By James D’Ambrosio

JamesProfile1TwitterPlanning my next column, an idea crystallized while on personal business. After receiving outstanding customer service and personal attention from a staff member at a financial institution I recently joined, I was so pleased that a few days later I brought him a tray of bakery-quality cookies and a handwritten thank-you card. He said no customer had ever done that for him, which made me feel valued. In short, being treated in a genuine, personal way compelled me to reciprocate. In the nonprofit arena, personally connecting with donors can build stronger ties, potentially increasing donations.


The following are several ways to reach donors and draw them closer to your cause or mission:

 HAND-WRITTEN NOTES: Depending on agency size and budget, set a gift amount — $100, $250, $500 or $1,000 — that, when received, is acknowledged with a hand-written thank-you note from the executive director or director of development. Many would appreciate this personal touch, especially since technology has rendered hand-written communication by mail nearly extinct. (Tip: you can purchase inexpensive cards (blank inside) with a simple ‘Thank-You’ on the front. It’s the message inside that counts.)

PERSONAL PHONE CALLS: An article from Sumac Nonprofit Software, an organization providing software solutions to nonprofits, touts the benefits of thanking donors with personal calls. They cite Penelope Burk’s research in Donor Centered Fundraising: How to Hold Onto Your Donors and Raise Much More Money, indicating that donors receiving a thank-you call from a board member contributed 39 percent more at the next solicitation. After 14 months, individuals called were contributing 42 percent more. A strong case for picking up the phone.

INVITE DONORS TO THE OFFICE: Consider holding an all-day open house for donors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the people and operations making things happen. Interacting with staff and touring facilities provides a fuller understanding of your agency, creating stronger ties. Earlier in my career, working at a small nonprofit, we held an open house (for all stakeholders) with great success. A modest investment of time and resources can put a face on your agency.


Obviously, letters and phone calls take time — something you may not have — depending on agency resources. To make it easier, Sumac suggests volunteers can be trained to do some of the work by providing them written templates. (Telephone scripts can be provided for phone calls.) With a bit of guidance, the right volunteers can be effective.  Alternatively, Sumac suggests selecting a small sampling of donors to call each week.



A) Have you tried any of these approaches to engaging donors?

B) If so, were they successful?

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