Love the Ones You’re With
Showing the love to your donors can be a challenge for an organization with a tiny budget. It's a puzzle: the organization wants to attract more donors and steward the ones it has but does not have the extra funds for the sorts of activities the big non-profits provide. However, you can break that cycle with creativity and a few strategic actions.
Action 1: Showcase your Cool Things. Take a good look at your organization’s program and activities and list all the things your org does that are unique only to you. Create a Calendar of Cool Things. Invite one or two of your major donors or prospects to each Cool Thing, pairing the interests of the donor to the nature of the activity. Donors will appreciate the inside look at the actions of the organization and will delight in your attention since you will not leave their side. Be sure to have fresh coffee and some muffins or snacks available for your valuable guest.
Action 2: Take photos. Major donors tend to be successful, popular people and also very busy, and though they would like to come to the Cool Thing you have invited them to, they cannot. What to do? Take photos of program participants or recipients (be sure to get permissions) engaged in meaningful activities as often as possible and keep them organized by date, event, and program. Email a photo or two after the Cool Thing and describe the exciting highlights. Even if you have not invited your donor to a Cool Thing, a fun picture in their in-box of the beneficiaries of your program will brighten your donor’s day.
Action 3: Write handwritten notes. As old-fashioned as it may sound, I take thank you notes seriously, and every donor receives a note with the formal acknowledgment letter. No matter the size of the gift. If you say donations of every size make a difference, then every donor should feel that their gift matters. Coach each annual fund volunteer in the art of the handwritten note. Keep a copy of each communication to avoid redundancy year to year. Say something unique to that donor in the personal note. Notepads with your organization’s logo and contact information can be surprisingly affordable at both local and online printers and will create a professional and unified appearance to your correspondence.
Action 4: Host an Open House. In a small organization, an Open House might be one of the only guest-centered events you can afford to have. If your non-profit is an animal shelter, offer photos with pets. If your organization offices are downtown, join in on a "First Friday" type event with wine, snacks, and info about the excellent work that you do. If you are a school, Grandparents and Special Guests Day is a crucial event that you should embrace. Maybe it’s a Coffee and Muffins (yes, I'm a fan of muffins) with the Director, allowing your donors and prospects to hear your vision and meet beneficiaries of your program. By inviting guests to your Open House event, you are creating a listening opportunity for your staff, as well. Pay attention to what guests ask and learn from them. Your next best volunteer or donor could walk through the door.
Action 5: Be your caterer. You read that right. By recruiting volunteers you can also have a low-cost appreciation party for the organization’s major donors. Find volunteers who have a passion for cooking, help them plan a menu within the budget (the org pays for ingredients), and support them in the set-up, serving, clean up, and adoration. Donors appreciate the fantastic food cooked by volunteers and understand how every possible donation dollar goes to the school's program and not to fancy catering. We have also asked guests to BYOB, and they are more than happy to do it. Catering is a labor-intensive venture, but it's a prudent way to go for the small or emerging organization with a tiny budget working to build a program. Other options are to align your organization with the culinary program at the local community college or to cultivate a relationship with a restaurateur and ask her to sponsor the catering.
Good development directors find donors, savvy ones keep them!