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News & Press: Member Insights

How Fresh are Your Donor Love Notes?

Friday, January 22, 2016   (0 Comments)

By Aly Sterling, President, Aly Sterling Philanthropy

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I couldn’t resist thinking of the thousands of arrows Cupid will not send off. Who are these sad, forgotten souls? Move over, ex-spouses and bad bosses – there’s an even more neglected category out there: Tier II donors.

The end of the year is sealed with a kiss…

You’ve eclipsed the happiest time of the year – Q4 – when you gleefully open mail to find people sending money, to whom you return your gratitude with a bevy of letters and cards and notes telling them how happy they’ve made you. Never has processing credit cards and checks been so much fun! You’re in love and all donors are created equal, at least in the month of December.

...and then there’s poor and lonely Q1.

Crickets. Gifts are trickling in at best. The majority of donors have left town. Development officers are feeling the pressure of substandard call and financial reports. You’re trying hard to get in touch with Tier I donors, but they’re tapped out. After writing big checks or paying off multi-year pledges, they’ve packed up and headed south.

Now is the time to pay attention to those Tier II donors who might be new, resurrected from a LYBUNT list or loyal donors of much smaller amounts than you typically prioritize. The quiet of Q1 is filled with so much opportunity!

Get your arrows ready.  

You can super-charge this time of year and inspire more love by updating your stewardship practices and protocols. Take some time to brush off and spiff up donor recognition policies and thank you letters. You could even create an ad hoc volunteer Stewardship Committee to tackle this important endeavor. Here are a few responsibilities you should prioritize:

  • Review your donor recognition policies

    How are you recognizing your best donors? Your newest donors? Your lapsed donors? The anniversary of a first gift? While it’s critical to make sure you have the resources to support a strategy, do your best to create a personalized approach whenever possible.

  • Review your donor thank you letters

    Refresh your letters to include a new quote or testimonial from a client, or pepper them with a recent accolade, award or success story.

  • Review all donor communications

    Is the case for supporting your mission clear in all your donor communications? Does your website provide an easy way to give? How often are you telling stories versus reporting stats?

  • Review your board’s engagement in all of the above

    Your board liaison can ask the full board to review and endorse the recommendations of the Stewardship Committee. Then divvy up a few key, manageable opportunities and hold everyone accountable for performance and progress!
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, take the time to surprise a few donors with an extra gesture such as a phone call or invitation to tour. These are simple acts that affirm their decision to support your charity. Make Q4 the annual time of year to convene your ad hoc Stewardship Committee and update your donor recognition efforts in order to start the New Year with energy, attention and LOVE.


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