blue bar

Show You Love Them

The Ten Fail-Proof Rules To Winning The Next Gift

You must recognize a donor appropriately and effectively. It is the first step in developing a continuing and binding relationship. If done properly, there will be a growing and deeper awareness, knowledge, caring, involvement, and commitment on the part of the donor.

A study we recently completed indicates the reason most often given for not repeating a gift is that it was not acknowledged on a timely basis, thoughtful appreciation was not demonstrated, and the recognition for the gift was not up to expectation. This is worth noting.

More important—it requires four times the effort and money to get a new gift than it does to renew one. Now that should really get your attention.

Here are ten fail proof rules that will help you build a secure and growing relationship with your donors through recognition. If you follow these guidelines faithfully, you can be assured of developing your donor base and increasing your income.

1. Give Greater Emphasis to the Continuing Relationship of the Donor
Provide greater emphasis to the years of continuous giving of your donor. In all your material, there should be an indication of the number of years a donor has given continuously to the organization. This should also be recorded in the Annual Report, or any other publication that lists your donors.

Go even a step further. Display the number of years of continuous giving on the receipt, or whatever else is given to the donors. In the listing in the Annual Report, for instance, display the number of years:

Jerry A. Linzy—7

This indicates that Mr. Linzy has been a donor without interruption for seven years.

There is a curious phenomenon about continuous giving and recognizing it. If a donor gives continuously for three years, and the gift is properly recognized and thoughtful appreciation is demonstrated—a donor will not break the chain of continuous giving. Begin recognizing the second year. The results will be immediate and gratifying.

2. Recognize your $100 and Up Donors
Begin now to recognize all gifts of $100 and up with a personal call to the donor. This is in addition to your receipt and the letter of acknowledgment and appreciation.

The calls should probably come from the Chief Development Officer. In some institutions, where the trustees meet monthly, the list of donors who give preceding the board meeting are distributed among board members for them to make the call.

At the Red Cross in Milwaukee, they instituted a program several years ago of having trustees review the list of the prior month’s donors. Several years ago, a trustee called a first-time donor to thank the 74-year old man for his gift. He called the following year again to thank him for the second year’s gift. This time, he took the receipt to thank the donor in person. Two months ago, this recent annual donor died—and left the Red Cross $3 million in his will.

Here’s another tip—try having the secretary call: “Ms. Generous, I’m just typing your receipt now and I want to make absolutely certain we have the name spelled exactly right. And I want you to know, too, how much all of us at our institution appreciate your gift. Our records say this is your third year of giving and that’s great.” The reaction to this sort of recognition will be very special.

Will donors be turned off by such a call? Bothered? Upset? Not at all. And that’s a promise. Just try it. The response we’ve had with clients who try it has been nothing less than extraordinary.

Are staff too busy to do the calling? What else is staff doing that is more important than thanking donors?

3. The Rule of Seven
Jerry Panas, in his book Mega Gifts (p. 56), credits Mary G. Roebling, Chairperson of the New Jersey Trust Company in Newark, for developing the concept of the “Rule of Seven.” It is as simple as it is powerful. Find a way during the year to thank a donor seven times before asking for another gift. It works! It not only works, you’ll receive an increase in the gift.

4. Write A Personal Note
You cannot write enough personal notes. The more frantic the world becomes, the better the technology to mass produce letters, the more voice mail and e-mail invades relationships—the more donors appreciate the personal touch of a handwritten note. All forms of communication are vital and needed—but a handwritten note of thanks, praise, or transmittal really pays dividends.

5. Involve Donors in the Life of the Institution
Make sure donors are invited to attend appropriate institutional functions—both public and private. Be creative. Design activities and programs that involve donors.

Sacred Heart Hospital developed a small, very attractive suite near the administrator’s office. It is used in the Hospital’s cultivation and recognition program. An invitation to a private meeting or meal in the suite is a coveted activity for many. Some donors use it for a quiet moment, to make a telephone call, or send a note after a patient visit. It is an effective program.

6. Acknowledge the Gift the Same Day
You may think this impossible. Not so. Where there is the determination to implement this “fail-proof” system, you will find that acknowledging within 24 hours becomes the routine, the standard procedure. All right—take 48 hours if you must, but no more than that.

And recognition beyond the initial letter should also be timely. Design a strategy so there is a succession of actions. If there is a long period of time between the acceptance of a gift and the act of recognition, keep the donor informed with notes, phone calls, or a personal visit.

Add this to your program: take the receipt to the donor in person. There is no greater way to assure next year’s large gift.

7. Leaders Play An Important Role
Both management and volunteer leadership need to understand how important their role is in recognizing contributions. This is true of all gifts—corporate, foundation, and individual.

Recognition can be in the form of a thank you note, a smile, the presentation of an award, a pat on the back, or public praise. The role of leadership in recognizing the gifts and involvement of others is essential.

8. There’s No Such Thing As An Anonymous Gift
Well, that’s not entirely true—but nearly so. Most donors will not seek recognition but are deeply grateful when the act is done in a sensitive, thoughtful way.

If a donor requests anonymity, make certain the request is confirmed. If you probe a bit, the donor may decide that recognition is indeed appropriate. Or in a capital campaign, the donor may be convinced that recognition of the gift will lead to gifts from others. And it does. Maintaining a relationship with the donor will make this process easier.

9. Always Include the Spouse
Assume that the spouse is always involved in the decision to make a gift. It always is in the case of a major donation. Your recognition of the gift should always include the spouse. Our research shows that one of the seven reasons prospects did not make a gift to a program was that the spouse was not included in the solicitation. And including the spouse in the recognition of the gift is equally essential.

10. Accuracy is Paramount
Whatever the form of recognition, check for accuracy. Then check again.

We know of one case in a college in the East, a misspelling of the name of a long-time donor cost the college a bequest. You say: “Well that’s really over-reacting!” It is indeed. But in our business, the donor rules. Always.

Mistakes in spelling and facts are a matter of embarrassment to the institution, can anger the donor, and can lead to disastrous results. Better check!

It’s all so easy and costs so little. Best of all, following this ten-step program will dramatically increase your giving. You can count on it.

All that is required is the design of a plan and a commitment on the part of all development staff to implement the program. Is it worth the extra time and effort—only if you want to raise more money.

– Jerry A. Linzy
Senior Managing Partner
Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners