Don’t be shy – communicate!

Almost every nonprofit I look at makes one classic faux pas.  They believe that it’s an inconvenience, an intrusion, a nuisance, a mistake to communicate frequently with their donors (or prospective donors).  They don’t want to “bother” them (or, let’s face it, they’re lazy and can’t be bothered with the bit of extra work it takes to keep in touch).

And yet, donors are our friends.  You wouldn’t call upon your friends once a year only to ask for money would you?  Imagine it.  In fact, when you put it that way it’s downright rude. Yet that’s what many nonprofits do.

If we’re engaged in true relationship fundraising, communicating well and communicating often is key. Start at the first gift – create heartfelt welcome packages for your new donors.  Start at the first indication of interest – say signing up for your organization’s email newsletter – with a series of two to five evenly spaced enthusiastic welcoming emails.

Note that I did say “communicating well.”  As Tom Ahern says “What are the best secrets? Be different. Be fun. Be authentic.”

By establishing a consistent pattern of communication of a minimum of twelve touches a year (I know, I know “Twelve??? But that’s too much!” Just do it.) you’re conditioning your donors and building lasting relationships.

9 Responses to “Don’t be shy – communicate!”

  1. Gail Perry says:

    Yes, yes, yes! My audiences are amazed when I tell them they need to be in front of their donors at least once a month. They go, “Whaaaaat?” But that’s what it takes to create a true relationship! Pamela, you’re the best – thanks for reminding us of something so very important!

  2. Pamela,
    I agree. When asking for money is your only form of communication, donors get very annoyed very fast.

    I do want to caution that for all donors, it is important to honor their wishes. If they don’t want your printed newsletter, please don’t send it. If they only want email, or don’t want email, do what they ask. Thank goodness for great donor management software so that you can add all of these unique preferences and provide the best service to your donors.

  3. Pam,
    I love that you put a number to your recommendation. People can meet a challenge and make a specific goal happen. I’d suggest that if a nonprofit sat down in December and calendared all the milestones they anticipate for 2011, 12 will be a piece of cake. Think of the special events, awards, funding awards, recipient responses and staff accomplishments that happen in one year.

  4. Pamela Grow says:

    A good reminder, Gayle, and another reason why data management is crucial. That’s also one reason why I’ve always recommended not sending your organization’s newsletter to foundation funders. From the days when I worked for a foundation I well recall how we were deluged with newsletters (and we rarely had the time to read them).

  5. Sandy Rees says:

    I totally agree Pamela. If we’re building friendships, we’ve got to connect and communicate. Regularly. Otherwise it’s not much of a friendship.


  6. Susan Chavez says:

    I absolutely agree! Donors give because they feel they can help an organization make a difference. If a donor does not feel that their contributions are valued then we shouldn’t be surprised if they decide to stop giving. Regular and genuine communications with donors are a great way to acknowledge how much they are integral to the work an organization does.

  7. Maryellen Madaio says:

    What a good reminder to welcome people when they register for your newsletter! In hindsight, I think what I’ve done in the past in a little canned. I think it would be wise to make more personal.

  8. Pamela Grow says:

    Absolutely! And remember what Dale Carnegie said? “The average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together.” A lot of nonprofits make the mistake of requiring TOO much information upon enews signup – but you DO want to require the first name and USE it. Use it often.

  9. […] Don’t be shy – communicate! “If we’re engaged in true relationship fundraising, communicating well and communicating often is key… By establishing a consistent pattern of communication of a minimum of twelve touches a year… you’re… building lasting relationships.” […]