Donor Magic

Reasons to be cheerful - examples of good fundraising!

I was delighted to receive the most e-mails and comments to a post ever after asking for good examples of fundraising (there were a few more bad examples too, but I'll save them for another day).

So, in order of receipt, here are some of the stories and experiences that people sent me:

Alison Martin nominated Sane for their great stewardship when she did a run for them:

I recently took part in the Great South Run for SANE, the mental health charity.  From the first point of contact they were quick and friendly with email responses and in sending promised resources.  They offered me a range of publicity materials, but sent only what I'd asked for (so no wastage in terms of postage or resources).

I was mainly raising funds via Just Giving on Facebook and when I 'tagged' SANE they kindly shared the post and thanked me for fundraising.  After the event I received a (prompt!) thank you letter which included the amount raised on my JG site (at the time), including mention of the offline amount and the Gift Aid.  I'm sure it was a standard TQ letter, but it was personalised to a level I was more than happy with.

A week or so after the event (and after me harassing more friends/family for donations!) I was thrilled to be pictured on SANE's FB page, with a gold star around my picture, being named as 'Fundraiser of the Week'!  It didn't cost SANE much to use/edit my photo, but it's bought them an awful lot of supporter loyalty from me, and I've been singing their praises to anyone who'll listen so it's also got them a fair bit of word-of-mouth promotion...

Pamela Grow nominated Hope Cottage Pregnancy and Adoption Centre for dedicating 2012 the "Year of the individual donor":

You can read all about their approach on Pamela's blog, but the results speak for themselves. They doubled their individual giving by following Pamela's guidance in her books and on her blog. I particularly liked this quote:

There is a saying in dentistry that you should only pay attention to the teeth you want to keep.  Conversely stated “if you ignore your teeth, they will go away”.  That can apply to donor relations too – “if you ignore them, they will go away.”

Pamela also shares other examples of expressing gratitude to donors in this post.

Becky Dodd shared this example from her own work of engaging with a donor and making them feel special:

I had a fabulous email recently which made my day, and showed what great people there are in the world. I was so delighted with the story I asked for the ladies permission to use it in my next blog, which she was delighted about. 

I promised to send her link once it was the website, which I did. I had this response from her…

 “Thank you so much for your lovely blog.  It really was lovely to read and I am so pleased that you wanted to put it on the website.  I can now contact my friends and relatives and ask them to take a look.

 "Many thanks and I hope to support the Trust again in the future.”

Margaux Smith explains why she has fallen for The Brooke:

You may have seen me post about it on Twitter when it first happened, but I signed up to be a DD donor with The Brooke last month after meeting some of their staff at IFC (and watching a very emotional DRTV ad). A few days after I signed up, I realised that in my haste and excitement, I'd not signed up with the postal address where I wanted to receive my mail (work). I replied to the info@ email thank you in my inbox and someone politely answered that they were sorry, but they needed to keep my home address the way it was for Gift Aid reasons.

Being the stubborn fundraiser that I am, I responded that I actually was pretty sure Gift Aid would be fine with my work address, because my bank has it on file and all my other DD's use that address.

10 minutes later, I got an email back thanking me for letting them know this was possible, and telling me they'd spoken to their data department and have changed their database to accommodate me and others like me! Needless to say, I was impressed. It showed me they were flexible to change, could easily admit when they were wrong, and cared enough to adapt to donor needs. It may seem like a little thing, but it made me very proud of my decision to be a supporter :)

Peter Gorbert shared a practical example from York Mind:

We use tweetdeck with a number of searches set up for things like "York Mind" "Mental Health" etc. this means that if anyone mentions us (regardless of if it's positive or negative) we can respond to them. It's allowed us turn a speculative supporter into a person who completed a 10k run for us, as well as fielding numerous general enquirers about services in York and turned a couple of "who ran this event?" into people who now connect a good event more closely with the charity.

Aline Reed nominates Leeds University:

The lovely news I hear most often comes from our University clients, so perhaps we should take a look at what they’re doing. 

Adrian Salmon (from Leeds University) has just been on the phone telling me about a 102 year old donor, who rang him this morning, delighted to see his old friends on the front of the calendar we did for alumni.

You may have also followed this response to the Bentham mailing for UCL.  

I think what’s interesting about these campaigns is they are not about showing the greatest need to motivate a donor. That’s not possible for a university, so instead they try and engage the donor and connect them with their university. Could it be that charities could learn a lesson here?

Because it’s not just about creative (just to emphasise I’m not blowing BF’s trumpet!), it’s that the donor can call up and speak to the person who sent them the pack. In Leeds’ case, Adrian and in UCL’s Hamish. And they’re encouraged to! They’re encouraged to connect via Twitter, Facebook and even visit in person. The Universities are trying to befriend their donors. It’s not to say they don’t have administrative errors. I’m guess I’m just trying to find reasons for why our university work is where I hear the lovely stories about happy donors.

John Lepp explains while he'll be giving to Redwood for the foreseeable future:

A few months ago, on the Friday of a long weekend, I saw a tweet go out from one of my fav charities, The Redwood in Toronto about their summer e-campaign to send some special moms and their kids to a waterpark or have an amazing bbq or a number of other things… Great idea. The timing was perfect, summer was just getting underway, the ask was specific and compelling and the thought of sending a mom and her kids off for a day of fun, laughter and memories was something I wanted to play a role in! HELL YES! Where do I sign up?

So, off I went after making my gift, feeling good, to go get my own kids to start our long weekend.

That evening, after the house got quiet, I checked my home phone to see there was a flashing light… a message. Usually it is telemarketing, or not for me, so I usually don’t bother checking. But I did this time.

New Message: 4:45pm

Hello John, this is Anthea Windsor, president of the board at The Redwood...” (You can listen to her call here if you want… antheacall)

And I listened for 35 seconds and I felt a massive smile spread across my face and instantly knew at the close of her call that I had ABSOLUTELY made an awesome decision to give earlier in the day. Unscripted, honest, heartfelt and real and 15 minutes before the start of a long weekend… her call touched my heart.

Simple. Remarkable. Memorable. 35 seconds.

You can read the full story over at Agents for Good.

Rosie Blanning explains why she loves the Retired Greyhound Trust:

I can honestly say that the best experiences I have had have been from small charities. The Retired Greyhound Trust are an absolute pleasure to donate to.

I received a letter from them a few months back just telling me what they had been doing and thanking me for their support. There was (thank goodness) a donation form included but the letter wasn't asking for further support, it was just saying thank you. Great stuff.

Thanks to everyone for sharing. Let me know you favourite story/example (via Twitter, e-mail or in the comments) and I'll donate the money to them on Friday.

This post is my contribution to November's Non-Profit Blog Carnival on gratitude in giving. Find out more here.


What's your favourite donor care story?

The FRSB have launched a new campaign this week to tie in with 'National Customer Service Week'.

They are publishing a series of supporter care tips and are about to publish a new supporter care promise for FRSB members.

I believe in the importance of excellent supporter care in fundraising and so am asking people - what is your favourite donor care story?

Please do add your story in the comments or e-mail me ( as I'd love to hear your story.

In return, I'll share a couple of my favourites later this month when I return from holiday.

Why the little things matter: three recent examples

I wanted to share a couple of recent examples of why it's so important to go that extra mile for donors.

On the response form of a recent appeal a donor had ticked the 'remove from mailing list' box and put a comment asking why we didn't merge with other charities in the field.

It would've been easy to ignore this comment and simply remove the donor and think nothing more of it. However, I decided to write her a letter thanking her for her past support, confirming the removal from our database and explaining why I thought merging would be a bad idea.

The result: a lovely letter back, which asked me for a regular giving form and a generous annual donation from a donor who didn't want to hear from us again!  It's little moments and notes that like that really give me a buzz in fundraising.

I've also recently done a 90th anniversary appeal and a number of donors wrote on their response forms that they were also going to be 90 this year.

My team suggested getting birthday cards to send with their thank you letter and I sent them off yesterday wishing them well in their 90th year.  Regardless of whether we hear anything back, it was the right thing to do and I am sure it will be appreciated.

Just to show I'm not perfect, I've been regretting a missed opportunity that we had to thank donors for the same appeal.

I had planned to call and say a personal thanks to donors who had given over a certain amount.  However, other things got in the way and the opportunity was lost.  I am sure the thank you calls would have had a better long term impact on our fundraising than the other bits and pieces I was caught up with.

Have you had any recent examples of doing something little that has had a positive impact on your fundraising? I'd love to hear your story.

5 Things That Make a Good Donor Welcome Pack

I love the concept of donor 'Welcome Packs' and think they should be an essential part of any fundraising/stewardship strategy, but often they are badly implemented or just dull.

As I'm currently trying to put together a pack of my own, here are some of essentials I think they should include...

  1. Make it about the donor.  Use 'you' frequently and headlines like '5 problems your donation will help solve'.
  2. Tell stories and anecdotes (backed up with strong images) that make the donor feel good about giving and reinforce the fact that they have made a good choice by donating to you.
  3. Use interesting and relevant stats or graphs to back up your case. Though don't go overboard on these.
  4. Express your gratitude and thanks.  Make the donor feel good about giving.  Use welcoming language.
  5. Give your contact details and make it easy for donors to get in touch.

Finally, if you are feeling really brave - take the Botton Village approach and give the donor choice.

Am I missing anything?  Who produces your favourite welcome packs?

A fantastic thank you from Child's i

A really heart warming story from Child's i, who managed to mobilise their support last week and raise over £10,000 in a few days for a life saving operation for Joey, one of the first babies they were able to re-home.

It was a great example of how Facebook, Twitter etc can be used to tell a great story and raise money if the circumstances are right.

However, it's not the fact that they raised the money that I was most impressed with, but they way they kept their supporters up to date and then said thank you in such a personal and moving way.

They produced this simple video and then sent links to everyone who had donated. I didn't actually give (shame on me!) but the video brought a tear to my eye. 

I'd imagine that anyone who did donate would've been delighted and felt really proud to have played a part in saving Joey's life.

Have a watch of the video and let me know what you think:

p.s In the interests of full disclosure, I am a big fan of Child's i and give a regular gift to them. One of my best friends is also currently volunteering for them. However, even if you aren't connected to them, I still believe it's a great example of donor care.

Would anybody tell a friend?


Two of my favourite bloggers - Hugh MacLeod and Andy Sernovitz - ask this simple, but profound question on their respective blogs today.

Have a look at the last appeal you sent, a recent e-newsletter, your website etc.  Is it so amazing and wonderful that you think someone would tell their friends about it?  If not, the challenge is to improve it next time so they will.

As Andy pleads:

"Push yourself to ask: Are we being remarkable? Is this a purple cow? Are we awesome yet?

Challenge yourself to be worth talking about. Would someone look at your stuff, drop what they are doing, and say, “You’ve got to see this?” Are they inspired to tweet, share, like, friend, forward, or run down the hall and stick it in the face of a co-worker or family member?




The Ultimate Equation for Fundraising Success


Photo from ~C4Chaos

Tom Peters posted the following equation for business success on Twitter the other day:

K = R = P

(Kindness = Repeat Business = Profit)

Simply switch the profit for donations and you've got a path to fundraising success.

However, since then Tom has gone further and I've adapted his new, advanced equation for success to come up with the ultimate fundraising formula:

K+Q+W = R+N = D++

(Kindness + Quality + Wow = Repeat Donors + New Donors = Donations Plus Plus)

This looks simple on paper but putting the kindness, quality and wow into your fundraising is easier said than done.  If you can, then you're going to be well ahead of everyone else. 

I'll jot down some ideas for K+Q+W over the weekend, but if you've got any suggestions or ways to improve the formula then let me know...

Donor Magic: Avoiding "Computer Says No" Moments


If you've ever seen Little Britain then you'll be familiar with Carol, the not very helpful travel agent.  If you don't know what i'm talking about then you can watch on YouTube.

Although Carol is a caricature there's no doubt that there is a grain of truth in the character and we all have 'computer says no' moments when we don't do our best for our donors.

These are moments when you feel like yelling at someone or when you want to hit something (or someone!) in frustration.  When you are unable to help a donor due to your database running slow or because of a system you have in place.

It’s absolutely imperative that you try to keep these moments to a minimum and avoid them at all costs.  These negative interactions can be hugely damaging for your non-profit. 

Whenever you encounter a donor then you've got to remember that you are the charity in the eyes of that person and you have a responsibility to act accordingly.

Learn to recognise ‘computer says no’ situations and look for ways to resolve them.  Let others know about them, so you can take collective responsibility for overcoming them.  If you can’t avoid a ‘computer says no’ moment, then at least make sure you acknowledge it and apologise for it happening.

I'm sure you can think of 'computer says no' moments you've experienced with other organisations (i've had a few with a certain insurance company that I won't name) and how they made you feel.  If you're like me you won't be using them again.  The same applies to donors and future gifts depend on you resolving and avoiding these moments at all costs.

Never miss a chance to go the extra mile

Received a lovely letter from a donor today.  I promised I'd send her some information and an update on her previous donation and sent it off (with a personal note) last week thinking no more about it. 

She was so touched (I was just doing my job) that she sent me a 3 page handwritten note thanking me and telling me a lovely anecdote about her father's work at a local factory. Also enclosed, much to my amazement - my letter didn't include an ask - was a sizeable donation.

It just emphasised again how important those personal touches are, how you need to inject some of your own personality into communications (and not always follow the standard approach) and that by doing so you can build connections that will reap long term benefits.

This really came home to me when I rang to thank her.  She didn't want any praise or thanks, she actually wanted to thank me for giving her the chance to remember her father, tell her story and to make a difference.  We had a great chat and both got off the phone feeling good about the world.

To me it emphasised the importance of treating everyone as an individual and to give them a chance to share their story and experience.  The key lesson for me was never miss a chance to go the extra mile for someone, you'll reap the rewards in the long run.

Barriers to creating donor magic: Lack of time and resources

Creating donor magic isn’t easy – if it was everyone would be doing it.  However, if you  can get it right then it will give you a natural competitive advantage. There are two main barriers that consistently get in the way of making it happen and this week i'm going to look at the first of them - lack of time and resources.

 Barrier 1: Lack of time and resources

Everyone’s busy. 

The e-mails flow in, the phone doesn’t stop ringing, the letters keep coming and a ‘catch 22’ situation occurs: if you spend your time trying to create donor magic then you won’t have time to do the transactional stuff, if you don’t do the transactional stuff then any donor magic efforts will be wasted.

So what’s to give?

Let me be clear: you should strive to get to the situation where every donor encounter improves the relationship, but day-to-day realities mean this is hard to achieve.

However, there is a compromise.  Instead of trying to create donor magic for everyone, to begin with you should aim to create it for your ‘true fans’ – those people who respond to every appeal, always turn up to open days, volunteer on a regular basis and have strong opinions (though they don't necessarily always agree with you) on what you do.

These people can become what Malcolm Gladwell calls our ‘mavens’ and ‘connectors’ or who Seth Godin describes as ‘sneezers’: people who spread ideas and recommendations through communities. 

They aren’t necessarily the richest or most generous, but they are the people who seem to know everyone or are the people others turn to for advice and recommendations.

Concentrate on creating donor magic for these people first and they will naturally recruit new donors and do much of the work for youHowever, these people can be hard to please and you have to be willing to give up a little bit of control (which can be scary) and give them the tools and resources that empower them to spread the word about your nonprofit.

If you can get this right then you will form a powerful tribe of supporters and create a movement of support for your work.