Twitter has been abuzz with #DonorLove with nonprofits recently.

#DonorLove is a movement of nonprofits recognizing their donors and thanking them for their support on social media channels. In short: it’s the latest fad in the age-old practice of making supporters feel connected to a causes they give and dedicate their time to.

I’ve never spoken to a Director of Development who didn’t have the best of intentions when it comes to expressing true, heart-felt gratitude for their donors’ support. But life tends to get in the way from time to time.

Pressures to meet acquisition and retention goals sometimes trump relationship-building efforts. Budgetary restrictions, limit your ability to send that extra direct mail touchpoint. The need for immediate support to accomplish urgent, mission-focused goals mean your team doesn’t have the time available to make a few extra “catch-up” calls this month.

To put a fine point on it: the urgent often trumps the important despite our best intentions.

I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I’ve seen it. I understand.

Did you know that it costs at least 5 times more to find a new donor than keep an existing one? What about that 70% of donors never give a second gift? What are you missing by NOT making #DonorLove a priority?

The idea of creating a culture of sincere gratitude for donors’ support is at the forefront of nearly every effective, growing organization I speak with. But intention is not enough — nonprofits need a plan. And more than the plan, they need action. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intention, right?

Here are a few tips to build a plan that is actionable for your organization in the long-term.

Step 1: Analyze Past Plans

If you’re like most organizations I’ve worked with, you’ve had multiple “master plans” put in place across your marketing and development teams to let your supporters know you care about them and are grateful for their support.

Were they successful?

If so: GREAT! Keep going! Do more and more of what’s already working for you.

But my guess is you’ve received mixed results at best. Otherwise you would have only had one iteration of the plan.

So why weren’t they successful? Were they too complex? Were they overly ambitious? Did you not have the resources to support the plan? Or maybe you just didn’t have team buy-in.

It’s incredibly important to do a real, honest post mortem of plan successes and failures. Talk openly about what worked and what didn’t. And as much as possible, tie success to real, measurable data and stay away from “I think this worked.”

Step 2: Establish the Vision

Once you’re real about why past #DonorLove plans have or haven’t worked, decide what your ideal experience would look like.

Do you want to communicate with specific donors with a perfect cadence (check out this blog about how often is too often)? Do you want to write handwritten thank you’s for all first time givers? Do you want your Executive Director to pick up the phone and call everyone who exceeds year-to-date or life-to-date giving milestones?

Set expectations for all of these and — more importantly — assign specific owners to each task.

Too often, we decide we want to do good things without placing responsibility and accountability on an actual member of the team.

Step 3: Automate

So now you have established the vision of your wonderful #DonorLove experience. What next?

As someone who wears many hats at Virtuous (and getting a bit closer to having senior moments every year), I can tell you that automating my tasks and to-do’s makes me look like I have a way better memory than I actually do.

It’s critical to be able to create reminders for all those things you truly need to do, but will lose sight of in the crush of the day-to-day. The ability to set auto-generated tasks that remind the owners the next love letter is due is essential for success.

Step 4: Let’s Change #DonorLove to #GiverLove

Now that you have a plan for your donors, what about the rest of your database? As mentioned earlier, it is infinitely more cost effective (and easier) to retain your current supporters than find new ones.

But if you are like most nonprofits, your actual donors represent a small segment of your database. What do you do with the rest of the supporters that haven’t yet given a gift?

If you’re like most organizations: very little. Probably an annual appeal, a few newsletters here and there, and the occasional email marketing appeal. But here’s the thing, have you ever thought of what the unlimited potential of this group of givers is?

Step 5: Measure Success

Once you have completed a time frame for doing these things (or at least once a year), you must evaluate the success. How do you do this? Do you have a way? Can you see how many new donors this year started as givers with no donations but were in your database for multiple years prior? This would be great data to show your board and highlight your success. Did you grow your newsletter opt-in’s after you started exploding with followers on Twitter or Facebook? Did you major gift program receive a large gift from a previously unknown person because you said thank you at the right time and in the right way? Evaluate and tweak to continue a culture of #GiverLove.

Don’t let those great plans for expressing #GiverLove be quashed by a program that is too complex, over ambitious, or not sustainable. By using the tips and trick outlined here, you can build an actionable, easy, and replicable system to reach all of your givers with genuine, heartfelt gratitude.

If you don’t have the tools in place currently to create this, check out Virtuous Nonprofit CRM and ping me for a one-on-one consultation on how we might be able to help you create deep, personal, lasting relationships with your givers.

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