The KISS Method*

Snail mail, email, text solicitations, phone calls — regardless of the vehicle you use for your fundraising “ask”/pitch, remember to keep it simple.

Just like in an invitation to any kind of event, whether it’s a kid’s birthday party, an open house or a gala, you know that you always want to include “who, what, why, where”, right? Don’t forget to also include an email address and phone number. I know that phone numbers are sometimes tricky when staff is working remotely, but surely there is some way that someone who wants to donate can speak to someone to get their questions answered. Ideally you give a direct phone number (i.e. an office number that “rings through” to a cell or home number), but if that’s not possible, then at least ensure that somebody on your team will check messages throughout the day and return calls promptly. (If that “designated staff member” goes on vacation or is unavailable, make sure that someone else is assigned to monitor the calls on a daily basis.) You all work too hard to have your solicitations finally pan out, but then the donation doesn’t happen because the donor can’t get a question answered.

The same goes for emails. A donor who’s decided to donate, but has a question, doesn’t want to wait several days or more to get an email response before sending in their payment.

Also, make sure that your standard information for payment makes sense. Although many donors pay by credit card, many pay by other means. Make sure that alternative options for payment are included on all your solicitations (including your website.) If you accept checks or online forms of payment, say so in your collateral. If you are happy to accept Donor Advised Fund donations, say so — and give the donor the precise information they’ll need to make that donation. (If you’re not familiar with Donor Advised Funds, get familiar with them. This is super easy, and not clearly showing the Tax ID number and mailing address for a DAF check on your website — and actually encouraging donations from DAF’s — is absolutely leaving money on the table. )

If you’ll take appreciated stock, say so, and make it easy for the donor to make that transaction happen.

In addition, here’s a part that many organizations forget, and it’s important. Make sure that all your staff, at all levels, and your lay leaders, too, understand what forms of payment you accept. The first step in receiving a piece of the $121B (billion) Donor Advised Fund pie is to actually understand what they are and how the transaction works. You don’t need to know the ins and outs tax-wise — you just need to know how to make it easy for the donor to give to your organization.

Finally, now is a good time to do the following exercise (based on the “Secret Shopper” concept). Pretend, just for a few minutes, that you’re a donor who wants to give to your organization, and you’ve never donated to this nonprofit before. Create a persona that makes sense to you — as if you (as you) were the donor. Decide if the donor (you) would want to donate online, or send in a check, or ? Then go through the motions and make sure it all works. Is the online form easy to use? Do the questions on the form make sense? (And do you (the company) really need the answers to all of the questions you’re asking? Are you using that data?) Ideally, you would then make a donation — even $5 — and see what happens. Is there a nice “thank you” message that appears on the site? Is the language in the acknowledgement what you want it to be? Does it come in a timely manner? Are you then put into an appropriate database to encourage future engagement?

If there’s a phone number, call it and see what a donor would experience. Is the voicemail appropriate? (Ideally here, you would leave a friend’s name and see how long it takes to get a return call….)

Most fundraisers know that recurring (i.e. monthly) donations are a growing piece of the puzzle. Do your website and solicitations always include a request or opportunity to sign up for a recurring donation — and is it easy to find and to sign up for?

Have you ever been in a department store trying to find someone to take your money, only to get frustrated and change your mind about purchasing? The same is true for donations — make it clear, simple and easy for donors to contribute. If you don’t, you’re spending time and resources getting a donor teed up, only to have them walk away.

*Learn about the KISS method here.

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- Lisa