One by One – Board Thank You Calls

This is my second post about engaging the board through thank you calling (you can read the first one here). The tweet that related to it:

@FundraiserBeth: A1 Having Board members call “donor club level” and above donors to TY at time of gift. Also have done “Thank-a-thons.”

I realize I go on and on about thanks and gratitude, but it really does make all relationships run more smoothly. It is key to donor retention. That has stuck with me ever since I first heard Penelope Burk speak in Toronto in 1999 to our local AFP chapter during my first year in Canada.

If you haven’t purchased her book, Donor Centered Fundraising, please do. I strongly urge you; it covers thank you letters, calls and they type of thanks that donors find meaningful – all done as interviews, studies and tests. It is a foundational book for any fundraising library, and a must for anyone starting out in the profession.

TelephoneEarly in the book, Penelope details “The Controlled Test of Personal Thanks” where she worked with a nonprofit and had their board members call donors within 24 hours of receipt of the gift (224 out of a total of 2,240). The team then studied the fundraising revenue results more than a year on. (The solicitation letter and resolicitation methods were all these same in the test and control groups.) Penelope sums it up by noting that this method is, “So easy… and so effective.”

The results were significant: The test group gave, on average, 39% more than the control group. And after 14 months, the average gift level of the test group was 42% higher. (I don’t know about you, but the number of times over my career that in the annual giving area I’ve been asked to increase, year over year, 25% – 50% more in revenues with little or no budget increase makes those average gift lifts head turning.)

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All Together Now – Board Thank You Calls

During a recent Fund Chat, the topic was “Your Nonprofit Stinks at Donor Retention” and I tossed out something I had done, engaging the board through thank you calling.

@FundraiserBeth: A1 Having Board members call “donor club level” and above donors to TY at time of gift. Also have done “Thank-a-thons.”

We all know that thanks and gratitude is key to donor retention. Why not have your most important volunteers do some thanking? Having board members call to thank immediately after the gift has been received is the most common way I’ve used (see my post here), but I’ve also organized once a year group “Thank-a-Thons” with board members. That’s what I’ll cover today.

telephoneThe first time I was working at a Level 1 trauma hospital. We were a team of three. Since the fundraising office had lain fallow for some years, at the end of our first year we decided to ask foundation board members call some of the larger donors who had given over the last 18 months.

After polling a few key individuals on our board with the idea, we took it to the larger board and proposed two evenings of calls (a Tuesday and Wednesday in two weeks). Board members could come to one or both.

I also contacted a few of the key “front line” personnel and two nurses agreed to join us. They were supporters of us and we thought having them there not only would be helpful if there were any questions about care and for the enthusiasm they offered.

It was a great evening – we had six available phones, with one nurse and four board members each evening. We called using our office phones so the caller id showed the hospital.

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Mega Gifts – Book Review

Mega Gifts  – Book Review

MegaGiftsBefore the holidays I read Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them by Jerold Panas. (I reviewed another excellent book by this author, Power Questions.)


First, two words came up repeatedly. Joy and Listen. Whatever area of fundraising you practice, keep them top of mind.

The joy your donors feel when they give.

How important as a fundraiser that it is for you to listen.

I put the book down many times to reflect on what I just read. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I gave it as a gift to each of my colleagues. Now we will have a shared reference and reinforcement with our own experiences as individual fundraisers for our nascent team. (As Seth Godin noted: “When the team has a reference, a shared vocabulary and a new standard, you raise the bar for each other.”)

Jerry’s style is easy to read. He talks about his experiences over an amazing career of fundraising and consulting. He then interviews mega donors themselves to drill down, uncover and polish these golden nuggets. He uses specific examples of philanthropists who have changed the world or a corner of it through giving, using their own words and examples of gift commitments.

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Resolution 2014

2014New Year’s Day 2014 has just arrived.

I’m not a big “make a resolution list” person. I think it’s better to evaluate oneself all through the year.

But what I do like to do is think about what was good about last year, and dream about the New Year ahead. What do I hope to accomplish? Where will I go? What might be my happy achievements?

With my donors, I’m more focused. What do I hope to accomplish overall this year? What are my goals? Where will my donor(s) and I go on the philanthropic path? What do my donors hope to achieve and how might I help them get there?

This year I made a resolution. Tom Ahern handed it to me in his post, “What I learned in 2013.”

“Deliver more gratitude than expected.” 

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