Connecting people to causes.

A Three-Part Series on Thanking, Reporting Back and Serving Your Major Donors That Will Break Through Their Noise and Bring Them Joy

#2 — Reporting Back

George, the CEO of a 5-million-dollar non-profit, was having breakfast at a diner when he noticed one of his donors across the dining room. On his way out, George went over to greet John.
“Hey, how’s it going?” said George. “Okay, I guess,” said John. George, sensing that there was some coolness from John, said “Hey, is everything okay?” John kind of tried to brush it off, but then said, “Well, about six months ago I sent you a pretty sizable gift, and while I got a receipt letter I never heard what happened with that gift.”
George was dumbfounded and shocked, as he hadn’t recalled a big gift from John. So George told John he’d find out what happened with his gift and get back to him. George went back to the office and asked his staff if they had seen a gift from John about six months ago.
A couple of the staff looked at each other in that knowing way. “Well yeah, we did get that gift… but we forgot to bring it to your attention because it was so busy at the time; no one has really followed up on it.” The gift turned out to be $25,000! And for this small non-profit, that was a massive gift.
George immediately directed his staff to write up a report for the donor on what they did with that gift, and then George called John.
“John, I’m so sorry,” said George. “Your gift got lost in our system and we lost track of it. I apologize profusely. Please know that we’re getting a report to you immediately. I feel terrible.”
John responded, “George, I don’t want you to feel too badly; when I sent you that gift for $25,000, I also sent checks to eight other organizations for the same amount. I only heard back from one.”
It turned out that the only organization to tell John how his gift had made an impact was from a small soup kitchen in hills of West Virginia. The soup kitchen was run by an 80-year-old woman. She wrote John an eight-page, handwritten report detailing everything his gift had accomplished.
Well, you know what John did the next year? Yep, all $200,000 went to that soup kitchen!
I tell you this true story to let you know that reporting back (telling the donor the impact that his gift is making) is not only absolutely crucial to keeping a donor, but it also allows you to break through and create joy in a donor’s life.
It’s probably one of the most basic things we can do for a donor, but for some reason it’s the thing that non-profits are worst at. And with today’s technology, reporting back to donors about the impact of their gifts can be simple and cost-effective.
Here are some ideas on how you can show the impact of a donor’s gift and create incredible joy for your donors:

  1. Bring your donor to the impact. If you want to show your donors the impact their gifts are making, bring them to it. I don’t care if you have to bus, train or plane them over… get them to the scene of impact. It will change their lives.
  2. Show the impact of the donor’s actual gift. Sometimes I feel we get lazy about this. If a donor gives you a gift of $25,000 to help with a specific project, write up a report on that specific gift. Too many times we rely on a newsletter to report on a big project. No, for your major donors, figure out how to report on the impact of their specific gifts. Yes, I know, it’s hard. But that is the point. You will break through all the noise by being specific.
  3. Use technology to surprise your donor by showing impact. Just last week we heard from one of our clients who sent a video update on a project to a few of their donors who had given to that project. The CEO was in a country halfway around the world and recorded a short update on his iPhone. Within minutes of sending that video update, two of the donors, on their own, made additional six-figure gifts toward the project. No solicitation, just a video update from an iPhone! You can do this too!
  4. Exceed Expectations. Some major donors and family foundations will ask for a report on their gifts at intervals of 6 and 12 months. This is their expectation. Well, give them updates at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. Keep the communication flowing, and do it with creativity. Many times I see non-profits get the gift, bank it, and then forget about the donor. It happens all the time. The key to any relationship is mutual communication. Amaze the donor with extraordinary communication to them.
  5. Be real. If you are communicating about a project or program on a continuous basis, through words, photos, interviews, etc., you should also report on problems that arise. Donors do not expect perfection. Reporting on impact is not like Facebook, where everyone just talks about how wonderful everything is. Reporting on impact also means that you report the twists and turns and set-backs that happen in any project. The more vulnerable you are with your donors, the more they will be drawn to you. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But it’s true.

Reporting back to donors the impact of their gifts is one of the greatest sources of joy you can bring to your donor besides their actually giving the gift. You worked so hard to get that gift; why would you not work equally as hard to tell the donor how that gift made a difference?
Hopefully you do!