The Chronicle of Philanthropy released new research on how donors perceive communications with the nonprofits that they support.
“Among donors who gave in the past year, 70 percent said the level of communications from nonprofits was ‘just right,’ down from 77 percent a month ago.”
With limited resources, especially at this time of economic turmoil, we do not believe that nonprofits should take these research findings as a mandate to communicate less. Rather, take this as an opportunity to make strategic decisions about the different types of communications your donors will receive.
We break communications down into three categories:
- Ask: How often is your organization asking for gifts (solicitation)?
- Thank: How timely and how personal are the thank you messages (acknowledgement)?
- Engage: How are you building connections and communicating impact (cultivation and stewardship)?
- Your organization sends two direct mail appeals per year, hosts an annual gala, and has a Giving Tuesday social media campaign (direct asks) and you include a pledge card in a quarterly printed newsletter (indirect asks).
- Each donor gets a standard acknowledgment letter for IRS purposes within 48 hours of receiving their gift, and board members make personal thank you calls or send hand-written notes for gifts of a certain amount.
- An annual report is emailed to all donors, plus daily social media posts and weekly e-blasts tell stories about the people you serve and outcomes of your programs.
Once you document your communications, you can then begin to assess the messages, their frequency, and their efficacy.
When thinking about the ask in particular, a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy blog post provides insight into the importance of strong appeals.
“When donors don’t give to an appeal, it’s likely that the message just wasn’t persuasive… Even so, [there are] many examples of clients at small- and medium-size nonprofits who were quick to blame all fundraising shortfalls on donor fatigue.”
It is an oversimplification to think your organization should communicate less with donors. Instead, you should use this unprecedented time to make personal connections and build relationships with your donors. Pay attention to your messaging to make sure it’s not all about budget shortfalls and be cognizant of how compelling and timely your narratives are.
If your donor communications are always about an ask and almost never about impact, now is the time for change.
Your donors care about your mission. It’s never too much to say thank you.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO