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Season 2, Episode 16

Nonprofit fundraising experts Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt share their favorite donor stewardship tips and encourage you to use the holiday giving season to thank your donors for their past contributions in meaningful and appropriate ways.

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This episode was recorded as part of a live webinar held Monday, November 29, 2021. To participate in future webinars, register at ToolkitTalks.com.

Amy:
Today, we’re going to be talking about stewardship, right? It’s Thanksgiving season here in the US, and we’ve been thinking about what we’re thankful for, and it’s a great time to be stewarding your donors between now and year end. So, Andrea, as always, why don’t you kick us off by talking about strategies for stewardship at year end?

Andrea:
Yes. So, this is really one of my favorite topics. I think this time of year, we often think about asking people for money, right? This is the time we think about making our annual solicitations. And I don’t know, Amy, how many solicitations have you gotten in your mail and email? A lot – that’s what we get. We get a big stack of people asking us for money, which is appropriate because many, many people – many, many donors, of course, give at year end. They see how their year went financially, they save up the requests, and towards year end, they go through a big stack and they actually make a whole bunch of contributions. So you for sure should be asking people for money. I don’t have to tell you that.

You know that. But it also makes it an amazing time to put that aside at some point, or in addition to, to really think in a very intentional way about who the people are you want to take time to thank in this holiday spirit, this time of thankfulness, which here in this country begins with Thanksgiving and I think ends, it goes all the way through the end of the year, that I don’t know, if it’s the change in weather or the fact that people have fires in their fireplaces or that people that are doing jigsaw puzzles around tables and have music, but it… and the music is so familiar, but I think it tends to put us into a positive and appreciative mode.

And I think that for every one of your organizations, there probably are 20, 30, 40, 50 people who really are the foundation, who provide the financial foundation of your giving. And while you are asking people for money, it’s probably a good idea to take some time and think about how you might thank them and help them understand what an important and anchor or foundational role they play in your organization. I think that very often we don’t let people know that well enough. So we encourage you to take some time over these next few weeks and think about how you might beg people.

Using Campaign Tools to Aid Donor Stewardship

Andrea:
Now, in the Capital Campaign business, we are driven by, we use as a planning tool, the gift range chart, right? All of you here know or I imagine you know the gift range chart. Some people call it the donor pyramid, right? Where you show the relatively few gifts at the top and the number of gifts gets bigger as the size of the gift go down. And we often use that chart as our planning tool about who we’re going to solicit, in what way we’re solicit them, when we’re going to solicit them, how much we’re going to solicit them for. You can use that very same chart to help you think about how to appreciate donors, how to steward them, how to make them know what a difference they make to you and to your organization.

And if you have no other way that you regularly do that, we encourage you to do that. Pull out your gift range chart. Pull out your depth chart, showing, okay, who are the people who give the largest gifts who have given to you for the longest time, and what are the ways in which you want to reach out to them where they will know that you are actually thinking about them, right? You’re not just putting their names in a big list. It’s fine to see your name on a list. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s not the stewardship we’re looking for at this time of year. I’d rather that you thought much more personally and let each of those pillars in your community, and maybe there are 20 or 50 of them. I don’t know how many there are. Let each of them know what a difference they make and that you are not thinking about them as one of thousands, but you’re thinking about them as individuals and you want them to know how important they are. What would you add?

Amy:
Yeah, I think it’s important to thank all your donors at every level, and we’re not suggesting that you wouldn’t be thanking or stewarding all of your donors. It’s a question of how, and as Andrea points out, the campaign, the gift range chart or the gift pyramid, gift table, whatever you’re calling it, is a guide for how you’re going to ask, right, the people at the top of the pyramid get asked in personal, face to face, or virtual face to face. And the people at the very bottom of the pyramid, at the end of your campaign, get solicited by social media or by direct mail or whatever bulk solicitation methods.

So I think you should think about your thank you strategy in the same way you do about your solicitation strategy. So the people you’re asking for major gifts, whatever that means at your organization, $10,000 and above, you’d ask them face to face, one on one, and that’s how you should think about thanking them.

And even if you thank them after they gave their gift or they haven’t given their gift for this year or next year yet, or for your campaign, you still want to reach out in a personal way and let them know how your fundraising efforts are going, how your campaign is doing, how your programs and services are going, whatever the update and let them know that they played an important role in that in a personal and authentic way. If you could take the thank you, note, gift, letter, call, whatever, and exchange it for any donor in your database, it’s not personal. Right? So think about it.

If they get it and know not just that their name is different, but you specifically say, you volunteered for this or your children or some mention of something that they did or something that you know about them or something that makes them stand out so that they know that you are actually thinking about them when you crafted this thank you note, thank you gift, outreach, whatever it is, the more impact and memorable and meaningful it will be.

So you’re not going to be able to do this for everybody on your list, but Andrea’s encouraging you to think about who are the 20, who are the 30, who are the top 50 people? Can you leave something on their doorstep? Can you do something very personal and meaningful? So I’d like to ask in the chat box, actually, what are you doing to steward your biggest donors? The people at the very top of your gift pyramid this year, what are you going to be doing in December? What did you do in November that really stands out that you can’t do it for everybody on your list, but that you are going to do for the top 20 to 30 donors.

Personal Thank-You’s That Stand Out

Andrea:
Sarah has put a question or has asked in the question box. She said, I’d love to know about a personal thank you experience either of you have had that stands out in your mind? And I just have to share my most recent personal thank you experience, because it really was, it was just stunning to me. Some of you know that I have been working on this project in Providence, Rhode Island, for some time now and they are getting towards the end of their campaign and they have just done a wonderful, wonderful job. So this about a month ago, I actually sent them what from me is quite a generous gift, particularly for an organization that is not in my community, and I just felt moved to send them a gift.

And I got back the most stunning thank you letter. It was a handwritten note from the executive director who says, I’m just going to quote it. It’s wonderful. He says, “Andrea, on top of wisdom, friendship and fun, you are so generous to make a financial gift to our organization towards our ambitious building vision. We so appreciate you and the lessons we’ve absorbed.” And then with that, they had mocked up a toolkit page. They had gone onto the Capital Campaign Toolkit. They had taken the formatting of a toolkit page; the same typeface, the same colors, and they had created it that said at the top, Kihlstedt Wisdom. And they had 10 nuggets of things that they had learned from me over the past two or three years that I’ve been working with them. And it might have been taken from the toolkit, only they made it up.

I thought that’s such a brilliant thank you because it was so personal and so fun, and they, clearly, they sat down and thought, well, what have we learned from this woman and how can we let her know that we really have learned these things? And I don’t know if it took anybody very long to do that, but it was so thoughtful and so specific to what I… to my work with them. And I think that captures the essence of what a good thank you should be. It should say, if I were to thank Amy, I would thank Amy by telling her what a remarkable partner she is to me and how her ability to operationalize things, to always put a deadline on things and to figure out how they’re going to get done is like magical in how I work with her.

That noticing what Amy does well, noticing what any of your donors do and how they function will make a person, will make a thank you to those donors work. It’s not that it has to be fancy, not that it has to be extreme. It just has to see them. That’s the key to a good thank you… let them know that you see them, not just their money.

Amy:
The more specific you can be, even a small example is so critical and I have two examples and then we’re getting some good suggestions. Listen, if you’re putting something in the chat and you’re not clicking down on that blue box for everyone to see it, then just Andrea and I get to see your good ideas. So I’m going to read a couple of them, but first I’ll give my examples. So I think that anytime you can connect your thank you to the mission, it’s more meaningful. Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. One of the charities that I work with and that I donate to and I have for years and years is a soup kitchen, and they work with the homeless on all sorts of programs and projects. And they have a culinary school to teach people to be sous-chefs in restaurants, so they’re providing employment skills.

And one of the units, of course, is baking. They’re teaching their clients to bake. And so donors get boxes of fresh cookies with a note from clients saying how this turned their life around and why it’s important to them. And it’s just, of course, cookies are nice, but it’s the idea that the clients actually bake them and are learning to bake them and are going to be able to get jobs because they have this new skill, that this organization is providing. And so to me, that’s one super thoughtful thing. I think how do you know when you’ve done well. Andrea kept that note. She got that note about two weeks ago. It’s right on her desk, right? It will be on her desk for a long time to come.

It is not something that goes right into the waste paper basket. I have a note here, a thank you note, pinned on my bulletin board. And it came in an email and I printed it out and it is tacked to my bulletin board from 2016, right? So five years I’ve had this note. It is three lines. The subject is, you are my North Star. And it says, dear Amy, I’ve been telling people do this, that and the other things, something that I taught them and telling them why this matters and something that I taught them. It says a tanker takes time to turn and you turned this one and I pinned it up because it is so thoughtful, so specific. So, anyways, all right, so let’s-

Andrea:
So I want to call out what Andrea Hansen says here, because I think it just captures the spirit. She says in the chat, you can all read it. I personally sign all gift acknowledgements over $500 and look at their file, at their giving history. Then she appreciates and notes the things that she sees. If there’s a long giving history, right, or it’s a first time renewal or an increase. What it shows is that you actually are paying attention and that’s ever so much more important than anything fancy. It really is. The fact that you actually thought about them and it’s reflected in what you do matters. So, good for you, Andrea. I totally, totally appreciate that.

Let’s see. Some of you have talked about having board members, call donors. I think that’s a really good idea. And it’s a even better idea when you equip your board members with some information about what that donor has done, whether it’s the sum total of their giving, whether they did something special that year, whether they increased their gift. Right? Whether if you can get your board members to ask questions, prepare your board members, so they don’t feel like cold calls, then those calls can really strike at home, which is terrific.

Amy:
Katie’s saying, we are inviting a few special donors to our staff holiday party to celebrate with us. And so sometimes not everybody’s available to an event, but I think that the idea of celebrating together that donors are really partners with the staff, that one couldn’t do it without the other. The donors couldn’t make happen what you do as staff and staff couldn’t do what they do without the donations; the funny financial support. So the idea of celebrating together, I think, it’s a really nice idea. Thank you for sharing that. All right, let’s go to some questions. There’s also lots of great chat going on in the chat box. So if you don’t have that open, go ahead and open that, so you can see everybody’s good ideas. All right.

Andrea:
A couple of things, I want to deal with Lori’s question. She says, are there still nonprofits who pay their fundraising staff commissions? And Lori, I hope not. It is considered to be unethical. It shouldn’t happen. If it happens and you know of an organization where it’s happened, someone should talk to them and say that it is considered to be unethical in the field to do that. And I don’t think it’s true that fundraisers who work at nonprofits are generally getting rich, or I don’t know of very many, if any who are. But so it’s unfortunate that somebody would be downplaying the field like that. I think most of the fundraisers that we know work incredibly hard and certainly don’t get paid what they might get paid if they were working in other fields.

Amy:
Yes. I think whoever said that does not know many fundraisers. They would scoff at the idea that they’re getting rich working at a nonprofit fundraising for them. So that’s too bad. It’s a disservice to the field. The few unethical fundraisers that might be out there doing those things, it’s a shame.

Sending Virtual Thank-You’s

Andrea:
Yeah. Karen asks this. So what are the ways to thank those who don’t want the expense of sending thank you items or gifts. Is it okay, for example, to send a link to a virtual concert such as Handel’s Messiah? Absolutely. If that’s appropriate to your mission, that’s what you should do. Thank you gifts do not get more powerful because they are expensive. They get more powerful because they reflect something about the person you were thanking. That’s what makes them powerful. Right? It’s paradoxical that often people think, well, we send something big and big and expensive and fancy, then people are going to feel great. And that, by and large, isn’t the case. So by all means, send something, send a virtual concert, send an email, a simple email or a telephone call. I give it to several organizations every year. And part of the reason I do is because the executive director picks up the phone and say, hey, Andrea, I just got your check. Thank you so much. Goodbye. That’s all. I just know they noticed.

Amy:
Listen. And Karen, if you’re sending a virtual concert, a link to a virtual concert, I’m going to guess that you are a choir or performing arts center type of organization. If not, there should be a connection, I think, to what you send. You don’t want to… If it’s not your group doing the Handel’s Messiah concert, does it resonate? I’m not sure.

Andrea:
Well, it might. It might. Let’s say that her organization is not a choir or not a musical organization. She could send something that says, when I was listening to this the other day and I was moved by the spirit of this season and I was thinking about you and all of the amazing things you’ve done for our organization this year. Right. And I was particularly moved when I got your last check in the mail or something. You can make almost anything connect. Right. But it has to be genuine.

Is it Ever Too Late to Thank a Donor?

Amy:
Yes. All right, good. I think that’s right. All right. Let’s see. Somebody’s asking, is it ever too late to thank a donor for a gift? And I think the only time potentially it could be too late is the day you’re asking for the next gift, if you haven’t said thank you yet. So, if somebody gave you a gift six months ago or nine months go, I hope you thank them right at the time of the gift. You can follow up with an additional thank you. It does seem a little late if you’re asking for gifts this week and saying, thank you, but you didn’t thank, but thank along with the next ask and try and do better next year if that’s the case. Right.

Andrea:
Amy, the other that makes me think that the other aspect of thanking people is letting them know what their money accomplished.

Amy:
Yes.

Andrea:
And you can always do that. Right. If someone sent, let’s say someone sends you a gift. For some reason or another, the thank you never got sent, all right. That’s bad. You know it’s bad. It shouldn’t have happened. Okay. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get back. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in touch with them. What you might do the next year is to say, oh my goodness, I was just looking and I realized that the thank you note we meant to send you last year never got sent, but let me take the time now to tell you the amazing things that you helped make happen this year. Right.

I truly hope you will consider supporting us and I promise you, we will never… Your thank you is never going to get lost again. I’d respond to that, if somebody said that to me, if it’s honest, it’s open, it’s forthright, it doesn’t pretend and it focuses on what my money accomplished, whether or not you thank me. People give because they want their money to accomplish something. So use that in your stewardship communications every time you can.

Let Top Donors Know the Impact their Gift Made

Amy:
So that’s what you should be focused on at this time of year, is letting people know how the year went, what impact their gift made, what you accomplished as a result of their gift and others. It doesn’t have to be only their gift, right? You don’t have to say, you gave $10,000 and you were able to feed the world, that doesn’t make any sense. But you can say, thanks to your gift and others, and it depends on what they funded or what they did. I just wanted to read one… Somebody wrote, Karen wrote, we created a small cookbook produced in-house with the staff’s favorite summer recipes. We sent it out to a random group of a hundred donors; well, random or targeted. It was super popular. How great is that? I think that’s really sweet, it’s heartfelt. It’s not expensive. It’s a little time consuming and you can say, I hope this is something you enjoy. And if it’s connected to the mission, even better, but if not, it comes from the staff, which is really sweet.

Andrea:
Yeah, and we have a really good suggestion here. He says, with every thank you, they send an article that shows how their contributions are making a difference. And that’s an easy way to show impact, right? To have something printed that you would include. And then you could say in your note, take a look at the attached to see what your gift helped us achieve this year.

Amy:
Yeah. Lucy, you’re asking for recommendations to help the president understand the important of a thank you gift, and we don’t want to emphasize that it needs to be a thank you gift. It can be a thank you call. It can be a thank you email. It can be a thank you note. It needs to be specific and detailed if possible. And that’s more important than a gift. So, don’t focus on the gifts, focus on what you’re going to do for each level of donors, right. What are you going to do for your top 20 donors? And then what are you going to do for the next hundred donors? And then what are you going to do for everybody else? And the bigger the donors, the more specific and concrete and tangible you can be.

Andrea:
My Providence client has developed this year a, what do they call it? An investment portfolio report for their top 30 donors, or however many, something like that. And they created a format and it says, it documents… At the top, it documents when they made their first gift to the organization and how much money they have given since that first gift. And it says, we so appreciate… we appreciated your first gift and we have appreciated all of the subsequent gifts, however many gifts that you, this is documented, you have made since. And then there’s a chart that shows gifts that they made to the annual; annual gifts, capital gifts, event gifts. It just shows people what they’ve done. And at the bottom, it is a documentation of key elements in the growth of the timeline of the growth of the organization, saying here in broad brush are the things that you have helped us accomplish over these years.

That’s powerful, right? It really is powerful. It says, here’s what you’ve done. Many donors don’t know how long they’ve given to an organization or how much they’ve given, or how many contributions or what kinds of contributions. And it took some doing for them to come up with a portfolio format. It’s one page. But I think if you were to get that, it just deepens your… deepens a donor’s relationship to the organization, if they know that the organization is looking at them as investors. They are being treated as though they’re investors, which of course they are. And I thought that was a great idea. Take some doing, right. And they would send that along with personal notes or a personal going out for a cup of coffee and reviewing it or something like that.

Amy:
Make sure you have good donor records if you’re going to do that. You don’t want to get it wrong. So let’s go to some of the questions in the Q and A box, Andrea. So Andrea or Andrea is asking, are annual report or impact reports still valued, and should donor names be included? My organization debates the return on investment, on creating and mailing a print version, but we do create an online version without donor names. I think there can be arguments made for either way. And in part, it depends on the culture at your organization and the expectations. I would open it up to the chat box, to the audience who still prints their annual report. And if so, what do you think the ROI is? I think, I don’t know if there’s data on it, honestly. If anybody has access to data, that would be great as well. But I would only print donor names if you know your donor data is accurate because you don’t want to be printing anything that’s inaccurate. Andrea, do you want to add anything else to that?

Andrea:
Yeah, and the related question was whether you should print donor names by giving amount, by gift to amount. That, for years and years, was standard practice. And as long as you give your donors an opportunity to say that they wish to be anonymous, right, then you would still include them just by putting anonymous in that giving level. I personally think it’s helpful to do that. People want to see the company they keep. Right, which is why it’s helpful. They want to see the company they’re in. Right. Who’s in my giving club? And I know I’ve certainly looked down lists of donors where I’ve made a contribution to see the company I’m in and I think I’m not alone.

Should You Mention Tax Deductions?

Amy:
Yes, I think, yeah. Okay. All right. Let’s go to Jay’s question. We’re having a debate right now about whether or not to mention in our giving Tuesday email. I hope they’re done, but it sounds like they’re not giving Tuesday tomorrow. The change in the IRS rules to allow people to take a $300 deduction or just ignore the change. So, the data tells us that people don’t make giving decisions based on tax deductions. That’s certainly not the primary motivator for giving. So, to me, it’s just extra clutter in your email. If you want to put it small at the bottom somewhere, but I don’t know. I don’t think it’s an important part of the argument as to why to give. If people are giving because of a deduction or not a deduction, they’re not going to be a loyal donor in the long run. I don’t think it’s relevant. Andrea, would you say anything else?

Andrea:
Yeah, I have mixed feelings about that. I agree with you, and there has been a fair amount of research done that people don’t give because they’re going to get a tax deduction. That certainly is true. And yet people like getting a tax deduction.

Amy:
That is true.

Andrea:
Right. That’s true also. So, for example, this gift that I gave to the organization I mentioned before, I gave it through my retirement fund. I gave it out of my minimum required distribution, right? Where I could give money pre-tax money right, to this organization. So my money would go farther. And had I not been able to do that, I would’ve given that gift anyway. It’s not why I gave the gift, but I felt very clever in giving it that way. Right? It gave a certain satisfaction. So I think if there’s an easy way to include that in the small print, I think it’s probably worth including for those of us who like to think that we’re getting a twofer or something. Again, don’t think that’s why people are giving, it is not why they’re giving. They’re giving because of your mission, because they want to do good in the world. And it’s also neat to know that you won’t pay taxes on that money.

Amy:
Excellent. All right. Okay. So people are weighing in, in the chat and Terry says, I believe it’s still important to point out the tax advantages of IRA distributions. So, feel free to continue to read in the chat. I think that’s fine.

Andrea:
Lee Maxwell has raised a really interesting question because, and I want to raise it, it has come up in a number of ways for me recently. He or she has said, and I think it’s in response to my talking about these portfolio things by enumerating total donations to each of the major donors, that could backfire if the donor says, whoa, I’ve given too much, so I’ll stop now. And I think that’s a good question to ask. I really do think it’s a good question to ask. In the related question, is when someone like MacKenzie Scott gives an organization $1 million or $5 million, and do you publicize that, or will people think, well, if they got $1 million from MacKenzie Scott, they don’t need my money anymore.

What we have seen to be true again and again, is that once people invest in something, and their investment is successful, right, that it accomplishes what it’s set out to do. They want to invest more. And when someone has given a big gift to the organization, if you can articulate why you need more money, the big gift won’t deter people, it will make them feel like they’re part of something big and special that was picked out. In the MacKenzie Scott gifts that I’ve seen happen, or organizations I’ve seen happen, they drew money, people wanted to give more because she had picked that organization out.

That made them more interested. So your question’s a really good one and really worth thinking about because it might be the other way around. You have to be very good at articulating why your mission is important and the fact why you need money, right. And why their investment has been so important in helping your organization, then they are likely to want to give more, not less. So thank you for asking that question. It’s a great, great thing to think about.

Naming Opportunities with Term Limits

Amy:
All right. So we’ve got a juicy campaign question. We haven’t really been focused on campaigns today, which is often the focus of these Toolkit Talks, but somebody’s asking anonymously, we’re planning a campaign 10 years after the original campaign to build the building. Some rooms and spaces were named for individuals and companies, term limits for naming weren’t included in agreements, and stewardship has been hit or miss. So the question is, how do they… what do you do about… I think there’s a few questions in here, Andrea, I’m going to let you start. First, I think there’s a question about naming and, if you’ve named a room for 10 years and then the room’s being redone or something like that, how do you rename it? How do you go back to those donors if they haven’t been stewarded properly to ask for additional funds? It’s challenging, right?

Andrea:
Well, it’s a big deal these days, right? For somehow or other, this idea of naming opportunities with term limits has become a thing recently. And maybe I’m old fashioned. I’m old enough to be old fashioned. I’ve earned that. But I have to tell you that I don’t much buy it. I don’t buy the idea of term limits. I really don’t. In fact, I’m more and more questioning the whole issue of naming spaces for people who give money, but that’s a whole different conversation. But why am I not for term limits? I think there are lots of things you can do to continue to name spaces and to recognize donors that don’t terminate a gift that was given in good faith, to name a space in a new building, right? To me, it’s awkward and bizarre to go back and say, well, you need to give more money if you want your name to continue to be on this building.

Here’s what’s wrong with it. Again, I’m going to sound like a broken record. People don’t give in order to have their name on your building. People give because they want your organization to be able to do more good. Now, putting in someone’s name on the building is a form of donor stewardship. So this question is very appropriate for this call today, because we’re talking about donor stewardship. And in fact, those of us who have been in the capital campaign business, find that with great frequency, you end up at the end of the campaign going back to people to see what room they would like their name on. That it’s an afterthought, not a sales process, right? It often is the case that people don’t really care about having their names on the room, but you go back because it was in your policies and you say, well, for this much money, you could put your name on this hallway or whatever it is, right?

But it becomes stewardship. People are not buying rooms. They’re not really buying, seeing their names. Most of them would rather not have their names on the rooms. Right? But once their names are on the room, it seems so when you go back to them and say, you have to, what do you call it? Fasten, not fasten up again. You have to pony up. That’s the word I’m looking for. You have to pony up again if you want to keep your name on that room, it turns the whole gist of the conversation away from what it really is. And what’s really going on and what you should focus on is that the donors are giving to help you do a better job of serving the people you serve, whether it’s by building a new building or developing programs.

The naming is a recognition process, not a sales process of, look how great I am. My name is on your building. So if you keep that in your mind, it will shift the way you think about what to do with donors. Now, if you want to use the naming opportunities a second time, you can have two plaques on each room. You can say in 2008, the renovation of 2008 was made possible by Susan Smith, right? The renovation of 2022 was made possible by Sally Jones. Fine, keep them all, right? If the building is being torn down and there’s a new library to build, new building being built, take the old plaques, mount them in a room in the new building where the sign that says, we walk on the shoulders of the people who have come before us. These are the people who have helped build this institution. You don’t just throw those plaques away. Right?

Amy:
I think that’s the key, right? It’s figuring out how are you going to recognize the donors to the previous campaign? I think obviously if they have not been stewarded over the last 10 years, you’ve got a mountain to climb and you may or may not be ready for your next campaign. So reaching out to them and saying, this is what we’re thinking, you haven’t been involved in a while. Some of that’s our fault. We’re hoping that you could, whatever it is, we want some feedback. Would you like to get involved again? Hopefully they’ve continued to be donors, but I think acknowledging them as previous campaign donors is key to hopefully not reviving those relationships, but continuing those relationships.

Should You Leave a Voice Mail Thank You?

Andrea:
So let’s go to Nancy’s comment here, because I really am so agreeing with what she said. She said, I recently received a recorded thank you voicemail from a national organization I support. I found it off putting, formulaic and impersonal. Anyone using this method of stewardship? Thoughts? So, by and large, I think that’s right. And I think it depends on how it’s done. So I am a supporter of the ACLU and Anthony Romero who the head of the ACLU is just a towering figure in my opinion. Right? That he really is. He’s a remarkable human being, whether you agree with him or not, he is a remarkable human being. If I were to get a recorded message from Anthony Romero, even though I know it went out to millions of people, where he talked about civil liberties and how my gift helped make a difference, I think I would be tickled even if it had nothing personal in it, though I may be wrong.

Amy:
So, the thing is Nancy, Andrea is pointing that out and she’s acknowledging she’s not one of the top 100 donors to, what was it? ACLU?

Andrea:
Yes, ACLU; American Civil Liberties Union. That’s right. Far from it, right?

Amy:
Her thank you is in scale and scope connected to her gift. I have no idea how much she’s giving, it doesn’t matter.

Andrea:
How much, right?

Amy:
It does the matter. $100 a month, $1,000 a month. She’s not one of their top 100 or 500 donors. And so if the CEO actually called her, it would be a ridiculous use of energy, would not be a good use of his time. And so to some donors, there has to be some automated, thank you process. And a recording, listen, we have to use technology when it makes sense to use technology. And some donors and you are an example, so I don’t know the details of the donation that you made or the organization that did it, but the reality is that some of our thank you processes and solicitation processes are going to be more automated and the lower the donor or the donation, the more automated it’s going to be.

Andrea:
And how it’s done makes all the difference. Right? Let me just give you a totally made up example. If you are a small level donor and you get a recorded message from the executive director that says, thank you very much for your contribution to the XYZ organization, we really appreciate your gift, and that’s it, it would be totally hollow. But if that message says, this is so and so, the executive director of the such and such organization. Last year, we received 20,233 gifts and your gift was among them, together we did such and such and you played a role in making that happen. I would’ve like that. I would like that. So it has to do with how it’s written. It has to feel like it’s about me, the donor, or you, the donor, not just a, what did you say? Formulaic and impersonal. You can write things that go out to everybody that do not feel formulaic and impersonal. That’s the art of it, when you get to the broad base.

Amy:
Excellent. All right. So lots of good things going on in the chat over here. So, Karen is saying, my favorite thank you was from my Alma mater, they sent an email that had the university choir sing, and you clicked to the link with your name and gift. Another time they used their Alma mater in various scenarios to say thank you as a university. Of course, they had the resources, but at minimal costs, these could be copied. And there’s so many companies out there that make this possible. The faster technology goes, the less expensive it gets. So I think, in the chat, I’d love to see what kind of thank you video systems and technology you are using. That would be great.

All right. Yes, Amy says, if you want to save time in making thank you videos, you can consider bookending the videos with personal intro or ending. You make one video for all donors, but then maybe the top donors, you bookend with a personalized video. And there’s tons of companies out there that help you do that. And it’s click, click, click, and you say, you know what, thank you, Amy. This is coming your way. And then the generic message. All right, good.

Andrea:
Those are all good ideas, Amy, don’t you think?

Amy:
Yeah, I think they’re great ideas.

Thanking People Makes You Feel Good

Andrea:
Here’s the neat thing that we haven’t talked about, Amy. The funny thing about thanking people is that it makes you feel better. It makes the person who’s doing the thanking feel better, right? That if you actually spend dedicated time every week or 20 minutes a day or an hour a week, or however many times, looking down your donor list and thinking about the people that you want to thank that made a difference in your organization or your work or your life, that by the time you actually get in touch with them, even if it’s just a simple email or a phone call or a message or whatever it is you do, you’re going to feel like a million bucks before that time is over.

Amy:
I don’t know if you’re thinking of this particular survey, but there’s a fairly famous research study done by Martin Seligman. And he’s a pretty famous, I don’t know what he is.

Andrea:
Happiness guy. He’s the happiness guy.

Amy:
Yeah. So what he did was he studied, he invited participants in whatever study he was doing to write thank you notes. And he measured their levels of happiness before and after they wrote out their genuine heartfelt thank you. And they didn’t even have to send them, that wasn’t the point. The point was actually the act of thanking, writing it out and thinking about thanking someone. And he found that showing gratitude actually makes you happier. So to back up Andrea’s point, this is important stuff. All right. So some companies that make personalized videos. Amy is saying Vidyard, GradVid and Blackbaud makes some. ThankView is another one. There’s lots of companies now doing these thank you videos that help you do them quickly and effectively and efficiently, so.

Andrea:
Thank you for sharing those Amy. Also Suzy and Goodkind. Yeah, there are many organizations and the technology makes it so, so easy, right? Oh, here, Yolanda has, this is a nifty one, stewardship call she received was from one of the members of the fall team who called her for supporting the team by being a seasoned ticket holder. Yeah. Can you imagine getting a call from the football player? That’s cool. Right?

Amy:
That is exactly how and when and why you should use your clients. If it’s appropriate, obviously. In this case, it is. If somebody is a seasoned ticket holder or supporting the athletics department, then having a student athlete call is a perfectly not only appropriate, but so thoughtful and specific way to thank your donors. So think about how can you use your clients, your theme, your mission in your thank you’s. Okay. Andrea, I think we have provided lots of great ideas for today. I want to encourage anybody who’s thinking about a capital campaign in 2022 to start planning immediately, and that involves thanking and stewarding some of your biggest donors. If you would like to talk to us specifically about your campaign or any campaign questions you have, of course, we would love to talk to you.

So I want to encourage you to visit the Capital Campaign Toolkit website, which is just capitalcampaigntoolkit.com and sign up for a free strategy session. And we will brainstorm some ideas with you personally, and answer any of your campaign questions. So, all right. On that note, I think let’s have everybody in the chat box just say what you are grateful for this week. Why don’t we do a gratitude exercise as we start to close out. So what did you give thanks for this week at Thanksgiving? I don’t know, what else, Andrea? Let’s hear it in the chat box.

What We’re Most Thankful For…

Andrea:
What did you give thanks for this week, Amy? I know you had a full Thanksgiving week.

Amy:
We did. I think a lot of people are saying it, it really was togetherness after a whole year of not being with family. Everybody was in the room for the first time together. So it made it more special. We were thinking back on last year, nobody was vaccinated. Nobody did Thanksgiving together, not in my family anyways. So it was really special to have everybody live and in person. So, what about you?

Andrea:
I was grateful to see my grandchildren, two of my grandchildren whom I don’t get to see very often. That was just a treat to see how utterly sweet they are. And just to watch them play, to watch how the creative spirit at work and to see families come together. I feel very fortunate these days. I feel fortunate to have a husband of so many years and to have a healthy and good place to live. Yeah. I feel very fortunate.

Amy:
Excellent.

Andrea:
So, Paul, Peter suggested I speak with you. Paul, the thing for you to do is to get in touch with me.

Amy:
That’s Nancy. Paul —

Andrea:
Who is that? Oh, Paul has suggested. That’s what it is. Nancy, email me, andrea@capitalcampaigntoolkit.com. That’s the best way to do it.

Amy:
Yep. You got to send us an email. Reach out. Go to the Capital Campaign Toolkit website. You’ll find our email there, but it’s just andrea@capitalcampaigntoolkit.com or amy@capitalcampaintoolkit.com. All right, thanks everybody. We’ll see you next week. Special guest is Vu Le, we’re going to be talking about diversity, equity and inclusion with a very special guest Vu Le next Monday. So we hope you’ll join us. And at first-

Andrea:
I’m so excited by that, Amy. Invite your friends and your colleagues to join, send them the link. It’s going to be, he’s a really, really interesting guy. He writes really well. He has taught really deeply on that subject. It’s going to be wonderful, fun and interesting to have him.

Amy:
Just go to toolkittalks.com and you will find his information and you will be able to sign up if there are others at your organization who want to join us for that call, they need to register. So just toolkitalks.com and you will be able to register for Vu Le’s talk next week.

All right. Bye everybody.

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