Personalized holiday cards, trinkets, a call from a board member, state of the organization letter, “thank you to our donors” mailing and social media posts. This time of year, you may be trying to figure out how to engage some of your most faithful and supportive donors.
We’re all familiar with the golden rule. As a young fundraiser, I learned about the platinum rule, “Treat others how they would like to be treated.”
I thought about the platinum rule one year while trying to figure out how to engage our major donors during the holidays. Instead of focusing on my plan, I thought about what theywould want and what I could give them with a great deal of sincerity.
Here’s what helped me engage in a meaningful way with donors:
Identification – Create a list of donors you want to connect with in a meaningful way this season. It does not have to be a long list. Try eight to ten donors this year. Even five if that’s all you have time for. You can always plan to do more next year. Also, pay attention to length of giving not just how much they give.
Schedule time to be grateful – Once I created my list, I would gather their giving history and any other information I had about them. Then, I would schedule approximately 20-30 minutes per donor to personally reflect on their impact and write several statements why I am thankful for this person. Some statements would focus on the difference they’re making in our community. Others may focus on how they give or a program they support. I would also focus on things like a personality trait, perfect meeting attendance, or some way they helped me earlier in the year. The more you are genuinely and uniquely grateful the more it will come across to the donor, and you’ll be more comfortable sharing. The catch is… you have to set time aside for this. It won’t happen in the four minutes between the end of a meeting and your trip to review stamps for your holiday mailing.
Go see them – Remember the platinum rule? You visit with them to better share their impact, express your gratitude, and listen. The reason you go see them is NOT to bring them a trinket or to execute your stewardship plan. Take this opportunity to learn more about why your mission is important to them and what they like most about the organization. Share the organization’s strategic priorities for next year and ask if they have any questions or feedback. If you’re daring enough, ask how they would describe their donor experience with the organization and if they have a favorite donor experience from any organization.
Bonus Tip: Record these gratitude statements and visits in your database! I found it helpful to revisit these notes throughout the following year. You’ll also be more efficient and help the development office by consolidating more donor information in the database.
You can do it! Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.
All the best,
Kenny Sigler, CFRE