"Bye, Bye, Love ..."

Because you're one of most generous supporters, I wanted to include you in an exciting opportunity to double your holiday giving, the letter opened.

A group of generous, anonymous donors had issued the matching gift challenge.

It's a great technique:

  • Matching funds to increase the impact of my giving. Help me make an even greater difference. 
  • Tied to holidays (and/or year-end giving season). 
  • They may have even limited the offer to supporters who hadn't given in a while in an attempt to reactivate lapsed donors. (The ask was based on my HPC, btw.)

The problem is, it's not going to work. And I realized as I read the rest of the letter, even the best technique is no substitute for touch.

A little background. I have more than 20 years of history with this organization. Untold hours volunteering. Board service. Many consecutive years of giving.

Then my feelings got hurt.

It wasn't really that big of deal at the time. I felt unappreciated. Taken for granted. So I pulled back. Stopped volunteering. Stopped giving. Showed up a lot less.

And nobody noticed.

I didn't even get a letter that said "We miss you." Or at least, maybe in January, "We missed your year-end gift this year." Let alone a phone call (from someone on staff … don't even get me started on what I would have said to a telemarketer!)

What can you do? Do you just let supporters fade away? (No!) Or are some constituents valuable enough to warrant extra attention? (Yes!)

We recommend clients identify a pre-defined level of top-tier donors. Not just major (high dollar) donors, but constituents who have been involved for some time (two-plus consecutive years) and have multiple interactions (giving, event participation, volunteering, etc.) and do meet a minimum threshold of total annual giving.

We suggest they considered what level of support might warrant extra concern, determined in part by how many people that is and how much capacity the organization can commit to response.

And that they try to identify signs that may indicate that the relationship is in trouble. (For example, a regular donor who hasn't given in six or nine months; a volunteer who stops showing up, etc.)

Develop a pre-lapse strategy. It's a proven approach. You can't save everyone. But the sooner you try to salvage a shaky relationship the greater the likelihood you'll succeed.

As for me, a matching gift offer just ain't gonna cut it. Not even a triple, or quadruple match. Not after 18-plus months.

I'll admit it pains me a bit. But I think I can find somebody else to care about.

I know I get lots of requests. Especially this time of year!