Did you know the best way to build a robust individual giving program is to keep your current donors giving year after year, upgrading to larger and larger gifts, while you work on finding new prospects to add to the mix?
Pamela Grow recently joined us for a discussion on how to build better and stronger relationships with your donors. She gave us a step-by-step program for keeping your donors giving year-after-year. In case you missed it, you can watch the replay here:
Steven Shattuck: No reason to keep everyone waiting.
Okay, great. Well, let’s get started.
Well, good afternoon for those of you who are on the East Coast
and good morning if you’re on the West Coast. Thanks for joining
us for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Loving Your Donors: 5 Things
You Can Start Doing Right Now to Create Lifetime Donor
My name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the VP of Marketing here at
Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
Today, I’m just really excited to introduce our guest.
She’s just one of the nicest people in the nonprofit world.
She’s someone I love to chat with offline and online: Pamela
Grow. Hey there, Pamela. Thanks for joining us.
Pamela: Hey, Steve. That’s so sweet of you to say. You know the
feeling is mutual and do
you know what it is? It’s because we’re Midwesterners.
Steven: Yes. That’s right. Midwesterners are the best.
And if you guys don’t know Pamela, Pamela is a fundraising
consultant. She’s also the author of a book called “Simple
Development Systems,” which you can check out. She’s been
helping nonprofits raise money for over 15 years.
She was also named one of the 30 most effective fundraising
consultants by the Michael Chapman Giving Show. And best of all,
Pam is just an expert on what she’s going to talk about today
and that is building lifelong donor relationships because that’s
what it’s all about, after all.
If Pamela isn’t someone that you follow on social media or read
her blog daily, definitely do that because she puts out a lot of
great stuff. Her blog is one of a few that I go to just to kind
of check out what’s there and look for things to share. So,
definitely follow her after this presentation if you aren’t
already doing so.
So, Pamela, thanks again for joining us and taking an hour out
of your day. I know you don’t usually do webinars. So, it’s just
a real treat to have you. So, thanks again.
Pamela: Thanks for having me today.
Steven: So, what’s going to happen today is I’m going to hand
things off to Pamela and
she’s going to run through her presentation. I had a chance to
run through her slides a little bit earlier. She’s going to
share some advice. She’s going to show some examples of things
that nonprofits are doing today, which is going to be pretty
cool to see.
After she’s done with her presentation, we’re going to jump
right into a Q&A session as we always do at the end of our
webinars. So, feel free to send any questions or comments
through that chat box there.
I know some folks are already talking there and that’s great.
Pamela will see those. I’ll see those questions. We’ll try to
answer just as many as possible before the 2:00 Eastern hour.
So, don’t be bashful about that.
Just some quick housecleaning-I will be sending out the slides
and a recording of the presentation a little later on this
afternoon. In fact, I just sent the slides over via the chat box
So, if you want to reference those before, during or after the
presentation, feel free to do that. If you have to leave a
little early or maybe you want to watch it again or send it to a
colleague, look for that video link to hit your email inbox a
little later on this afternoon.
So, Pamela, I’m not going to waste any more time. Why don’t you
take it away?
Pamela: Oh, awesome. Awesome. Thank you, Steven. Good afternoon, good
Welcome, everyone, to today’s presentation of “Loving Your
Donors: 5 Things You Can Start Doing Right Now to Create
Lifetime Donor Relationships.”
Steven and I were chatting a little bit before we got started
and I said I would be thrilled to have you guys all chime in
throughout the presentation with your own ideas as well as you,
Steven, because I’m always learning.
Steven already introduced me, but I’m also of the Grow Report,
which is a weekly enews that was established primarily for small
shop fundraisers to kind of give you the best of the best in one
little newsletter every week.
I’m also co-creator of “100 Donors in 90 Days” and something
called “The Donor Retention Project,” which is a really great
little tool from the founder of Movie Mondays for Nonprofits.
We’ve got interviews with a lot of donor retention experts.
So, that’s about me. So, let’s get started. It does seem like
we’ve been talking about donor retention in the nonprofit sector
seriously forever, doesn’t it? And with really good reason
because despite all of the talk, the numbers never seem to
It was really disappointing to me because I learned just the
other day-everyone is probably familiar with Kivi Leroux Miller,
she publishes the Nonprofit Communication Trends Report every
Her 2014 Nonprofit Trends Report shows that donor retention is
really still not highly valued by a lot of people working in
nonprofit. It reads that it’s a hot topic, but are nonprofits
doing more than talking about it?
In our 2013 report, acquisition beat retention as a goal by
nearly 2:1. In 2014, the number of nonprofits selecting
retention as a top three goal held steading at 30 percent while
acquisition fell from 57 percent to 53 percent.
So, my very first question to you guys out there-I’m trying to
speak up. Is this better?
Steven: That sounds pretty good, Pamela.
Pamela: Do you know your retention rate? If everybody could just kind
of type into the
chat box-I’m thinking because you all subscribe to Bloomerang,
you do know your retention rate. But you’re in the minority.
Look at that. That’s awesome.
Steven: Wow, I think I saw one in the 60s. That’s really good.
Pamela: Seventy-six. Look at that.
Pamela: Wow. I figured we’d get a different reaction from this crowd.
I’ve got a very
simple way to calculate it. This is actually included in a
resources sheet that I’ve put together that Steven’s going to be
distributing to you after this webinar. They’ve got this handy
little donor retention calculator over on their website.
In the meantime, why your focus should be more on retention and
less on acquisitions, just know this-the cost to acquire a new
donor is 6-7 times that to retain existing donors.
If you can increase your donor rate by just 10 percent today,
you’ll actually enhance the lifetime value of your donor base by
200 percent. That is pretty impressive.
Look at what just a 10 percent retention rate will get you. It
saves money on your fundraising costs. I think everybody is
looking to save. Retention is the smartest thing you can do.
Are you all convinced? I’m getting some notes that people are
still having a hard time hearing me.
Steven: I can hear you pretty good. I’ve got my phone all the way
turned up, though.
Pamela: I am on a cell phone. So, today we’re going to be talking
about, “5 Things You
Can Start Doing Right Now to Increase Lifetime Donor
My absolute favorite question to ask anyone in this field is,
“How did you get into fundraising?” None of us typically set out
to be fundraisers. I got started in the industry when I stumbled
into a job working in programming and communications for a
family foundation here in the Philadelphia area. I loved the
work so much and I loved learning about the region’s nonprofit
organizations that I decided that I wanted to work in the field.
And then I landed my very first job, a development director
position with a smallish nonprofit agency. Our annual budget was
around $3 million and my task to actually create a development
department from the ground up. I honestly don’t need to tell you
guys that it was incredibly challenging. With the help of a
successful local businessman, this particular organization had
run a hugely successful capital campaign five years earlier but
they hadn’t done anything since.
They had ignored their donors. They had let their foundation
context lapse. They belonged to some key community organizations
but they hadn’t had any contact in years and years.
It was a real mess. Records were missing. The fellow who had
spearheaded the capital campaign had died. Their big money
maker, their annual campaign in particular, had actually been
mismanaged by three separate mail houses. It was an utter, utter
mess. For five years running, they had been losing donors faster
than they could bring new donors in.
So, I had a lot on my plate. I set about creating a development
plan. My first step was actually redesigning that annual
campaign. I realized, “Oh, shoot. I’ve got to write a thank you
At least I had that good sense because according to Penelope
Burk’s landmark book, “Donor-Centered Fundraising,” only 4 out
of 10 donors say they always receive a thank you letter after
they make a donation.
Pamela: Yes. I actually did about 20 donations in 2013 just to kind of
response. I think I got thank you letters from maybe five of
them. But I have to tell you that my very first thank you letter
kind of read like this, just to give you a humorous idea of how
very stilted and kind of unnatural sound in our nonprofit
So, the very first thing you can do on this journey is to
actually redo your thank you letter. Say “thank you” like you
mean it. We’re going to start out with what your thank you
letter should include. These particular guidelines were
developed based on the research of Penelope Burk. You always do
want to personalize your thank you letters, as in “Pam” versus
“Dear friend.” Really, with technology being what it is today,
there’s just no excuse for a “Dear friend” letter.
You want to start out with a captivating opening. I’ve got lots
of resources for that in your resource sheet. Just imagine that
you’re writing a note to a friend and let that gratitude just
kind of ooze.
This is an example from a science center that I liked. “Robots
[inaudible 0:13:40]. Tide pools gurgle. When science comes into
your life, anything is possible. It’s all left up to you.”
The next thing, of course, is impact. You’re not writing,
really, an annual report here. But you do want to have a line or
two to let your donors know what they’re accomplishing through
you. Both of these examples are actually from the SOFII website,
which I’ll talk about a little later.
This is an organization in Ireland. “Nearly 2,000 times each and
every day, you make all the difference in the world for troubled
children. Your kind contribution means that XYZ Charity can keep
skilled volunteers standing ready to answer calls.”
Let them know how they can be in touch. Always provide a key
person in your organization that they can connect with and a
phone number. Always reference their gift amount and/or their
Make sure your letter is donor-focused. That letter should make
clear that your work is only possible through them. Hand-sign
your thank you letters.
Now, I’ve also included terms of length or ideas for packing
your letters with more punch. A lot of them actually come from
Lisa Sargent, a writer. She’s a friend of mine. She focuses on
retention and she is also founder of the thank you letter clinic
over on SOFII. She did this particular before and after example
from my website.
It just kind of gives you an idea of how easy this little
change can be. Can you all see that? Can you all read it okay?
This is an organization called Hope Found. This is their letter,
which really isn’t bad. It includes Lisa’s notes there. Here’s
the after. I’m just going to give you a few minutes to read
Steven: It seems like they’ve simplified it a lot.
Pamela: That’s just it, too. Good communication often is so much
simpler, isn’t it?
Pamela: The importance of your thank you letter-you want to get them
all organized and
be prepared for any time of eventuality there. I typically,
before I even start writing a campaign, I write the thank you
letter first. There are a lot of reasons for that. One of them
is that you don’t forget about it and come up with some sort of
thank you letter that’s an afterthought. But it also puts you in
the right mindset.
Don’t forget your email thank you. I’ve included several really
fabulous email thank you’s here. And keep in mind when you’re
thanking, you want to have a specific plan for new donors.
How are you treating your new donors? Are you treating them
differently? Follow up with a welcome kit. Thank you calls. Call
them with an invitation to join your organization’s monthly
I would love to hear if you guys have any ideas how you follow
up with donors. One of my favorite ways is actually with a
welcome kit. This can sound a lot more complicated than it
really is. You can give a new donor newsletter, an FAQ
statement, an invitation to join monthly giving. You might have
a special monthly giving package.
This comes from one of my subscribers. I would actually
recommend making a small donation or signing up with their email
list just to get their communications. This is Nashville Rescue
Mission. They are an organization down in Nashville serving the
They do this welcome newsletter. They get it printed. I don’t
know how many they get printed up. They get it printed up and
about every two or three years they change it. So, every brand
new donor gets this welcome newsletter, and this is actually
following the thank you letter.
The thank you letter comes first, then comes the welcome kit
that includes this welcome newsletter, a little letter and a
The “pass it on” packet-remember earlier when I told you about
my very first job in fundraising? That particular organization
had been so burdened primarily by the mail houses that they gave
me no money whatsoever for donor acquisitions. W
hen the gifts started coming in from that first appeal, we had
to make a note of the gifts coming in from the long time loyal
donors. Then I put together something that I called my “pass it
Keep in mind, at that time I was juggling a ton of different
things and just kind of doing it all in a one-person development
office. I put together this packet that included a very
heartfelt thank you letter and an introduction and a request for
them to refer friends, family and neighbors to our organization.
I think I might have included just a few extra appeal packets. I
think I had put together an FAQ sheet. The response was amazing.
I actually brought in over 100 new donors that first year using
that technique. A few of them actually later became major
donors. Some of these folks that I sent this out to actually
called and requested more packets. It was a really big success.
I found this particular one. Are you all familiar with SOFII?
SOFII is a website based in the UK and it’s the-I forget what
they call it-I just call it the best website out there in terms
of donor communications. I’ve got a link to this in your
resources. I’ve done this with a few clients, where I’ve put
together a front and back kind of thank you piece that has a
referral on the back. It works really, really well.
What about your lapsed donors? Here is a fabulous example of
what you can do to let your lapsed donors know. This sample is
from Ontario Nature. It landed in my mailbox late last year.
I’ll be honest with you that I only donated to Ontario Nature in
the first place because a friend of mine worked there.
She doesn’t work there anymore and I don’t have any ties to
Ontario or Ontario Nature. But this letter came in the mail and
I immediately went online and made another gift. You are going
to love this. There’s actually a little survey.
That’s a good a question. I’m just going to take that right now.
Kim asks, “What’s the timeframe to consider a donor a lapsed
What is it that AFP says? [Inaudible 23:44] is either last year
but not this and [inaudible 23:46] is some year but not this. It
depends on your organization-how far back you want to go. It
depends on a lot of factors.
I had a gal who’s one of my members who brought back a lapsed
donor who had not donated for ten years. But most organizations
probably wouldn’t go that far back. Do you have any thoughts on
Steven: Yes. What we say at Bloomerang is we say two years. That’s
sort of our
philosophy. We tell folks when we bring in new customers using
the database-we’re pretty strict on saying if they haven’t done
anything in two years, there’s no point in migrating them over
because they’re probably not going to do anything.
That’s a little more extreme than most people think. But that’s
kind of our benchmark-two years, honestly.
Pamela: Your situation is a little different because you’re [inaudible
24:52] whether they
even bring them over from your database.
Pamela: Okay. So, what’s the next thing we can start doing? A thank
you call to a newly
acquired donor yields 40 percent more revenue in year two. Do
any of you out there do regular thank you calls? Excellent. The
word is getting out.
One method that has worked really well for my subscribers and my
members is this and that’s to create a regimen. And every
morning before you even turn on your computer, before you check
your email, before you do anything, just spend 15-30 minutes
making donor thank you calls. This comes from one of my
What next? The research tells us, too, that donors want to hear
what their gift has accomplished before you ask for the next
gift. What is the way of doing that? You absolutely need to
become a master storyteller. That’s how you’re capturing your
organization’s stories and how you’re sharing them.
These are some various ways you can show impact. You can show
impact through newsletters. I’ve got an example that comes from
Nashville Rescue Mission because they do such a good job with
Impact reports, which can sometimes be as much as a simple
email. Getting back to your welcome kit is a good way to show
impact. Social media posts.
I’ve got some ideas on getting your program staff involved as
well in resources. Here’s an example of a really good Facebook
posts. Debbie asks for a sample of a well done impact report. I
can actually include it with the resource sheet. You can use
video. On one of my homepages, it shows exactly what they’re
What’s another thing you can do? Really know your donors. Are
you serving them regularly? I’m going to go back to that very,
very first fundraising job. Remember when I told you about how
their annual appeal was such a mess?
Before I wrote the first appeal for that organization, I
actually did one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. I went
into the database and identified high-end supporters. For each
one, I sent a personal letter of introduction. I thanked them
for their past support.
Along with the letter, I sent a simple survey asking why they
had supported us for so many years. Out of the 20, 18 donors
actually responded. I hadn’t asked for any money. Seeing that
gave me the materials to write that first appeal letter. Some of
their testimonials are actually still in use today 14 years
later. That’s how powerful surveying can be.
Do any of you do surveying? Oh, excellent. Kim says, “We just
sent out a survey in our fall newsletter. The response was very
good. How often should surveys be sent out?”
That kind of depends on your organization. I recommend putting
at least two surveys into your regular communications calendar a
year. I’d kind of like to hear from Steven on how they survey.
I know that as a business owner, every time I send out an email-
I send out my weekly report every week-there are always at least
three clickable links in the report looking for feedback, even
if it’s something as simple as, “What helped you the most in
this newsletter?” or “What are you reading these days?”
Steven: Yes. Surveys are great. It just helps you do your job
better because you don’t
have to wonder what people like and what they don’t like. You
can just simply find out and then give them what they want and
what they like.
Pamela: Absolutely. Some organizations actually track their donors’
days that might be considered maybe a little intrusive. One
thing you can do is keep the date of their first gift in your
database and then maybe send them an anniversary email on the
date of their first gift.
Here are some sample survey questions. The purpose of the
surveys is not just an org focus. It’s a donor focus too. You’re
trying to find out not just why they support you and what they
like about you. You’re trying to find out more about them.
Animal rights organizations can do really well with surveying.
Debbie mentions, “A survey would be a good time to find out what
the donor’s preferred method of communication is.” Excellent.
Barbara says, “We’ve done a survey with an incentive, a drawing
for free tickets to a holiday dinner event, and had a great
response.” That’s excellent too. I love the idea.
The last thing that you can do is to get your board on board.
Some of the text didn’t come through, Steven.
Steven: Oh, sorry about that.
Pamela: That’s okay. One of the most important things you can do is to
stop asking from
your board members for [inaudible 33:06], seriously. Instead,
make it a point to really involve them in this gratitude
process. There are a lot of ways you can do that: board thank
you calls, handwritten thank you notes from board members.
I had a client who was with an organization where most of the
board members-when they had a board meeting it was a big deal
because most of their board members came from around the
So, what we would do is we would have a little thank-a-thon for
about half an hour where we would take a break… Hello? And I
would have note cards and pens and names and they would write
handwritten thank you notes to donors. For the donors, the
response was phenomenal. I still remember they would get calls
from certain donors who were thrilled to get a thank you note
from a bishop.
Encourage your board members to share their personal stories
about why they got involved in the board. Not a canned elevator
speech, but a personal story. Every board member has a reason
for why they got involved.
Typically, their reasons are far more compelling than the canned
elevator speech. Have your board members to invite donors to
insider events, have them ask your donors for advice. What are
Arlene says, “I have a hard time getting my board to do anything
related to development.” I think a lot of us struggle with that.
I think that getting them involved in this gratitude process
makes a huge, huge difference because once they start talking to
donors, not with an intent, but just to say thank you, the
response is always absolutely phenomenal.
Darcy says, “Our board members have an adopted donor that they
contact quarterly, sending a Thanksgiving card, New Year’s card,
impact story, etc.” I love that! I would love to follow up with
you, Darcy. That’s a great idea. I’d like to mention that.
That’s great. Jennifer says, “We put donor thank you calls in
our fund development plan this year. All board members will
receive five names a month to thank.” That’s excellent.
So far, we’ve covered why you should care about retention and
how to write the perfect thank you letter, the importance of
donor calls and showing impact and how you can get your board
involved in the process.
That so resonated with me-don’t put such a huge focus on major
donors that you forget about the people that have the deep
connection to your mission. “I’d rather have a donor base full
of people without a lot of resources who care deeply than with
rich people who don’t.” I can tell you that I’ve worked with
organizations on both sides of the spectrum and I would so
prefer working with an organization that has that donor base
full of people who really care.
I just wanted to mention really quickly that I just read the
book “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get
the Right Things Done,” by a guy by the name of Peter Bregman.
One of the stories that really stood out for me was the one he
told about Jack LaLanne. Do you all remember him from the
juicing commercial? I kind of remember him from my mother
exercising to him when I was a little girl.
But it’s an awesome story of success. He was a fitness
visionary. He was founder of the “Jack LaLanne Show,” which was
actually the longest running television fitness program ever. It
aired for 34 years running. He said that Jack LaLanne had one
trick that was his real, secret power and that was ritual.
Right up until his death at the age of 96, he spent the first
two hours of every day exercising: 90 minutes lifting weights,
30 minutes of cardio. Every morning. That ritual enabled him to
achieve his goals of staying fit. You can totally develop
So, as we go into 2014, I really, really urge you to make donor
retention your number one priority and create rituals around it
so that focusing on donor retention will become a habit for you.
I have to say that from what I’m reading in the chat box, so
many of you are already there, which is really exciting.
So, where are we? We’ve got the resource sheet but I’ve also got
a couple other resources here. Blackbaud just came out with
“Show the Love: Thoughtful Engagement to Retain Donors.” It’s a
free eBook that you can download over on their site.
I have got a course that runs once a year called “The Power of
Thank You” that I present jointly with Claire Axelrad from San
Francisco, founder of the Clairification blog.
There’s also the Donor Retention Project, which is pretty cool.
It includes interviews with Adrian Sargeant and Lisa Sargent, no
relation. I’m trying to think who else. Roger Craver. It’s
So, we are at questions time.
Steven: Yes. Awesome. That was great. Thanks for that
presentation, Pamela. We do a lot
of these webinars and I don’t remember any webinar that had as
much interaction in the chat room as this one. So, thanks to
everyone who was a good sport.
Steven: Yes. Absolutely. I appreciate everyone who was being a
good sport about
answering questions and sending their comments along. That was
great. And there have been a lot of questions asked throughout
If you’ve been maybe sitting on a question that is burning in
your mind, we’ve got Pamela here for about the next 20 minutes
or so to answer any and all questions. So, send them over.
Pamela, I’m just going to start fielding them to you if that’s
okay. We’ve got a lot here in the chat box already.
Pamela: That’s great. I’m really thrilled by what all of our
participants are doing. It’s
Steven: Yes. Absolutely. So, here’s a good one from Amy. I’m just
going to kind of
work down the list. Amy was wondering, “I’m curious to know how
many of you do multiple different thank you’s throughout the
Do you change thank you letters each month? Do you change them
monthly? Do you have the same letter?” What’s your philosophy on
that, Pamela, in terms of mixing up the content of the thank you
letter and how often you should do that?
Pamela: Well, I’d hate to say this because it sounds like a cop out,
but it really does
depend. There are some organizations that really only send out
one appeal letter a year. There are other organizations that
might send out anywhere from four to even ten or eleven.
That newsletter that I pointed out earlier from Nashville Rescue
Mission-they send out a newsletter every month, because that’s
how they make $2 million a year just from their newsletter
mailing. They have a monthly newsletter.
Typically, I’d say quarterly. That’s kind of a generic response
to redo your thank you letters.
Steven: Great. Feel free to send any more questions. I’m just
going to go down the list
here. We’ve got a question from Jennifer, a really interesting
one that kind of stood out to me during the presentation.
She’s wondering when a major donor decides to leave maybe to
support a competing or a similar nonprofit, do you suggest just
kind of letting them go? Would you fight for them? What would
you do if a major donor lets you know that they’re not going to
be supporting your organization anymore?
Pamela: I would definitely reach out to them to try to set up a
meeting to find out why.
Wouldn’t you want to know why? I just talked to one of my
members the other day. She said that she had come on board and
found in a donor’s file-this is a major donor-that he didn’t
want any thank you notes or communications.
He was a monthly donor who sent in $1,000 a month. So, she
abided by it. She didn’t send him anything. Then the next thing
she knew, he left.
She called him up and it turned out that he did want those thank
you notes. He didn’t want to be bombarded with communications,
but whoever entered the information in the database wasn’t
really very clear. He’s actually increased his gift.
Pamela: So, always try to reach out and communicate.
Steven: Yes. At least if you can’t convince them to stay, maybe
they’ll let you know
what went wrong.
Pamela: Yes. You can learn from that.
Steven: Absolutely. So, Pam, you talked a lot about surveys. I
love surveys. I know you
do too. One of the listeners was wondering how often you should
send a survey. That’s probably another “depends” kind of
situation. How often would you send a survey? Is it a yearly
thing? Is it quarterly there as well as changing up thank you
Pamela: You’re right, I would say it depends. But I would say to
integrate into your
communications calendar at least two surveys a year.
Steven: Okay. Two a year.
Pamela: This is what I did when I worked in small shops. I used to
just periodically once a
month go through and find 10-20 donors and send them a survey.
Steven: When you do that, do you send it through snail mail or do
you email it electronically?
Pamela: Well, again, it depends. It depends. I find not a lot of
nonprofits really understand
the power of an email list. They don’t really have much an email
list. I like SurveyMonkey surveys. Actually, I just got a good
one today. I got it too late to include in the presentation.
Steven: Great. We’ve got a couple of questions here about board
members. Betty was
wondering about when board members make donor calls what you can
do to ensure confidentiality.
Do you have board members call from maybe the office of a
nonprofit? Where should they call from to ensure
confidentiality? I’m assuming Betty’s concern there is maybe
someone would overhear the call or kind of know the amount of
the gift there. What are your thoughts on that?
Pamela: It kind of depends. Typically, the board members that I’ve
worked with have
made the calls on their own time on their cell phones or on
their home phones. I’ve done thank-a-thons at board meetings.
But I typically do the handwritten note ones because I happen to
like handwritten notes. But I know other consultants will just
have everybody use their cell phone and go off to a private area
during a board meeting and make those calls.
Steven: Okay. So, definitely a private area.
Steven: Cool. Well, our friend Amanda is listening in. She’s
wondering, “What are some
creative and effective ways to thank major donors?” So, she’s
maybe a little tired of that typical plaque recognition. What
are some ways that you’ve seen people kind of uniquely thank
major gift donors?
Pamela: That’s a good question. I think it really depends on the major
organizations do it with events. I’m not a big fan of events. I
personally don’t like going to them. But others love them.
So, it really depends on your donors. That’s why I suggest
really getting to know your major donors on a very individual
basis and finding out what it is they like.
Steven: That makes a lot of sense.
Pamela: I’m going to ask a friend of mine that question and I’ll get
back to you.
Steven: So, here’s a good question from Laurie. Laurie’s
wondering, “Do you have any
suggestions on securing donor visits so that you can build a
relationship? What do you say to intrigue them or generate
enough interest so that they meet with you face to face?” Maybe
she’s struggling with getting that one-on-one meeting with a
donor. What tips would you have for Laurie there?
Pamela: Oh, I’m sorry. I got distracted. I was looking at the
Steven: Yes. It’s Laurie’s there. It’s towards the bottom. She’s
looking for tips on getting
a one-on-one meeting with a donor.
Pamela: Well, find out if any of your board members know the
personally, which has the strongest connection.
Steven: That makes sense. Melody has a similar question. She’s
wondering about the
appropriate timing to invite a donor for a tour. Should it be
after their first gift or a couple gifts? When is it appropriate
to invite them to the facility to meet?
Pamela: Again, it depends on the organization. I have typically
included that right in the
thank you letter that, “We would love to have you by for a tour.
Give Debbie the development director a call and set up a time.”
Always leave it open. That’s a good comment from Larry. He says,
“I always ask to meet. Ask them to meet to discuss their lives
and life experiences which opens up a lot of their personal
drive for our organization.”
Steven: Nice. Very good, Larry.
Pamela: Very good. Excellent.
Steven: There’s a question from Melissa. I know she said it a
couple of times so I want to
make sure we get your thoughts on it, Pamela. How do you feel
about electronic signatures on letters? I think what she means
there is maybe it’s a printed letter but the signature is
It seems like you would want the person to at least take the
time to write the signature themselves. Wouldn’t you agree,
Pamela: I’m a big fan of the handwritten signatures. I’m a big fan of
Again, keep in mind that I primarily work with smaller
nonprofits-small to midsize nonprofits. They’re not getting
thousands and thousands of gifts. But even in organizations that
I’ve worked at that were larger, I just get a band of volunteers
together and sign.
Pamela: They don’t know it’s not the CEO’s signature.
Steven: Handwritten is the way to go?
Pamela: Handwritten is the way to go.
Steven: Nice. We’ve got a neat question from Eileen. “What’s the
best way to engage
donors when you have a challenging cause?” So, maybe the cause
isn’t something as sympathetic as puppies and babies. That’s
sort of a common problem.
Pamela: It really is.
Steven: Yes. What do you think about that?
Pamela: Everyone has got an emotional cause. Everyone. I talked a lot
about my very first
job because I got a lot of great lessons on that job. This was
actually working for our local EMS provider in the burbs. It’s
an ambulance provider.
Steven: Not the sexiest topic.
Pamela: Not sexy at all. A huge part of my challenge was I live in a
community, but most of the people that live here work in the
city of Philadelphia where the ambulance service is provided by
taxpayer dollars. So, I had to communicate the fact that here
it’s provided by donor dollars and also figure out a way to make
it sexy, to make it emotionally compelling for them.
The way that they had put it across before was to talk about how
great their equipment was. They had the best lifesaving
equipment. Nobody cares. So, when I found out how they had
really touched the lives of people in the community, that’s when
I got somewhere.
Steven: Yes. I always think of Apple when someone mentions talking
equipment versus talking about how it’s making an impact. If you
see an Apple commercial, they don’t go through the specs of the
device. They show the impact it has on people’s lives.
Pamela: Yes. It’s emotional. That emotional impact. Community reentry
that’s an emotional cause. “It’s all about the why,” Larry says.
You’re so right. Roxanne says, “We manage hand-signing all
letters by having a stewardship coordinator sign up to a certain
gift level, annual giving manager in the next level and ED at
top. It threads out the responsibility.” Yay, Roxanne. That’s
Steven: Very good. That seems like a good system, for sure.
Pamela: You guys are awesome.
Steven: Why don’t we do about one more question. I know we say we
keep these to an
hour and I want to be respectful of everyone’s time before we do
a little housecleaning at the end. There’s a question here that
jumped out at me. I know we didn’t get to all the questions.
We’ll send some contact information for Pamela a little later
This one comes from [Lolisa]-if I’m pronouncing that name wrong,
I’m so sorry, please feel free to connect me-but she has an
organization that’s heavily funded through corporations and
they’re just now kind of starting to build their individual
donor base and wondering, Pamela, what suggestions you would
have for them.
This is an organization that has gotten a lot of corporate
funding and is just trying to build up those individual donors.
What advice would you have for her there?
Pamela: Do you have some individual donors?
Steven: Yes. It looks like they have some but not many and they’re
just trying to start
building it up.
Pamela: I guess I would start by reaching out to those individual
donors that you do have.
I don’t know how many we’re talking about, if we’re talking
about ten or a couple hundred. But if you can reach out to a
handful of them one-on-one and find out what it is about your
mission that compels them to give, under 100.
Steven: Under 100. Okay.
Pamela: I would start with that. I don’t know if you’ve done any kind
of individual appeal
yet. A “pass it on” package would be a great idea. I was just
about to suggest that, Linda.
Steven: Hey, Pamela, what is a “pass it on” package? That’s not
something I’m familiar
with. I think there were a couple people who hadn’t heard of
Pamela: That’s because I just made it up.
Pamela: But I was surprised to see the example that I shared with you
all came from Ken
Burnett, the founder of SOFII himself from when he worked with a
smaller organization that didn’t have any money for acquisition
many years ago. He does the exact same thing.
It’s basically like a referral package. You send it out to
people, particularly people who are loyal donors. I’m trying to
find that example. I’ve got one I did for a client that I could
Steven: There it is. Yes. We’ll send that out to you folks in my
follow up email. We’ll be
sure to send that over.
Pamela: Sorry about the Latin there. That’s not part of the
Steven: Oh, I see. Introduce a friend to us. That’s nice. That’s a
nice resource, for sure.
Pamela: Everybody doesn’t respond. But it works really well. The
resources are going to
be in a follow up email. You guys are great. I’m getting so much
just from reading the comments. Can I get a copy of the chat?
Steven: Oh, sure. I’ll send that to you for sure.
Pamela: That would be awesome because I would love to connect with some
of the people.
Steven: Yes. This was fun. This was a little different than our
usual webinars in that it
was a little more interactive. I certainly enjoyed it. Hopefully
everyone else who listened and participated enjoyed it as well.
So, Pamela, thanks for joining us for an hour. Thanks for
sharing all your expertise. I want to give folks a little bit
more information about you. How can folks learn more about what
you’re up to and find you online?
Pamela: Well, I just want to thank everybody for sharing all your
fabulous ideas. I just
love it. Yes. You can find me at PamelaGrow.com. I also wanted
to share with you that if you’re looking for more committed
donors and sustainable fundraising and a happier, healthier
organization in 2014, my membership program just opened up the
Simple Development Systems, featuring all of these awesome,
It features a four-year calendar of training for your staff,
board, and volunteers by the industry’s leaders, courses and
support. It’s really for way less than the price of a concert.
You could also find Simple Development Systems at
Steven: Yes. Check that out. That’s a killer lineup. Those are the
rock stars. You’ve got
Tom Ahern, Kivi Miller [SP]. That’s a great community that
you’ve been able to build around yourself, Pamela. So, that’s
Pamela: Oh, thanks. They’re awesome. And Gail Perry [SP].
Pamela: Oh, thank you.
Steven: Yes. I’m glad everyone enjoyed it. We do these webinars
every week. We’re
actually going to take next week off because we did four
webinars in January already. We’ve got a really nice lineup for
We’ve got DonorSearch on the schedule. They’re going to talk
about using data and prospect research to find donors. We’re
going to be partnering with Nonprofit Hub to talk about donor
retention. Then we’ve got two consultants, Kent Stroman and
Robert Sweeney. They’re going to join us as our guests to share
their knowledge with us.
That’s a great lineup. I’m pretty excited about February
already. So, if any of those look appealing, check out our
webinar page. You can register for those. They’re totally free,
totally educational. Check those out.
Hopefully you enjoyed this presentation as much as I did. Thanks
to Pamela and everyone else who was a good sport about just
being active in the chat room. It was really a lot of fun.
Just one last quick note-I will be sending out the slides and a
recording a little later on this afternoon. So, look for that.
I’ll also be including Pamela’s resource sheet that she
mentioned. It will have all the good stuff that she referenced
in her presentation, all those thank you letters and “pass it
on” kits and stuff like that. So, look for that a little later
from me this afternoon.
Since it’s 2:00, we’ll call it a day. Thanks for joining us.
Pamela, a final thanks to you. It was fabulous to have you.
Pamela: Thanks so much for having me.
Steven: I put an extra “o” in Bloomerang. That’s a little
embarrassing. Don’t put three o’s
in Bloomerang. Just put two o’s. Thanks to everyone who joined
us. Have a great rest of your day. Have a great weekend if we
don’t talk to you.
Pamela: You too. Thanks. Bye-bye.