For those of us in the fundraising profession, the time for giving thanks reaches its peak in December. Year-end appeals are in the mail, but our work is just beginning! Thanking donors swiftly and with a little extra touch besides can make an organization stand out from the crowd.
Now is the time to muster extra help for gift processing so that there is no mistaking that you value and appreciate your donors. Those who are directly responsible for relationship building should be free to focus on thank you phone calls and visits. Review the gifts that arrive on a daily basis and make it your personal goal to reach out to donors who stand out for some reason.
Make a phone call if there are any questions about the designation of your donors’ gift. Reach out to donors who have lost a loved one this year. Don’t forget to pay attention to loyal donors as well as those who make exceptional gifts.
Many fundraisers like to put thoughtful and personalized notes on their donors’ gift receipts. Be sure you don’t become the bottleneck that keeps those receipts from getting in the mail, however. 48-hour turnaround time on gift acknowledgements is hard to achieve, but what an opportunity to make a statement about the importance your organization places on donors’ needs.
Have you ever hand-carried a gift acknowledgement to a donor you have been wanting to meet? Try phoning as soon as the gift arrives with a sincere thank you. Mention that you will be in their area the next day and would like to drop off the acknowledgement and a small token of thanks. You will find donors particularly receptive to thank you phone calls and brief visits at this time of year. Don’t forget to document your conversation, and make plans to follow up later in the winter for a more extended visit.
Judy Barberich, an MMS Advancement Associates LLC senior consultant based in the Lehigh Valley, recalls the inspiring scholarship donor dinners held annually at DeSales University. Students who benefited from named scholarship funds joined their benefactors for a holiday celebration. Organizations big and small can find similar ways to give donors the chance to hear and see first-hand how their gifts are put to work.
Does your organization hold an annual tree lighting, holiday pageant or vesper service? Invite donors to participate in your celebrations. Perhaps you have a special need for volunteers at this time of year. Invite donors to join you and a small group of others in meeting that need. Make these meaningful experiences, paying close attention to what will meet your donors’ needs, not just your organization’s needs.
With a little bit of planning, you can create opportunities at holiday time to thank and engage your donors in ways that let your donors know that they are valued and that their gifts are truly making a difference in someone else’s life.
by Marcella Moyer Schick, ACFRE, President