In the magazine TRENDYSTYLE, I read an article titled: “How often do you call, how mobile is your love?” According to the article, couples in love call each other all day long. If a day passed without a call, stress and mistrust may set in quickly. This reminded me of the relationship between the donors and charities. How often do you actually call each other? I believe there are at least ten occasions when your donors may appreciate a call:
1. Do you want to go for a drink?
After the first introduction: it may be a first online purchase, a subscription to your newsletter or the signing of your campaign petition, is the telephone the ideal medium to start building the relationship. It is the ideal instance to encourage prospect donors to temporary support a project that specifically appeal to them. It is important that you make a suitable offer in a specific scenario. As with many singles; they don’t get married after the first date.
2. I want to thank you for …
It absolutely essential to thank donors personally. A lasting relationship between donors and charities asks for some kind of reciprocity. Think about it; for how long would you stay cheerful in your relationship if you only have to give, without ever receiving a sincere ‘thank you’?
Please note, I am talking about a pure and honest ‘thank you’ with no strings attached.
Never meant as “Thanks for ironing my shirt, on my chair there is still a …”
A few suggestions for the organisation:
• After the first donation, always make a ‘thank-you’ call as soon as possible.
• Initialise an annual thankathon.
• Make thank-you calls part of your contact strategy.
• Create custom thank-you calls. A first time donor requires a prompt thank you, a larger gift of €1000 requires a different sign of appreciation. On the other hand does a structural donor not appreciate a monthly phone call.
3. “Do you feel like …?”
Like most couples that have been together for some time, it remains important to continue to have fun. Go to the movies, eating out, visiting a museum, etc. You may ask your donor to:
• get involved as a volunteer?
• support a specific project financially?
• brain storm about our new corporate identity?
This way you build the relationship and intrigue the donor.
4. Congratulations! (The real Happy Call)
How much fun is it when you receive a phone call on your birthday? The reality that someone is thinking of you and takes effort to call or send you a card is a sign of pure personal attention that are appreciated. Give this appreciation to your donors! Think of ways how to surprise your donors. Surprise your major donors but also small monthly contributors with a happy-birthday call. Who would not appreciate a call whilst celebrating a jubilee? Even if you don’t get everyone to the line, send them a card.
5. How do you feel about?
A relationship is about giving and receiving. A donor, who gives to charity, would also like to receive the charity. I don’t mean begging letters, rather something that has a sense of meaning for donor. Many donors want to influence the direction of the organisation they support. Therefore, compile a questionnaire with the help of a donor panel and initialise a donor satisfaction survey. Donors also have the need to give direction to the relationship. Therefore, make a service call and identify donor needs; ask them if they want newsletters or not and what is their preferred contact method.
Exciting stuff… But imagine the opposite: you keep doing the things that the donor not waiting. That may harm the relationship.
6. Do you want to phone a friend?
People like to share good experiences. If a friend recommends a restaurant, this makes more impression than if a stranger does. Your donor is your (potential) ambassador. That shows how important it is to maintain good relations. If a donor is excited about your organisation they will talk about it. Identify these special ones and ask them to be your new recruiter or head hunter.
For example, you can ask a child donor to recruit new child donors at through a small campaign at the nearby school. Whether it’s successful or not, it anyway does increase the importance of child sponsorship or any other cause you promoting. The lesson: Members get Members.
In any relationship sometimes things may go wrong. It could be a misunderstanding and that result in things not going that well. A collection was double charged or post gets delivered twice. For some reason a campaign was cancelled and led to a collection that was terminated without the donor knowledge. Call your donors and say, “I’m sorry this happened!”
If the relationship with your donor is good, and something goes wrong your donors will call you. Grab the opportunity to explain what happened and do the necessary patching up. It is also important teach your back office team these skills that the relation can be restored efficiently.
8. Annual relation assessment
Call it quality time, or “our night out”, or an evening in the pub with friends. A relationship requires a good conversation from time to time; a charity organisation with donor too. Call them to talk about:
• How satisfied they are with..?
• What was achieved with their gifts…
• What would they like to change?
• Would they like to…?
• You may also invite donors for a concert, a course, a tour of the office, etc.
9. Maintain the relationship
What do you do when the donor calls to say he/she wants to end the relationship? The reason may be for financial reasons or because of complaints. It may be they feel that another charity’s goals have become more important to them.
The solution: If you only respond in a proper way it does not mean the end of the relationship. Teach your employees to maintain the relationship and how to deal with difficult issues like these. In about 30% of the cases preservation appears to be possible! Always return to these issues in writing, email or using follow-up calls when dealt with terminations. But remember, always keep the door open!
10. I miss you!
Sometimes a relationship fades away or friends may grow apart. If this happens with your donors, you will see that in the database. You can see a donation from a loyal supporter of say several years suddenly stops, or someone will less often gives a single gift. Stay in contact and don’t let them go. Call and ask, “What can we do to solve it?” How can you bring back the spark?