Getting Your 46 Cents Worth

I don’t know if it’s brain overload, old age, too much reliance on the Internet, denial or just plain laziness, but I no longer pay attention to what the cost of a First Class postage stamp is. (After all, it’s not like I can comparison shop.) The truth is, I did a quick Google search so I could title this article.

But whether you know the cost of postage or not, there are two realities. First, it’s not cheap to mail a First Class letter. And second, First Class mailing is necessary from time to time. Take, for example, the humble receipt.

Some organizations choose to only mail receipts annually or for gifts over a certain predetermined threshold. Others mail receipts all year long. I am a firm believer that receipts have an important purpose in our fundraising strategy and should be mailed quickly after (almost) every donation. Here’s why.

Receipts add credibility
“Donor remorse” is not a new concept. As fundraisers, we fight to eliminate, or at lease minimize, it. And one thing that can help us win that battle is a timely receipt.

A well-constructed receipt sends some very strong messages to the donor: We received your gift. We are very grateful for your gift. We invested your gift the way you asked us to. And your gift is hard at work making a difference in our mission.

Online receipts are most guilty (in my experience) of forgetting that they have to play an important PR role, not just acknowledge the donation. While I am not advocating a long e-mail to acknowledge an online gift, is the language you use warm, appreciative and descriptive, or is it perfunctory?

Receipts convey information
Here’s where you can really get your 46 cents worth. You mail your receipts First Class, so you are paying for up to one ounce of weight. So pack your envelope with motivational messages.

For example, include a mini-newsletter that tells a few stories showing how donations to your organization changed a situation. The key word here is “mini.” Quickly tell the story with two or three short stories and a few photos, and design it for maximum scannability.

You also can (gently) promote other programs or opportunities. A series of inserts that are each one-third of a page can promote your legacy society, features on your website, an exciting fact about your organization, an upcoming event and much more. Prepare enough inserts so you can rotate them every month for at least a quarter.

Receipts encourage more action
A well-designed receipt has a means for a donor to give another gift — maybe not immediately but at some point in the future. I am a big proponent of including a return coupon and a reply envelope. You don’t have to be high-pressure; for example, you might say, “Your gift means so much to us, and is already making a difference for the men and women we help right in your community. We hope that, as you are able, you will continue to support XYZ Organization so together we can keep working to bring hope to people in need.” You can also use inserts to promote gifts in memory or in honor of a loved one, or other opportunities to support your organization.

But all action isn’t giving; your donors can help your organization in other ways, too. If you sell products, promote one or two of them. Invite donors to follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook. And ask them for referrals; this is easily done on another of the one-third-of-a-page inserts you are preparing. On the front, invite them to send names of others who might be interested in your organization and explain how this helps you do more of your work. Tell them how you will use those names (i.e., we’ll send them a letter about our program, but we will not add them to our mailing list unless they request it), and assure them that you won’t mention their names in the letter. On the back, include space to write in three or four referral names and addresses.

Last fall, I made a donation to one of the political parties. I am not terribly political, but I wanted to “test the system” as it were since I was reading a lot about the candidates’ fundraising tactics. About two months after my donation — and well after the election — I received my receipt. But by that point, it was nothing more than a missed opportunity — and a terrible waste of 46 cents.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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