Trading Up Donors, Increasing Gift Levels

One of the first principles we learn in fundraising is that people give to people they know.   Fundraising is a very personal business and the greater the involvement, the deeper the level of ownership that people feel, and the greater likelihood that you will turn your small donors into major givers.   This does not happen overnight –  is a continuous process of building the relationship, turning the relationship into a partnership,and having that translate into resources for the organization.   Generally, in the ladder of effectiveness, the more personal the approach to solicitation the better the results.  Given this, lets talk about some tips that you can utilize to ‘trade up your donors’ during the next year:

Overall TIPS on raising money from individuals:

  • People give to other people
  • People give based upon what they are capable of giving
  • People give in relationship to what their closest friends are giving
  • Always start with people who are closest to the organization – staff, board, family, friends, donors, vendors
  1. Form a High Dollar Membership Club – It is worthwhile to consider, if you haven’t already, to form a ‘membership of giving club’ within your organization.   People will feel more connected to your organization as a ‘member’ than just a donor. It is more intimate to say I am a member of XXX organization than I am a donor. Memberships will allow people to ‘bond’ more with the organization and they encourage people to renew their membership through this strategy. Then, create a subset of the membership with different levels based upon price.
  2. Upgrade Organization Membership – A few months after the donor becomes a member, mail them a two-page letter with a reply card asking them to ‘trade-up’ their membership to a higher level. Use this letter as an opportunity to talk more about the mission and impact of the organization and why their dollars are needed. If there is no response, try two follow-up renewal notices within the year asking for essentially the same thing. Timing is important and you can’t know why a mailing in February does not work, but one in April does (perhaps they just got a tax refund check).   Remember the larger the donor, the more that you want to emphasize the mission.
  3. COMMUNICATE – It is important to communicate at least on a quarterly basis with your existing donor base, either through newsletters, or electronic newsletters, reprints of articles in the newspaper, et cetera. Don’t just communicate when you need money – have regular contact when you are not asking for bread. Also, always put a return envelope in the newsletter even if you don’t ask for anything.
  4. Keys in Keeping Donors Happy – The following are some tips in keeping donors happy:
    • A TWO WAY THING – Donors give and donors receive (regular information on the impact and accomplishments of the organization) .
    • IMPORTANT MISSION – Organization must have a relevant and important mission and to let the donors know that fact .
    • COMMUNICATE MESSAGES EFFECTIVELY- Make sure you have a fact sheet; brochure; and a case statement that is clear, BRIEF, and reflects your organization well.
  5. Say Thank-you Quickly – Make sure you thank people in writing within 48 hours of the gift. If they give you a major gift (for some organizations it can be $50+) a telephone thank you always is appropriate.
  6. Personal Notes and Letters – When you are trying to upgrade your donors and are writing a direct mail letter, make sure you personalize the letter in the first paragraph thanking them for their last gift and write a personal note on the front of the letter rather than at the end of the letter. Write the note in the right hand margin of the letter. A note such as “I want to personally thank you for your support and hope that you can continue supporting us” or ” we would love to have you visit our organization this Spring.”
  7. Personal Visits – There is nothing more powerful  than to personally conduct a tour of your facilities (except if it is an anonymous facility, such as a domestic violence shelter). It is very important for people to see you in action and feel the passion and energy of your organization.
  8. Tie Giving to the Event – If you have major donors of say over $500 (the amount will vary with the organization) invite them to a special event at your facility, or at a board member’s home. This is not an “ask for money” (even though people may want to make a contribution), this is a thank you and a deepening of the relationship.
  9. Face to Face is Best for Big Gifts – When asking for a major gift, always try to do it face to face and bring along the executive director or board president.   If  you feel uncomfortable asking this person for money, have the executive director ask for the money with your support.

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