While I’m embarrassed to admit it, for three years, I walked by my cluttered hall closet thinking “This will be the year that I get rid of things I don’t need in there and put everything else into beautifully organized baskets and bins!”, and each year until this one, it sat untouched. After tending to daily and weekly essential chores that kept my household in decent shape, it felt like there was simply no time to get to it. Year after year, de-cluttering the hall closet fell to the bottom of my priority list until I made it a priority.
For many nonprofit fundraisers, refreshing donor communications can become much like reorganizing my hall closet: it’s something you know should be done, but with many other competing priorities, it can often seem less urgent. I regularly encounter nonprofits that have not rewritten their acknowledgement letters in years, or continue to send the same acknowledgement letter to all donors rather than creating different versions for different types of donors (monthly recurring, major, first time, etc.). In addition to this, I also see email confirmations for online donations remaining the same for years on end, and scripts for thank you calls or language for handwritten notes being used well past their prime.
In the nonprofit sector, there are rarely quiet moments, and our to-do lists are often unending. One reminder I like to give myself and others is “We are all busy all of the time, and things happen when we make the time and space for them to happen”. Making the time and space to evaluate and refresh your donor communications is always worth the time and effort—each and every contact you have with a donor, whether it is an acknowledgement letter, a thank you call or an email, is an important part of building and stewarding a trusting, meaningful donor relationship. It is also a wise investment of time and resources in the sense that that it always costs more to engage and bring in new donors than to retain current donors through good stewardship.
If assessing and refreshing your donor communications is not built into your annual development or communications plan, consider doing so. Since we’re almost midway through the calendar year and some nonprofits are nearing the end of their fiscal year, try making a plan to do some “spring cleaning” in the area of donor communications. By making time to do this now or within the next couple of months, you will thank yourself for doing so, especially when fall fundraising activities and year-end appeal season come around.