Following up is an important part of any campaign or event. One of the biggest reasons for that is donor retention. In a survey asking donors why they stopped supporting an organization, 53% cited poor communication with the nonprofit. But there are many other reasons following up should be built into every campaign, such as preserving and expanding relationships with volunteers and sponsors, identifying the most popular features of the campaign, and learning how to make the whole process less stressful for staff.
While there will be some differences in follow-up methods, depending on the size of the organization, there are three main elements to following up on a fundraising campaign.
• Saying “Thank You!”
• Gathering Information and Feedback
• Sharing Results
As we explain how to approach these objectives, pay attention to how your nonprofit can make use of tools like automated email and surveys, personalized communications, and internal debriefing. These are the primary tools used to build an effective follow up process.
Say Thank You (and you and you and you)
Thanking donors isn’t just the polite thing to do, it’s the smart thing. One of the top reasons donors gave when asked why they stopped donating was that they were never thanked for their previous gift. At the very least, every donor should receive a thank you email, which can be easily automated and segmented.
Smaller nonprofits, however, should consider personalized acknowledgments whenever possible. Donors expect to receive an email following their gift, but a phone call or handwritten note is a pleasant surprise. This personal touch reminds the donor of the people behind the cause. The electric company will send a receipt, a friend will send a thank you note. If everyone in your office devotes one hour to writing notes or making phone calls, it can have a huge impact on donor satisfaction.
For medium and large nonprofits, it may not be feasible to send every donor a personalized thank you, but that doesn’t mean you should send one generic email and move on. Larger organizations can use segmentation to send appropriate messages to different groups of donors. It’s still a good idea, however, to make time for a few phone calls or notes for major gifts or first-time donors.
While thanking donors is an obvious part of following up, don’t forget to acknowledge all the other people who made your campaign or event possible. Volunteers and sponsors should also be thanked too. Retaining volunteers means having experienced support and satisfied sponsors may be willing to invest further next time.
Ask for Feedback
After thanking all your supporters, your next objective is to gather information from your event or campaign. To repeat success, your need to know what went well and to correct mistakes, you need to know what went wrong.
Much of your data will come from internal sources, such as the number of donors and average donation size. Online fundraising platforms make it easy to see who is giving and at what point in the campaign. But there will still be plenty of information to be gleaned from external sources, such as donor surveys.
The good news is that surveys can usually be prepared beforehand and be scheduled to go out the day after a campaign ends. You can send a survey along with your initial thank you email, or you can include it in a later email reporting the campaign’s success to donors. To take advantage of a captive audience, small nonprofits can ask people attending an event to fill out a short survey before they leave. Your goal with the survey is to find out what your donors enjoyed (and want to see again) and if any part of the campaign left them dissatisfied. This gives you direction in planning future fundraisers.
And in the same way you should extend your gratitude to volunteers and other supporters, you should also invite their feedback. They may have noticed something you didn’t. Here are a few good questions to ask volunteers:
• Did your training prepare you to perform the tasks expected of you?
• Were staff or volunteer supervisors available to help and answer questions?
• Would you be interested in volunteering with us again?
To get an accurate look at your campaign, it is best to seek feedback from several different sources. You will, of course, have access to your fundraising metrics and staff’s observations, but you will need to be proactive get others’ perspectives. Once you have a detailed picture of your campaign, you can celebrate your results and plan for the future.
Share Results to Ensure Your Whole Team Learns
Jack and Jill
went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down
A story, however short, isn’t very satisfying without the ending.
This is exactly why nonprofit organizations need to share the results of a campaign with their community. They were with you for the beginning and the middle, so don’t forget to tell them the ending. Your fundraiser probably won’t have people on the edge of their seat like a Game of Thrones episode, but it is still gratifying and encouraging to show the audience what a campaign accomplished.
With the closing of a fundraiser, there will be some open real estate on your website. You can simply replace calls-to-action for that campaign with the final results. A few days after donors are thanked, you can also send them a debriefing email, telling them the highlights, challenges, and impact this campaign had. Not only does this maintain lines of communication past a campaign’s end (and hopefully into future fundraisers), it also conveys that you trust the donors and want them to be involved.
Major campaigns and events should be followed by a staff meeting for debriefing and discussion. For small organizations, this will be a relatively simple process, with all staff meeting to review the fundraising results and talk about challenges. Anonymous surveys and comment cards can also be a good tool for this stage of follow up.
As an organization grows in size, all-staff meetings may become unfocused or cumbersome. In this case, different departments can meet to discuss their observations, with supervisors bringing these findings to an interdepartmental meeting. Keep your debriefing meetings on track by finding your way back to the following question:
What does this information mean for future campaigns?
The goal is to take observations and data from this year and identify actions that will bring more success next time.
It’s Not Over ‘Til You Follow Up
As stressful and time-consuming as a fundraiser can be, it can be tempting to simply move on when the deadline arrives. But if you’re not connecting with your community and learning from your results, you are missing out. Saying “thank you,” gathering information, and sharing your results are important steps to your long-term goals. Prioritizing these objectives as your campaign winds down will set you up for even greater success in future campaigns.