Over this last year since I started Real Deal Fundraising, readers have sent me questions. I’m a believer that if one person asks a question, there are many others out there that are wondering the same thing but haven’t asked it out loud yet. So, in that spirit, I scoured my email and social media messages for some of the best questions I’ve been asked and compiled my response for all of you.
If you have a question you would like me to answer on my next installment, comment on this blog post or contact me here.
Question: What is your opinion on making a second ask in a thank you letter to donors?
In a letter, I'm not a fan. In a dedicated thank you call, I'm not a huge fan. In a thank you email, you can include a link and/or a PS with a passive pitch.
However, you can do some dedicated 2nd ask calls that are distinct from Thank You calls. You thank them for their past support and then pitch something different from their previous gifts. For instance, if you ask for general fund gifts in the fall, do a 2nd ask campaign for the colleges or academic departments.
Get very clear about the purpose of each communication piece you do. Stewardship should be 90-100% stewardship. Asks should be 80% asking but always with gratitude for past giving rolled in.
Question: What do you think about adding all students to our donor database upon enrollment instead of waiting to add them when they graduate?
If you have the capacity to keep that data up, it's not a bad idea. You'll have to load new students, remove those who don't stay from semester to semester and regularly update demographic info. That requires a strong advancement services staff along with a tight schedule and partnership with student data staff.
That said, if you can do it there are lots of advantages. You can:
Question: Do you send receipts to all donors?
Yes, all donors should get a receipt. In the case of online gifts, I use an auto-generated receipt sent via email after the gift is processed electronically. Those that make a monthly gift receive an acknowledgement the first time the recurring gift/pledge is set up and then a statement each January that covers the total amount of their giving for the previous calendar/tax year.
Question: I’m talking to our deans about fundraising for the first time ever. Do you have any advice for what topics I should cover?
When talking with the deans, you need to convey two things:
You should make sure to emphasize the importance of viewing this as a partnership. So for instance, you can tell them how you can help them raise more money (phonathon, direct mail, taking them on major donor visits, etc.) but also tell them practical ways they can support you in that work (doing an alumni newsletter, encouraging grads to update demographic information, regularly sending you good news about their programs and students, responding to emails, getting their student scholarship recipients to write thank you notes, etc.)
I would use this opportunity to tell them you will be happy to train them to do things like write thank you notes and talk to major donors but they must also trust you when you tell them that something isn't a good idea and they need to know the limitations of your staff.
If you have the ability to be a bit frank with them, gently convey the sense that trust is important and that this is a give and take partnership. If you can do this, you will be further along that most shops in terms of relationship with academic leadership.
Question: How can I improve our percentage of phonathon gifts given via credit card?
Improving credit cards is a simple (but not easy) thing to do. You must prime the mindset of the callers so that they genuine expect the prospect to give via a credit or debit card. You must emphasize that credit cards are THE default payment option for everything in our world today, right down to a sweet tea for $1 from McDonald's.
After addressing mindset, callers must do TWO credit card asks, according to this formula: assumptive ask then what I call the “reasons plus reconsider” ask.
The assumptive ask goes like this: "Which credit or debit card would you like to use?" If they give the credit card on this ask, of course, no need to keep asking.
If they balk on the first ask, you simply tell them why you are asking for a credit card and ask them to reconsider. Here’s an example: "The reasons we ask donors to make their gift via credit card is that it puts your gift to work right after for the institution. It's very safe and only takes a few seconds. Would you reconsider using your credit or debit card tonight?" This rebuttal ask can be customized to the most common reasons why donors might hesitate to give on their credit card.
Callers must follow this formula without fail. It's hard to get volunteer callers to do that and hold them accountable. But, you'll make significant strides by following the formula above. You'll notice it's very natural and not pushy. Just a question and then an explanation. I’ll do a more in-depth blog post on this topic soon, particularly covering the ways that you can modify the “reasons plus reconsider ask” to make it specific to the prospect’s objection.
That's all for today! What questions do you have for me? Post a comment with your question(s).
If you are interested in working with me directly as a trainer or consultant, contact me here and let’s chat.
Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
PS - If you liked this post, you might also like these:
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.