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What would Don Draper do?

January 30th, 2015 Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

For all of the introspection and reflection that goes into closing out one year and beginning one anew, resolutions to be better and do more are an important practice to frame what we want for ourselves, but also for the organizations we serve.  To make good on them, and make intention become habit, we must create plans and commit to action.

Don Draper is the fictional genius behind client-winning campaigns on AMC’s Mad Men, spawning the catchphrase “What Would Don Draper Do?”. So, what would Don do to help you win over donors in the next three weeks?

1) Thank all of your donors – by January 9.

Last month, donors old and new gave to your nonprofit.  Whether it was a new donor you picked up on #GivingTuesday or a renewing donor from existing calendar year-end activities, thank everyone that gave.

Make your letter mean something.

A timely letter that functions as a tax receipt is not good enough, especially when fewer than one percent of annual donors who give under $400 actually claim the deduction. 100% of your donors—even your family and friends—gave because they believe in your mission, so your thank you letter should have as much creativity and thought as the solicitation message that compelled them to give. Describe how you will leverage their gift to make impact—the anticipated result—and when you’ll be back in touch to report on progress.

Call them, leave a voicemail.

An unexpected and always welcomed touch is to call a donor to thank them for their gift — at any level.  Imagine the power of a call that gets screened, pushed to voicemail on a cell phone that is a simple “I am calling from…and I just wanted to thank you for your gift of … it means a lot to us.”  No script, no outline, just a list of donors, gift amounts, and thirty minutes a month set aside in your schedule to express gratitude.  You’ll be amazed at the goodwill this also creates and, in the event someone picks up, they often will be so surprised that they won’t know how to respond other than to say, “you’re welcome.”

2) Engage all of your prospects – by January 16

While there are many creative ways you can engage and cultivate prospective and lapsed donors, the best way is to do it now instead of when you can implement a more perfect strategy.

Send them a one-page letter.

Wish the people that have supported you in some way a Happy New Year and then, explain one thing that donors enabled in the last year for which you are grateful.  Then, explain your bold, new and practical plan for this new year and how you not only continue to uniquely address a need, but how many people you plan to reach in the next twelve months — and how you’ll know you’ve made an impact.  Think of another way to say thank you before you make an ask and express your excitement about the coming year.

Send them a two-paragraph email.

You can further re-purpose content from the preceding one-page letter, but edit to be no more than two paragraphs and include an image of people being helped by your organization’s mission. The latter makes a powerful statement about what you do and why you do it. Remember: Donors don’t give to your organization, they give through it.  Payroll, pens, and paperclips (operating expenses) make your mission come to life, but that is not as important to a donor or prospect as the impact of your mission on the people you serve — the ones for whom they’re donating to help you serve.

3) Create a 12-month plan to retain and increase – by January 23

Fundraising in its simplest form is creating and maintaining relationships with the people who support you, and this requires an intentional and ongoing investment.  The steps above to take in January create a strong foundation for 2015, but what about the ten months in between now and December’s year-end campaign?

Without a plan to keep you focused, busy schedules and growing to-do lists will quickly crowd out building relationships. Ultimately, this leads to existing donors seeing your next appeal as transactional, and you wondering where the new donors will come from.

To turn your best intentions into monthly activities that generate long-term support, your 12-month plan should:

- Support a unique, measurable goal for each segment of donors/prospects
- Allocate the required time from board and staff each month
- Identify materials needed to support each communication
- Schedule communication at regular intervals, matching message to segment
- Assign board, staff and volunteers responsibility for each individual task

The underlying value of creating a plan is it reveals challenges that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.  Now, you might be asking…

- How do I measure my retention rate to set a goal?
- What’s an appropriate message for special event versus new donors?
- How do I engage my board in making time to build relationships?

We know these will be tough questions to answer, but Brian Lacy and Associates can provide the coaching and tools to meet challenges along the way. And we are uniquely positioned to help get the many recommended thank yous out to donors.



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