For many years I worked at a direct-response fundraising agency. I learned a ton of stuff back then that has greatly helped me with major gift fundraising. It’s amazing how the discipline of direct-response fundraising has inspired our thinking and strategies for major gifts at Veritus Group.
One of those strategies is all-around welcoming of new donors. In my direct-response days, we spent a ton of time and money developing the new donor welcome series. We tested and retested many different types of engagements that let the donor know, when they first gave to a non-profit, that they were part of a bigger community of other donors, that their giving matters, and that we wanted a deeper relationship with them.
It worked! We knew that if we could welcome a new donor properly after having been thanked, we could greatly influence future giving in a significant way. In fact, through our testing, we found that the sooner we welcomed a donor, the more revenue the donor would give over his lifetime.
What does all of this have to do with major gifts? Plenty.
Are you properly welcoming new donors who come onto your caseload for the first time? Whether they are actually new to your organization or they have come from a mid-level program (or from your general donor file), are you doing anything special to let the donor know YOU are now her connection to your organization?
You see, I’m worried about this. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts about donors on the C list, I have found many new donors coming onto major gift caseloads where no action had taken place by the MGO. Nothing… nada! I’m worried, because this is a good donor, and now the organization has changed the relationship and the donor is not honored.
At Veritus Group, Richard and I want you to have a “new major donor welcome series” in place so that the donor is properly brought into your caseload and cared for. Here is what it looks like…
Wait, before I get into the strategy, the first BIG assumption I’m making is that this donor is qualified. We’ve written blogs and White Papers, and we’ve talked about it wherever we go. Major donors have to be qualified before they get into your portfolio. The only time you may be welcoming a non-qualified donor is if this donor is absolutely new to the organization. So in a sense, while you are welcoming that donor, you are also qualifying her to be on your caseload.
Okay, now that you have a new qualified donor who has come onto your caseload, here is what we suggest you do within the first 30 days a new donor is on your portfolio:
- Introductory letter — This is a letter from you that lets the donor know you are his representative – his connection to the organization. You are thanking the donor for his donations, giving him your contact information, and letting him know that you will be calling him. Note: You will have different versions of this letter based on how the donor came onto your portfolio. It could be that he is a brand new donor to your organization, or he is an existing donor who has now qualified for your portfolio. And if you are bringing on a new donor from another representative (whether mid-level or major), if possible, that rep needs to write a letter introducing you to the donor.
- Follow Up Phone Call — One week after the letter is in-home, you should call the donor to follow up from your letter. Your intent is to find out why the donor supports your organization, introduce yourself, and really listen to the donor. Note: If this donor is totally brand new to the organization, this is about welcoming and qualifying.
- Personal Handwritten Note — If you connect with the donor on the phone, you should send a personal handwritten note thanking the donor for the conversation you had on the phone. If you can reference something about the call in that note, even better. Handwritten notes are powerful and personal. This will put a good feeling about you and the organization in the donor’s heart. She will know that you are a) different, b) honoring of her, and c) an organization that cares about donors. This will leave her with a powerful impression of who you are and what your organization is all about.
- Personal Touch Point — After you complete those three tactics in the first 30 days that the new donor comes onto your portfolio, 30 days later you should send a personal touchpoint that connects the donor’s passions and interests with your organization’s mission. This tells the donor that you know him, that you have listened to him, and that he is making an impact.
If you can welcome all new major donors onto your portfolio in this way, you will not only start the relationship right, you will endear the donor to your organization for the long term. Use this 30- to 60-day plan to ensure that your new donors are welcomed right way.