#DonorLove Celebration part III: How Rory Green Does It – A Lesson From a Pro

Imagine our excitement when guru of donor love, Rory Green, pinged into our inbox with not just one example, but FOUR of many ways she’s shown supporter appreciation for the #donorlove celebration in partnership with John Lepp of Agents of Good.  You might have seen the excited GIFs John & I shared on Twitter…

We’ve decided to include two of these here, giving you an insight into how your approach can differ depending on who you’re thanking, and how much resource you have.

In her own words, Rory shares her experience:

Mr Big

“When I worked at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, we got word that a major donor/volunteer (I’ll call him Philip) was retiring. My VP asked me to come up with a retirement gift for him. He was a wealthy man who truly “had everything” so I knew I needed to try and find something money couldn’t buy.

Philip was an alumni from BCIT, he was on our board and on the foundation board. So I decided to put together a book that told the story of his time with us:

It started with photos from his days as a student from the archives. I reached out to all the students from his program and asked them to share memories and well wished – which they did. One of his classmates wrote that “we all knew Phillip would be the most successful of all of us!”. The photos of Philip and his friends, and the campus in the 60s were a hoot to look at!

Then I tracked down BCIT leaders from his time on the board. It detailed all the amazing things that happened while he served – giving him credit for his leadership. Former presidents, VPs, Deans and board members shared letters of how much they valued working with him and how that period was a transformational one for the university. Lots of archive photos rounded out this section.

Then we focused on his time on the Foundation Board and all the money he helped to raise: specifically a beautiful new campus. Messages of congratulations from fundraisers he worked with were shared, as well as messages of thanks from the faculty and staff who use the building he raised the funds for.

Then we talked about his personal giving, with messages of thanks from 15 years of student recipient, most of whom were now alumni – sharing what they’d accomplished and how they’d given back to BCIT since graduating.

The last letter was the most recent student recipient of his award, who shared “My biggest wish is that when I graduate I will be even able to help future BCIT students the way Philip helped me”.

It was a lot of work tracking so many people down, and going through all the archive photos – but in the end it was worth it. He announced a $200,000 donation to BCIT that night.”

Small, But Mighty

“This is an e-mail I sent to a planned gift donor (let’s call her Mary). I stumbled across a hand-written note in our printer room; one of our program staff had printed it off to hang on her desk. I saw it and LOVED it and asked if I could send it to our donors. I sent this e-mail to Mary because I knew she had a planned gift and an interest in women in engineering. Mary and her daughter were so touched by the e-mail that her daughter has since made her own planned gift! And Mary has become an engaged volunteer and increased her annual giving.”

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What both of these donor love examples have in common is the supporter and their personal experiences have shaped the ways they’ve been thanked; details Rory wouldn’t have known if she didn’t have a strong relationship with them.  Other things we loved were:

  • Rory knows her supporters well so seeing something that reminds her of them prompts a response, just as you would a friend.
  • Going it alone can have a great impact, but using connections and relationships around you a can change a simple thank you into a grand gesture; and no doubt those asked to contribute will know BCIT is an organisation that cares!
  • Thank you’s don’t have to take masses of time or money, simply being thought of and knowing the difference you have made is enough to want to do more; and it’s doable and scalable by all.

It really wouldn’t have been a donor love celebration without Rory Green included, and we want to thank Rory for her marvellous examples.

We’d love to hear your examples of showing #donorlove.  Whether it’s hand-written cards, improvements to stewardship and processes or personal interactions like these, let’s celebrate the ongoing work of amazing fundraisers and charities delighting donors on a daily basis.  Read how to enter here (there’s a cash prize for the best!).

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Why You Shouldn’t Say ‘Thank You’

You’re livid aren’t you?  You’ve come here to skip the blog and leave a comment about how I’m a terrible fundraiser.  But hear me out…

I want you to imagine a colleague has just put a £50 donation from me on your desk.  Now, stop reading this and write me a little thank you.  Come back when you’re done.

Finished?  Excellent.

I’ll bet you that £50 donation your thank you started with those exact two words, ‘Thank you…’.  If it didn’t, you’ve probably been listening to the same people I do – you belta! (but please don’t hold me to the £50 bet thing, I’m skint).

Saying thank you to our supporters is one of the most wonderful, and important, jobs to do as a fundraiser and we should be thanking everyone as sincerely, quickly and as personally as possible.  Shouldn’t we then assume that supporters are going to receive a lot of these letters and notes all starting with the same thing; ‘Thank you for this…’ and ‘Thank you for that…’?

We need to STAND OUT.  But most importantly we need the supporter to really feel that we mean it when we say ‘thank you’.  That we LOVE they’ve chosen our organisation out of the countless others they could have given to.  That we are EXCITED to get to know them and share this journey with them.  That we APPRECIATE them and the wonderful thing they’ve done today.

I’ve been learning from the masters on this one and here’s a few things I’ve picked up along the way;

  1. Don’t open with ‘Thank you for…’: make your opening sentence something personal about the supporter or your relationship with them before you say thank you.  Stephen Pidgeon teaches this and crafts emails and letters that make you smile, and want to re-read. Imagine having that effect on supporters?
  2. Be authentic: you want the supporter to know their gift has been seen and appreciated, and that this isn’t just an automated response.  Beyond a handwritten note, how do we do this? John Lepp at Agents of Good encourages us to stop trying to perfect everything! Leave the ink smudges where they are and embrace the coffee mark.  All of this shows the supporter an actual human has written the message; the imperfections on your note are proof of the handmade gesture of one person wanting to connect with another.
  3. Add a little something extra: and to really show the supporter you’ve taken the time to think about and do something for them, actually attach a photo, link or news story to your thank you about what will be done because of their wonderful gift.  Simon Scriver refers to these as our ‘paperclip moments’.  Simon says, “It makes it stand out and sparkle, and people can feel it in the envelope”.
  4. Pick up the phone: my favourite way to thank is with a phone call.  With a background in telefundraising it’s hard to kick the habit – and I absolutely love it.  It gives me a chance to get to know the supporter better and it usually leads to a meeting over a cuppa where more great things can happen.  And then I write my thank you.
  5. Be you: I absolutely ADORE these ‘before’ and ‘after’ letters from the exceptionally talented copywriter, Lisa Sargent.  Let’s add a little passion, personality, fun and masses of creativity into our thank yous and let the supporter get to know you, so you can start to know them.  With an opening line like, ‘Robots whir. Comets streak…’, you can guarantee they’ll want to read more and look forward to anything else you send their way.

So the next time you pick up your pen to say thanks (which I hope is very soon!), really think about what you’re thanking them for, the way you want them to feel when they read it and how you can get across that this is one person connecting with another.

It’s not about not saying ‘thank you’, it’s about saying it in the same personal way you treat your relationships.  The actual words, ‘thank you’, should be nestled amongst a glowing show of gratitude, which will leave the supporter with no doubt you really mean it.

I’d love to hear about the canny little things you do to make your thank yous stand out.  Tweet me @CharityNikki or get in touch at nikki@charitynikki.blog

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