Keep Calm and Mail On

After Canada Post’s statement on job action this week made headlines across Canada, we’ve had many clients contacting us with concerns and seeking advice.

It’s understandable.  After all, so many of us are either in production for important fall and holiday mailings or are just about to be.  A postal service disruption during the crucial November and December giving months could be devastating.

My advice? Take a deep breath and keep on going and be prepare to make some course corrections in the event of a strike.

Why, you ask?

First, I honestly believe both Canada Post and CUPW understand how devasting a severe and prolonged postal service disruption would be for both parties’ long-term interests.

Second, recent history points to a mild or averted disruption.  In 2016, the strike was averted and the job action in the summer of 2011 lasted just over a week.

So what does this all mean in practical terms for you and your program right now?

Let’s look at the 2011 strike situation as an guide.

Back then, I had two clients in full direct mail production as the rotating strikes started.  And a third had just mailed.

For the two clients in production we worked with vendors to quickly add an insert in one client package and a PPS to the other’s letter (according to the stage of production.)

The insert was extremely simple (think 1980s elementary school note-home-from-the-office, photocopied on canary yellow paper) that outlined the issue and gave donors options for making their gift besides using Canada Post (IE online or by phone).

The insert invited donors to call a specific person (the one signing the note; it was a very personal and informal message)) at the charity to make a gift.  One client (a community hospital) even offered to have a staff member or volunteer pick up their cheque.  Donors were also reminded they could make a secure and convenient gift online.

The message explained that their support was more important than ever because the postal disruption could mean that some people wouldn’t give so that their decision to help and give via another method was very important decision.  The PPS stated the same info in a little more concise way.

The 3rd client who had already delivered their mailing to Canada Post added messages to their website and got the word out via an email alert, social media and did a voice broadcast call.

Following our advice, one client continued to inform their donors about the impact of the strike for the balance of the year, using buckslip inserts (same format and look as the original notice) in the final 3 solicitation packs for the year (fall campaign in September, holiday in November and year-end in December)

These messages let donors know that the June campaign results were lower than goal and explained the impact of the reduced revenue on the hospital staff and patients and restated the additional giving options (phone, personal pickup and online.)

Why am I so confident about this approach?

Because it worked.

Not one of my clients had year-on-year revenue reductions in 2011.  And the client that continued the message for the balance of the calendar year?  They had a record holiday campaign (the campaign that raises 45% of their entire DM annual revenue in a program that mails seven times per year), a record that still stands.

The key is to move forward thoughtfully and purposefully and be ready to make any needed adjustments.  You’ll sleep better at night, be ready to seize opportunities to successfully engage your donors and deepen your relationship with them.

 

FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION, visit Canada Post’s update page.

 

Do you have any comments or an idea on how to survive a postal strike during the crucial holiday fundraising season?  Share them here, or you can Email or call David (toll-free in North America on 1-800-991-3318 x101 or on our New Zealand freephone 0800 995 054). 


Writing to Humans

an OTG guest post by Sheena Greer

Ever read something and think “was this written by aliens? Or robots? Or robot aliens?”

I feel this way a lot.

Especially when I comb over fundraising appeals that arrive in my mailbox. Certainly, I’m more critical than your average person, but my guess is that if an appeal fills me with disappointment, it’s having a much more devastating effect on the broader audience.

Apathy.

Apathy is the social sector’s biggest enemy. There are many reasons why people are apathetic, but the root cause is very fixable.

In his TedTalk “Redefining Apathy”, Dave Meslin suggests that people want to do great things, but we live in a world that actively discourages engagement.

How so? Poor communication. On purpose. Or accidentally.

Instead of engaging humans in their own language, we engage them with the language of a machine.

Organisations are machines. Not unlike robots.

I hope your organisation is a well-oiled machine (as opposed to a rusted-out old boat.) Imagine this. Your board is fantastic. Your ED is superb. Your staff is delivering the best possible programs to the community you serve. And the community is way better for it.

Wonderful!

The only problem? You’re severely under-funded.

The machine needs fuel. It needs the hearts and minds (and dollars!) of humans to keep it moving.

“Our programs are so awesome! Why aren’t people giving?” This is something I hear quite a bit from people working on the front lines. “Our mission so important…our work is improving and saving lives!”

The problem is that the language we use when speaking with donors and others in the community is far too similar to the language we use internally.  The effect of this ‘loss in translation’?  Apathy.

So how do we write for humans? It isn’t too hard, but there are some basic concepts you need to keep in mind.

1)     Know your audience. And “general public” isn’t an acceptable answer. There are individuals in the world who are going to care deeply about your cause, and there are individuals who simply won’t.

You need to get to know the former and cut your losses on the latter.

We often view “preaching to the choir” as negative. But the choir is your audience, along with the parishioners, and even people straggling in the foyer.  These iare the people you need to focus on activating and keeping activated. The passersby on the street likely won’t be converting anytime soon.

2)     Kill the royal we.  One of the biggest mistakes an organisation can make is to talk too much about itself.  And too much is usually a lot less than many of us think.  So, how do you inform and show impact without doing this?

Make it about the royal you.  Tell donors that the wonderful things you are accomplishing is all because of them.  You will connect to their hearts.  Invite them to share their dreams for change.  They will commit to make them come true.

“Because of you, Samantha was able to finish school.”

“You can imagine how incredible it feels to be told you are cancer-free.”

“You made all of this possible.”

3)     Use plain language. Plain language isn’t “dumbing things down.” It communicates your message in a simple and powerful way.

No jargon.  No rambling.  No bullshit.

“It has come to the attention of management that an excess in ultra contemporary diminutive humanoid garments for lower body extremities has unfortunately resulted in increased pressure to downsize due to inadequate performance.”

No!

Plain language gets to the point and, as my old creative writing prof used to say, “goes for the jugular!”

“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”

4)     Don’t be afraid of emotion.  Embrace it and don’t let it go!  The work we’re doing is emotional! We see the darkest parts of humanity. We also witness miracles.

It isn’t just about joy and pain. What about humour? Curiosity? Surprise? Sorrow? Frustration? Courage?

Go ahead.  Stir up emotions in your audience. Humans feel. And when humans feel deeply, change is made.

5)     Ask and be clear. All too often, we can forget to include a call to action. We can’t be afraid to ask people directly for what we want – whether it’s a fundraising appeal asking for dollars or a Facebook post requesting volunteers for an event. Using vague statements like “we need your support” is meaningless.

6)     Communication is best when it’s one-on-one. We can’t always sit face to face with our donors, but we need to mimic this in our communications. No “Dear friends” or even “Dear Supporter.” No “Sincerely, The entire board of this organisation” signatories.

Think of a wonderful personal letter (or email) you’ve received.

Sheena,
I love you and I’m your number one fan. Your mom and I are so proud of you!
Love ya Beans,
Dad

OR

Dear child,
We appreciate you and your continued efforts towards excellence.
Respectfully,
Management of the Miller Family.

Which note do you think made me tear up when I read it?

7)     Tell a story. Humans have evolved to tell stories. We haven’t evolved to comb through statistics and facts and dry, boring reports. Robots LOVE numbers and statistics.  So send those to your robot overlords.

Stories are for humans. Their brains are hard-wired for them.  Tell your stories to your humans!

8)     Say what you need to say – no more, no less. Likely, we could go on and on about our organisations. We think that much of what happens in the day to day of it all is important. And it is – internally.

Here’s a surefire formula for success.  Choose your topic well, tell a great story filled with emotion, use plain language and clearly ask for a donation.  That’s it, you’re done.  Don’t force it.  Cramming too much into a 2 page letter, or trying to fill the dead space of a not-quite 4 page letter will end in heartache – for you, and your reader.

This is a first of several guest blog posts from some of our very favourite fundraisers and people-who-work-with fundraisers.  Sheena Greer from colludo.ca is an ass-kicking do-gooder and committed charity communications professional.  You can reach her directly by email or phone (306-230-1951).

And if you enjoy this post, just imagine how much donor chemistry a colludo/FundraisingPharmacy mashup could create for your charity.  Email or call David (toll-free in North America on 1-800-991-3318 x101 or on our New Zealand freephone 0800 995 054) today for free, no obligation advice. 


One simple step to create healthy donor relationships.

 

None of Your Business - image for blog
 
Does your charity direct donors to call a toll-free or auto-attendant line instead of a real person who can help?  Or do you invite donors to email info@charitymeh.com on your Planned Giving webpages?  If so, this is what you are really saying to donors desperately trying to connect to a human being at your organization.
 

 

There is one powerfully simple way you can instantly begin creating healthy, effective and rewarding long-term donor relationships:

Ensure your donors can easily find the name, phone number and email address of a real live person that can help them with an inquiry, complaint, compliment or even a donation.  Then invite them to use this information.  Invite them to call, email or pop by.  For any reason.

Next, make sure this information is everywhere your donors’ eyes are…thank you letters, direct mail reply/donation forms, annual report, newsletter, brochures and on every single page of your website.

Why?

  • Donors won’t just figure it out.
  • It speaks volumes that your organization is thoughtful and takes donor relationships seriously.
  • Most donors will never call, email or pop in, but there’s a comfort and trust factor knowing that they can.
  • You will create a culture shift to focus on donor needs and service.
  • You will build loyalty and loyal donors are incredibly valuable (monthly, midmost and bequest donors usually start as loyal donors).

The simplicity of this gesture belies its power.

It can deliver millions to your organization long term.

Take a few minutes now and find the places you can make this change quickly and easily. Then take a few more minutes tomorrow to make sure it happens.  You’ll be prepared to really maximize that massive effort you’re putting into your fundraising this busy holiday season.

It’s an incredibly effective way you can show your donors the respect and love they deserve.

Do you need some more ideas on creating donor chemistry?  Call David toll-free in North America on 1-800-991-3318 x101 (or on our New Zealand freephone 0800 995 054) today for free, no obligation advice. 

This post was originally prepared for the AFP Toronto Congress 2014 blog and can also be viewed by clicking here.

Donor stewardship tips from a 12-year old boy

I remember the first time I had to ask my son to pick up the phone and call his grandparents to say thank you for a gift he had received.  You would have thought I was asking him to enter into the scariest of haunted houses all on his own – he was terrified!

I couldn’t figure it out.

It’s not like he was calling strangers.  And he was grateful.  But he couldn’t do it.  He was afraid of the phone.

When we talked about it, I realized that his fear of picking up the phone had to do with feeling awkward and just not knowing what to say…

Your donors are not strangers.  You should not feel awkward about picking up the phone and letting them know how much your organization appreciates their commitment to your cause.  They care and they need to know that you care too.

So pick up that phone and say thanks!  Let your donors know just how important they really are.  Here are 3 ideas to help alleviate that awkward feeling:

1. Have a plan.  A simple plan that allows you to set aside a small chunk of time each week to pick up the phone and say thank you to your donors will help you to develop a routine, and create good habits when it comes to engaging and retaining your donors.  You may be fortunate and have a list that seems impossible to get through, so prioritize.

Try this order:

  • All first time donors must get a call — regardless of gift size.
  • After that, call anyone who increases their gift over what they gave last time.
  • Next, call those who are giving their second (or third or fourth) gift that year.
  • Then, decide on a cut-off point based on a dollar amount for the rest.
  • Don’t forget your recurring donors who give quarterly or monthly. They could use a “thank you” call at least once/year, after all they are probably some of your most loyal supporters!

2. Get your Board members to pick up the phones to say thanks. It’s a great way to engage the Board in fundraising, especially if they are hesitant about asking for money.  Having a Board member reach out to your donors helps organizations connect with their donors without asking for a cent.  You may even learn a bit more about why your donors support your organization.  And as an added bonus, studies show that after a thank you call, the donor gift increases in size!

Penelope Burk, author of Donor Centered Fundraising, is constantly conducting research to find out what donors want and what you need to do to keep your donors loyal.  In one study, board members called to thank donors within 24 hours of making a gift.  The results were amazing: Donors who were called gave 39% more the next time they were solicited.

3. Not sure what to say? Be sincere.  Tell them who you are and that you are not calling to ask them for money, rather you just want to thank them for the gift they made.  Maybe you can tell them what the money was used for – let them know how they directly made an impact.  If they ask you questions, answer them – if you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out and get back to them.  It’s that simple.

And if they have more time to spend with you, ask them why they chose to give to your organization.  Let them know just how integral they are to your organization.

Fundraising is about building relationships.  It takes time and care.  But a phone call is the simplest, most direct way to reach your donors, and to ensure that they know they are valued.

My son now loves to pick up the phone and chat. So do his sisters. Thank goodness my cell phone is my own (most days)!

Would you like to build long-term and rewarding relationships with more of your donors?  Do you need some help with your stewardship plan? Call Andrea toll-free 1-800-991-3318 x103 today for a free, no obligations chat. 

One is the loneliest number.

When it comes to direct mail fundraising, it’s also the most unrewarding.

One of the questions I get asked most frequently when speaking at conferences or Fundraising Pharmacy training sessions is why I always recommend multiple mailings in a year.  It’s not just people I meet who are new to direct mail or fundraising who ask.  It’s a question that many seasoned fundraisers ask, too.

Effectively their queries boil down to this:

“Why not just send one highly effective and efficient appeal each year and be done with it?”

Seems like a great idea at first blush.  We’d save staff time, mailing costs (and those pesky project consulting fees).

But years of testing and data analysis tell us that the most effective approach is more involved.  Why?  Well, when it comes right down to it, it’s because we are working with humans.

It’s difficult to get people’s attention, even loyal donors.

This is both good news and bad news.

First, the bad news…donors aren’t always paying attention to what we send them in the mail.  And not every appeal theme or issue appeals to all donors.  This is the “Right Ask at the right time” mantra that direct marketers live by.  We have to send multiple appeals with multiple offers in order to capture as many people’s interest as possible.

And as Liz Rejman at Museum London also emphasized in a recent discussion on this very topic, “sometimes when we ask, it may not be a good time for a donor to make a gift or they may intend to donate and forget.”

Liz is bang on.  Like a lot of things in life, timing is key!  And since we can’t possibly time a single appeal to work for every single donor, sending multiple appeals is the best way to maximise your revenue and (even more important) maximise the number of donors that will stay current.

Now here’s the good news…

It’s actually a good thing that the one-perfect-mail-piece doesn’t exist.  Because what we’ve learned over the years is that many donors will make more than one gift in a year.  It stands to reason.  They are passionate about the work you do…you share multiple ways their gifts can make a difference… some donors will decide to help more than once.

In fact, most organisations with mature direct marketing programs see an average of 1.3 gifts/donor/year.

This is very good, not just for the extra revenue from those 0.3 gifts, but also because the donors that send more than one gift in a year are a very valuable segment.  They tend to be more loyal, more receptive to upgrading their giving, more likely to become monthly donors and much more likely to name your charity in their will.

Like so many things with direct mail and direct marketing fundraising, what at first appears to be inefficiency is actually an investment in the overall donor relationship and the attendant increase in fundraising revenue over the lifetime of your donors.

You can rest assured that sending multiple direct mail solicitations every year will help you raise the most funds in both the short and long term.  Just make sure you add at least one or two stewardship pieces to keep donors informed and in love.  And also put processes in place to ensure donor preferences can be honoured (IE: for donors who wish to receive only one solicitation mailing per year).

What’s your optimum direct mail appeal number?  Are you boosting the effectiveness of each mail appeal with email, social media, the telephone and personal visits?  Call David toll-free 1-800-991-3318 x101 today for a free assessment. 

From idiot to trusted friend in 13 sentences.

Recently our team was working with a client that had some issues with their database and accuracy of their records.

Sound familiar?

There were a group of contacts that only had business information and addresses, but no contact name information.  Many of these donors had given 5 and even 6 figure gifts.

Together, we decided that waiting until the data was perfect or avoiding a solicitation of these donors was not an acceptable solution.  We put our heads together and came up with an idea:

Why not just be up front about the deficiencies in the records and ask donors to help us fix it?

This is the kind of stuff that people love to help with.

So, together we wrote a very simple, direct and honest letter that explained that we were rather embarrassed to be missing key information about such a loyal and generous donor.  Next, we asked the donor to share 3 pieces of information (name, phone number and email) at the bottom of the page and pop it in the postage paid return envelope along with their kind gift.

The client printed the letter themselves, along with the simple update form, all on a single sheet of letterhead (at a cost of less than a penny per note) and added it into the unsealed packages we had returned after processing at the mailhouse.

Easy, inexpensive and personal.

I almost wish we had more records with missing information, so we could make more use of this highly engaging approach.

I know we worry about looking unprofessional or *gurk* incompetent in front of donors.  But the reality is these kinds of errors exist and most people understand, especially if you are upfront and honest about it.

Try this approach next time you run into a mistake.  I guarantee this is one donor engagement idea that will make Mom proud!


A warm welcome to our newest client.

It’s a real honour to add the MS Society of Canada, Saskatchewan Division to the Fundraising Pharmacy client family.

I started my professional fundraising career with the MS Society. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use something I learned about fundraising from the wonderful people there.

It’s always been fascinating to me that Saskatchewan is a high-risk area for multiple sclerosis.  Luckily, the thousands of people in Saskatchewan who have this often devastating disease (as well as their family and loved ones), can turn to the MS Society when they need help.

Through donor support, the MS Society of Canada’s work in the province delivers needed support and services for the 3,500 individuals with MS helping ensure that they and their families don’t have to face this unpredictable, often disabling central nervous system disease alone.  And the research that donors fund provides hope as well as real progress in treatment of the disease and toward the goal to End MS.

Welcome, and our entire FRx team is thrilled to join in the effort to endMS!


Happy Anniversary!

Exactly one year ago today, Fundraising Pharmacy was born (on the road) in a Gastown, Vancouver loft.  With two old laptops, a lot of coffee and an idea, we created Canada’s only affordable and effective dispensary for Annual Giving and Legacy Marketing advice and services.

Thanks to our amazing clients, generous network, and the hardest working team in fundraising consulting, Fundraising Pharmacy has become a leader in creating passionate donor support for smart charities across the country.

I’m super excited to show off our new logo and brand colours, officially launching right now!  Have a look and tell me which one is your favourite…

 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be taking some time to do a springtime refresh, with an improved website and more design fun.  So just like a lot of drug stores, we’re taking some time to focus on beauty.

But gettin’ pretty will not make us lose focus on healthy client fundraising programs.  We promise.  You can trust us to continue delivering name-brand direct and legacy marketing services, program support and advice at generic prices.

Call or email me any time to give us a piece of your mind, a compliment or some business.

Happy Anniversary!

 
David

david@fundraisingpharmacy.com

647-607-DAVE (3283)

 


Online fundraising in December (from scratch) in 15 minutes?

Who has time to implement an online fundraising strategy in December?

You do!

And, yeah, this December!  As in 2012.

I promise you, you can do it in 15 minutes.  You can get started right after you finish reading this.  And you can thank me in January.

First, take 3 minutes and write a short and sweet thank you email to a donor for being a donor.  Tell them how awesome they are, thank them for their gifts, and tell them how those gifts have helped, even if it that last sentence is pretty general.  There you go.  3 sentences, 3 minutes.  Now, take 2 minutes and do a simple query in your database (or get your administrator to help you) and create a list of all your current donors with an email address (that you have permission to email).  Send them this email this week.  Thursday, before 10 a.m. is a great time.

Now next Monday, that’s the 17th of December, take 4 more minutes and write a quick email to let your favourite donor from 2011 know that you haven’t heard from them yet this year.  Remind them the year is almost over and that your organization really needs their gift to continue doing the great work you do (one simple example of the great work you do should make it in this email).  Ask them to click a link to make their gift right now.  Thank them for their caring and loyalty.  Take another 3 minutes to prepare a data file that includes every donor with an email address (and permission to email) who has not made a gift in 2012.   Use this email you just wrote to your favourite 2011 donor and get ready to send it to the larger file on the 27th of December.

Then on Friday, 21 December, take 1 minute to write a very short email reminding your second favourite donor from 2011 that they only have one more chance to help your charity this year.  Make sure that email has a link to your giving page.  It should also mention that have done your do your best to make sure your records are as up-to-date as possible, but there is a possibility their very recent gift and this email may have crossed paths.  Thank them very much for responding faster than you could update your records!  Then on the 31st of December take 2 minutes to build an updated list of everyone on your file (again, with permission to email) who has not given in 2012.  Send this last email out on 31 December at 10 a.m.

In early January, you’ll want to set aside 4 more minutes to count all the additional gifts you received online over the last week of 2012, including at least 2 minutes to pat yourself on the back (or for self-high-fiving) for reactivating donors that would have otherwise have lapsed in 2012!

And if you can spare a final minute, please send me a note in the new year to tell me how you did!

 

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A Stewardship Booster Shot

You’re working hard on your Thanksgiving and Holiday solicitations, right?

Perfect!  After all, you are about to head into the busiest fundraising season for virtually every charity in Canada.  And this is the best time to bring in money for your organization through the mail, phone, online and with personal asks.

But hang on for just a second.

I want you to promise me one thing… You see, in such a whirlwind season, a normally healthy donor relationship can start to feel unwell.

So, promise me you will take the time to get a stewardship booster shot!

Here are three quick, affordable and easy ways you can make sure you inoculate your fundraising program against donor fatigue and burnout.

  1.  Send a donor newsletter in the fall. – it’s not too late.  Aim to drop it in mid-October, in between your Thanksgiving appeal and your holiday solicitation.  A short simple, single sheet of 8.5×11 with 2 to 3 short articles and a few pictures will do the trick.  Pop it in the mail, take it on a visit, send it by email.  Make sure your donor has a quick update on what’s going on at your organization and tell them how their gifts are making that work possible.
  2. Polish up your thank you letter.  Write a fresh and personal thank you for all the gifts you receive in the fall.   Make sure your donors feel well-thanked before heading into an intense solicitation cycle.  Your well-crafted and sincere thank you will make you stand out in the crowded holiday asking season
  3. Send a “We Love You” email in early December.  Have your Executive Director/CEO (or another respected leader at your charity) send a warm email at the beginning of December.  It should be very short, with a simple message thanking the donor for their generosity throughout 2012.  It should gush a little (but make sure it is genuine) but still be short. No ask, just love.

No matter how you do it, please set aside some time to find opportunities to inject stewardship into your busy schedule.

It’s a good way to keep your donor relationships healthy.  And healthy donor relationships always mean you could have the holiday best fundraising season ever!

 

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