Building Trust

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This is the third guest post in a blog series by Steven Screen of The Better Fundraising Company. You can find links here to Part I and Part II.

Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat

In the last post we noted that the organizations that take their donors through the circle of “Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat” multiple times tend to build relationships and revenue over time. Because by building trust you increase your chances of getting another gift.

But when most organizations zoom out to 40,000 feet to look at their communications, they find that they do this:

Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask, e-news, Ask, Ask, Annual Report, Ask

Or this:

Ask, Ask, Brag, Ask, Ask

Many smaller organizations just see this:

Ask, Event

Prescriptive for Majors, Approximate for Mass

For your mass donor communications, it’s too expensive to take each donor exactly through each step, in order.

That’s why successful fundraising organizations almost always develop an ongoing stream of communications that hit all of the notes often enough. Maybe that’s 6 appeals and 3 newsletters, and customized Thank You/Receipt packages. But maybe it’s 12 appeals and 12 newsletters. Or maybe it’s 4 appeals and 2 newsletters.

The numbers are dependent on your file size and its responsiveness (and a few other things). They key is to hit the notes that need to be hit to build trust and relationship.

But for major donors, you can and should take your donor through each step. The Major Gifts Officers who take each donor through the Ask, Thank, Report system have great success. For instance, they make damn sure their donors have been well Thanked and Reported back to before they Ask their donor again.

That’s a luxury you don’t have with mass donor communication. But it’s one you should absolutely follow with each of your most important majors.

Plus for majors, it often takes quite a while to complete the circle. You might thank them 5 times after they’ve given a gift. And 3 months later you send them a status report. After another couple months, take them to coffee and share a story about a beneficiary who has been helped because of their gift. And then, after all that is done, you have a MUCH better chance of getting your next gift when you Ask again.

Next Steps

Ask yourself this question; is your organization very good at the core competencies of Asking, Thanking and Reporting?

If not, I suggest that improving these core competencies is likely your most effective path to increasing your revenue and retention rates.

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