makayla and her mom, I got a case of these books. I have a stack of them in my office and a short stack of them in my car, whether your donors have small children or grandchildren, this is an amazing book. It’s a very inexpensive token of appreciation.

I have a lot of my donors who do not have children. Their children are what they call their fur babies. So, when I visit them, I stop by and get a doggie treat. Again, you’ve got to know what is it that makes your donor feel special. For most of our major donors. They have everything they want and need. So, how can we delight them with doggie treats or whatever? It could be a small bouquet of flowers, even from your garden, expensive or no cost.

The fourth donor love language is quality time. Good old-fashioned face to face visits. Having worked with lots of major gift officers over the years and them always wanting to hit their number, number of face to face visits, what I’ve learned is you have to qualify, what does a quality time really mean? Like bumping into my donor at Starbucks and having a nice chat about their golf game is not a quality visit. It’s lovely, but it doesn’t count.

In my world, if this goes in the database—and it has to go in the database to count—the quality visit needs to meet two or more of the following criteria. It needs to leave a donor feeling valued and appreciated. They need to understand the impact of their giving. It should bring them closer to our mission. It should help them under more about our work and the needs in the community and how we’re working to bridge the gap between what we can do and what needs to be done. It should strengthen the emotional connection between them and our work. If it needs two or more of these criteria, it counts as a face to face visit.

There’s a question, “How do you have quality time when you have donors all over the country and you live 1,400 miles away from them?” For sure, video conferencing is not bad. I definitely stay in touch with my donors. I’ve got donors who are snowbirds, for example. So, when they’re in town or honestly, even if I’m on vacation anywhere near them, I arrange to do a pop in or meet them somewhere.

Here in Michigan, there’s what’s known as up north. It’s a beautiful lake country that’s four, five, six hours north of Detroit. Many of our donors will go there for a few weeks in the summer or long weekends every week during July and August. So, I’ll just plan three work days up north and I’ll set up donor visits. They’re so delighted that I would be willing to come up and visit with them.

Often, they say, “Let me host something at my home. I want you to meet some other folks from up here. Let’s go to my club.” It’s amazing what happens. Susan says, “Up north is the UP.” Yes. So, somewhere in between Detroit and the upper, Upper Peninsula is where a lot of my donors hang out in the summer. Again, so many different ways these face to face visits can happen. Involve your CEO, involve your board members, have a VIP gratitude reception or house parties, always sharing impact stories, always, always.

At The Children’s Center, we have an amazing one-hour tour. You’ve heard me reference it many times. We can always take that tour on the road using visual aids and stories. So, this format does not support video. A lot of these webinar platforms don’t support video, but this is actually a video you can find at The Children’s Center website, which is and there’s a four-minute tour trailer that we call it. It’s a four-minute overview of the tour and I encourage you to go check it out if you’re considering making a tour of your own.

Then the last donor love language is proof of impact. This is letting them know how their gifts made a difference in the lives of those you serve. Again, whether it’s inviting them to graduation for a foster kid who’s a dad himself and barely made it through, but thanks to your support—I wouldn’t say Mr. Donor, I would say John or James. “Thanks to you, look at him now. He’s on his way.”

We do publish an impact report. I know there’s a lot of controversy now—impact reports or annual reports, yes or no? Include donor names, yes or no? We do publish one. We do include donor names and we use it to tell at least three stories. One of my favorite things to do for my major donors is the three stories, the kids who are featured, I’d love to take a stack to them when they’re in between their psychiatric appointments over in art enrichment or in our center for discovery, I’ll have them sign them. They feel like really big shots. And donors absolutely love getting a signed hand-delivered impact reports and then I can tell them the story.

There was one little boy, Michael, who was featured in this particular impact report. I took it over to show him, I’m like, “Michael, you’ve got to see this. Come here, buddy.” He came over and I opened up the picture and there he was. This is 11×17, tabloid size. There he is, large as life. He goes, “Oh, man.” I’m like, “What? What’s wrong, Michael?” He says, “Of all days to wear a pink shirt.” It was so sweet. I tell that story every time I hand-deliver one of those to my major donors.

We also have our brand story, which is another topic for another day, but it truly is a powerful token of appreciation. I did hand-deliver one of these to my major donors. This is an investor-type persona, major donor persona. I sat down with him and we went through it and we shared some stories. He reached in his pocket. He pulled out a check for $10,000 and he said, “I had written this Tammy, I was intending to give it to you.” He tore it up. He tore it into what seemed like a million little pieces right before my eyes. I’m like gasping. He’d pick up the phone at the conference table where we are and he calls his finance person and says, “I need a check for $25,000. [inaudible 00:55:14] check. By the way, Tammy, I want 12 more copies of these so I can share them with some people I know.”

So, how do you go about setting up your donor love plan and activating these five donor love languages? It simply is a matter of segmentation, right? What are you going to try and do for your major donors, leadership-level givers, monthly givers. You decide who you’re going to focus on. We wish we could treat every single donor this special, but you’ve got to segment. Some donors get a token of appreciation, others get a gratitude call, some get two or three touchpoints. We aim for a four to one non-ask ratio here at The Children’s Center. So, four of those non-solicitation kinds of engagement pieces before we make an ask, whether it’s direct mail or face to face.

So, you can’t do it alone. You’ve got to have some board members. Not every board member, because they won’t do it, not every one but some that will and just create a plan and start sharing the love. That’s how we do this work. Here is just a thumbnail, if you will, of that annual plan, that planner. Again, this is a fillable PDF. My contact information is in this slide deck. You can email me and I can send you a link to a Dropbox. Steven is absolutely going to send out all of the slides, so you’ll have all of that as well.

So, does this really work? So, Penelope Burk with Cygnus Research did, of course, as part of her study, she did some testing. So, she had two groups. There was a group that got similar to the things I’m describing, similar extra attention. They got those gift acknowledgements quickly. They were told their gifts, the impact of it, they got things signed by board members and gratitude calls. For those who got—and then there was group B, who didn’t get those things.

So, for those who did receive the extra donor love, the average gift value was 39% higher than those who did not. After 14 months, the group that got the extra donor love was giving—their giving rate was 42% higher than the group was not receiving the special donor attention. The folks who were given the special donor love, retention was 70% for that group and for those who were not, retention was 20%. So, it works. If you got some board members who might be naysayers and like, “I don’t want to receive those calls. I’m sure no one else does either,” you can really share the data.

So, I’ve got two minutes until the top of the hour. I just want to remind you—I created an acronym here. I really want to remind you to have HEART—handwritten notes, share evidence, give authentic appreciation, real life experiences, hands-on experiences, and thank donors promptly and accurately.

All right. There’s all my contact information. I’m going to turn it back over to Steven for a couple questions. We answered some along the way, but there were way more than I could keep up with.

Steven: I know. We’ve got a ton of them. Thanks, Tammy. I guess we should thank you first for giving all this great info. I love all these ideas, lots of great stuff here for sure. I’m just going to keep your contact information on the screen. We won’t be able to get to all these questions, but Tammy, are you willing to take questions maybe via email offline?

Tammy: Absolutely.

Steven: I thought you would say yes. You’re a nice person. Lots of people asked about email, so online gifts where they’re maybe getting an automatic response. Should you change that automatic response to do all the things you talked about here or add it on after, all of the above? What do you think about the online side?

Tammy: The answer is yes, yes, yes. My auto-responder for online gifts, the first thing says, “You are amazing.” So, absolutely. Again, that’s more of a short version, right. You’ve got room for maybe two sentences there, but have it be really personal like that. Again, you’re amazing. Rest assured, your gift is going to change lives.

Steven: There you go. You can all edit that today and get started with that. That’s an easy fix. Tammy, what about organizations that if they were to come into their office, there wouldn’t be much to see, maybe they’re kind of an advocacy group and they work out of kind of an office building. There’s no kids on site, no animals on site. What about those types if they want to do that love language?

Tammy: Absolutely. The same things apply. In terms of those hands-on experiences, you can create a tour without anything, like any work being done. I remember creating a tour experience for the United Way here in Detroit. We literally just used visual aids. When we talked about hunger and schools and kids not getting access to healthy food, we literally had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple. There it’s set. We talked about the issues of hunger. You’ve got books, environmental groups. You can have a mason jar full of dirty water and clean water. There are so many visual aids you can bring to that conversation and so many stories even in a super-boring office.

Steven: There you go, no excuses.

Tammy: No excuses. I say boring very lovingly.

Steven: I understand. I’m in a boring office too. I get where you’re coming from. I know we’re over time here and I want to be respectful of everyone’s schedule, especially people that haven’t had lunch. I don’t want to get in the way of lunch. I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but please reach out to Tammy. She’s obviously a wealth of knowledge and is more than willing to help. So, thanks, Tammy. This was more than awesome. This was really fun. I was scribbling some notes myself over the hour.

Tammy: Good. Well, it was my pleasure. Really, thanks to Bloomerang and Jay and Adrian Sargeant and all the folks involved in Bloomerang because a lot of this great data is what you guys bring to our sector.

Steven: Thanks.

Tammy: It’s up to really read it and leverage it and make a difference with it.

Steven: We have fun doing it. It doesn’t feel like work. If you like this session, Tammy’s coming back in September. You guys will definitely get an email about that. So, be on the lookout. If you like this one, more good stuff from Tammy coming in the fall.

We’ve got webinars every week between now and then. Next week is going to be a good one. If you are a small shop or maybe a new nonprofit, maybe in your first couple years, tune in. One week from today, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Sandy Rees is going to give you some advice specifically for how to grow your small shop. She is a small shop expert, for sure. If you are an animal organization, definitely tune in to that one because Sandy somewhat specializes in animal welfare, so you’ll definitely see some examples you can take to heart there.

So, check that one out, lots of other webinars you can register for on our schedule. We’d love to see you again another Thursday. Look for an email from me. I’m going to send out the slides and the recording here this afternoon. You’ll get those and all the goodies that Tammy had and hopefully we will see you again next week. Have a good rest of your Thursday, have a safe weekend, stay warm out there and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Tammy: Thanks, Steven.

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.