So You’ve Received a Donation! Now What?

Thanks to a certificate program I am attending (see below), I wanted to share some insights on using your website and other communications channels to strengthen your nonprofit’s connections with supporters.

So you have received a gift! Now what?

I learned that of ten new donors, only three make a second gift! It sounds like we need to do a better job thanking our donors, asking for their input, and staying in touch.

My experience as a donor bears this out. Grayson College Foundation took the time to call me to thank me for my first donation, which made a lasting impression on me. In addition to having since funded an endowed scholarship, I have served as a volunteer on their board for more than five years. In addition to a simple thank-you call from staff, here are some donor engagement tips I’ve learned:

  • Ask donors how they would like to be recognized. Honor anonymity if requested, but your website should recognize your higher-level donors. Corporate donors want to be known as community partners. But, to avoid tax issues, linking to their site is OK. An enticement to buy something or patronize their business is not OK.
  • Our instructor suggested as an option, “Don’t let board members ask for money.” As a board member, this could not please me more. I hate asking people for money, but I love talking with people about the organization. Do a board member phone bank day, where board members call donors to 1) say “thank you” and 2) ask donors to share what about the organization is important to them. People in my class shared stories about making simple thank-you calls and receiving second donations on the spot.
  • I hope that you send out a regular e-mail and/or snail mail newsletter to your supporters, but be sure to give donors an opt-in and opt-out form the way companies do. Ask donors what their preferred method of contact is (e-mail, phone, snail mail, text?). Provide a way to handle complaints or concerns.
  • Provide a monthly giving option. Your monthly folks can be part of a select circle. For example, Patreon bills my credit card a few dollars a month to support several podcasts of my choice. Patreon says, “With a subscription-style payment model, fans pay their favorite creators a monthly amount of their choice in exchange for exclusive access, extra content, or a closer look into their creative journey.”
  • If you ask for money for a project or program, regularly update donors on your progress. For example, “We need just $X more to complete our project by December.” Give donors an idea of when you will use their gifts.
  • Go beyond the gala! Big, annual events are costly and, well, only once a year. Provide experiences, tours, open houses and small gatherings to bring donors, board members, and staff together.

Reviewing new donors also helps prevent and detect fraud.

Unfortunately, external scammers have been known to hit nonprofit accounts to test the viability of stolen credit cards or to launder money. Nonprofits must return stolen money, even if when completely innocent of wrongdoing. Internal fraudsters may set up fictitious donors to falsify financials and embezzle from the organization.

Thanks to the instructors in my current Nonprofit Management Certificate program from the Center for Nonprofit Management in Dallas for giving me this food for thought. I will be sharing more of my takeaways from this excellent program over the next few months.  I encourage you to check out their education schedule — any board member or nonprofit employee will find something useful.