Alumni Donor Acknowledgement – Now is the time!
By Anna Glass, Consultant
As often defined, donor stewardship is the act of progressively building deeper relationships with your donors – stewardship is comprised of the activities and strategies utilized by a nonprofit organization to cultivate, engage and retain donors. Acknowledging donor gifts is a simple and relatively easy way to touch your alumni, and as development professionals, you’ve heard over and over about the need to communicate with donors at least seven times a year via diversified outlets. Why then are nonprofits losing donors?
PMA believes donors are lost because of the lack of an effective acknowledgement. The Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute’s 2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report shed light on the current state of donor retention among nonprofits. The study found that for the over 3,000 nonprofits that responded to the survey there was an overall net decrease in donors per organization from 2010 to 2011.
You will not retain your alumni donors – no matter how you acquired them – if you do not give them a timely acknowledgement. PMA doesn’t believe the acknowledgement needs to be expensive or overly time consuming. In fact, according to Penelope Burk’s book, Donor Centered Fundraising, 86% of donors express a negative view toward token gifts (key chain, baseball cap, etc.) regardless of giving level, calling them “a waste of money” and “not an incentive to give again”. Capitalize on the emotional tie alumni feel for your school – they spent an important part of their young adult life immersed in all things school related. Do it in a way that is well timed, personal and focused on their affinity for your school.
Alumni are particularly interested in the impact of their gift. In acknowledgments, PMA believes you must provide the donor with feedback about what his or her gift has accomplished. Be creative in illustrating impact and demonstrate benchmarks of overall excellence. No one wants to be bogged down with numerous stats, so determine the most appealing stories and showcase impressive results. A few ways you might tailor your messaging:
- If using an email marketing tool, segment your audience based on affinity to your school or by gift amount – given the mass communication ‘feel’ most email receipts elicit, ensure your acknowledgement is as personalized as possible.
- Sign the email or hand written note from a recognizable board member, head of school, or tenured teacher. Alumni often have fond memories of particular teachers or principals – make the most of this enduring connection!
- A simple ‘thank you’ can bring about the same emotional bond as a 3 minute curated video. Know your alumni and what will work best for the institution.
According to Urban Institutes ‘Donor Retention Matters’, “The results of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project strongly suggest that many organizations could enjoy significant financial gains from increased attention to activities that encourage long-term commitment by donors who are familiar with their work. Stewardship of the connection with existing supporters is not just less expensive than prospecting for new ones, it also offers important opportunities to communicate about the value of the work being done and thus sustain the organization’s standing in the community.”
Your gratitude bonds the donor to your school, continuing the reciprocal relationship. I encourage you to extend this time of Thanksgiving throughout the year and keep your donors top of mind, always.