Reply Before Out of Office

You’ve made your calendar year-end fundraising checklist, you’ve implemented all of the elements, and now you’re about to head off for a holiday. 

I have a few suggestions for what to do when you return in January.  Of course, you’ll ‘do the numbers’—produce/analyze final revenue reports for December and all of 2018. 


In 2019, I hope you will be able to focus on strengthening relationships with your donors.  Should the economy take a downward turn, aka a “correction”, as economists such as Alan Greenspan predict, strong relationships with donors will help non-profits weather the storm.

Start off the new year with a promise to perform data hygiene.  Pay close attention to pledge forms returned with checks and make changes to the donor’s account as needed.  If there are multiple accounts with the same address but several spellings of the donor’s name, clarify the actual spelling.  It seems like a little thing, but according to Blackbaud’s Steve McLaughlin, a Blackbaud’s Chief Scientist Chuck Longfield did a study a few years ago and found a 10% decrease in retention of donors whose names were misspelled in solicitations.  For those whose name was misspelled and gave anyway, they gave 12% less.  You can see Steve’s full talk here

What We Like

Have the staff pick some favorites from 2018 (news stories, music releases, artists, films) and share them with your donors.  Everyone seems to be looking for recommendations from trusted sources these days, and public media fits that bill nicely for donors.    

What You Like

For TV and joint licensees, collect your Passport user viewing data and share recommendations based on popular choices through a “Passport Picks” e-mail.  Do you see bingeing trends for certain series?  Have you seen any surprises in the data, such as a sleeper hit?  The more your viewers use Passport, or see what they’re missing, the more likely they are to want to continue their membership to maintain Passport credentials.  Plus it’s fun for viewers to have their own tastes affirmed.


Consider creating host fan pages that can be populated with content updates such as tweets and social media posts, with a link to a trackable donation form.  Create Facebook fundraising pages on behalf of your air personalities and ask them to promote it to their audiences.      


All of the above is part of a multi-pronged stewardship program.  The direct effects of stewardship aren’t as easy to track as solicitations, but you can set goals for your program.  The Fundraising Authority suggests the following reasons why stewardship is essential:

• Get your donors to keep giving

• Get your donors to upgrade

• Get your donors to refer new donors

If your donors were in a large auditorium, the idea of stewardship is to make each one them feel that they have the seat closest to you.

Have a wonderful, safe holiday, and good luck in 2019.

Barry NelsonComment