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How to Guide: Donor Relationship Management

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Table of Contents

Toplines

  • Personal outreach to donors can help build community, create leaders, and maximize fundraising
  • Suggest one team leader handle thank you and invitation messages
  • Only reach out to donors if donations are under $1,000. HQ’s Development Office handles acknowledgements for everything above that level and we want to avoid too many touches!
  • Make clear that your acknowledgement is coming from your team, since donors might also receive a note from ActBlue or the recipient campaign

Introduction

To maximize fundraising, we put substantial time and energy as organizers creating programming, promoting and recruiting for events, and making an effective ask, all in service of getting people to the point where they can click a link to send money to our candidates or to HQ. That donation often feels like an end goal. But what if we also see a donation as a beginning?

Your team might consider having a leader reach out to personally connect with those who donate below the $1,000 level. The outreach includes a thank you and invitation for the person to, for example, join an upcoming event or be a part of organizing the team!

These personal touches can be a great way to build community, make donors feel more integrated into the team, and increase fundraising. A donor might donate again and at a higher level. They might host their own Friendraiser event, join a phonebank, help run your postcard program, or take over social media for the team. Bare-minimum, your donor will feel appreciated, valued, and included. And that alone is worth it.

Based on what’s working for several Sister District teams, and including examples from leaders, the following describes how your team might add or enhance a donor relationship element of your fundraising program.

Steps for Donor Relationship Management

  1. Identify one person on your team as the donor relationship manager. The good news is that communicating with donors is straightforward and it’s a perfect role for someone who prefers to volunteer in a way that is self-directed with a good mix of proactive and reactive tasks involving small amounts of time entirely on their own schedule.
  2. Develop a process. There are a number ways to design a good thank you + invitation outreach system. Please see the examples below. Our guidance includes:
      1. Best to reach out fairly shortly after a donation is made. ActBlue notifications are handy if you want to send emails right away. You can request notifications here.
      2. A quick email is great but you might consider sending a text or even a handwritten note in response to larger donations. For example, the HQ Development Office sends printed thank you letters to individuals who cumulatively donated between $250 and $999 to HQ during the preceding calendar month.
      3. Strategize for the invitations you extend. Your first invitation might be as simple as inviting the person to the team’s next fundraiser.
      4. The leader managing donor relationships will need access to the team’s Fundraising Portal and Action Network volunteer database & email account. Please contact your organizing department staffer to get them set up!
  3. Send a thank you note with an invitation when someone donates! See examples below.
    Pro Tip: If the person expresses interest in doing more, you could take this approach: “I’d love to chat with you about how you might want to volunteer with us — do you have time for a call on Monday?” Here are a few ideas for how they might be able to help:

Donor Relationship Process Examples

Every program will be different and each leader will innovate and create a system and communications that fit a team’s unique culture and goals. Please take the following as general guidance and make it your own!

Karen Martin, Sister District Sonoma County East
Karen sets aside some time each Monday morning to communicate with donors. Karen’s steps are:

  1. Export week’s donor information to spreadsheet
  2. Send individual emails, using donor’s name, with a personal note if I had had any particular interaction with them
  3. Thank them for their contribution and note how much we have raised so far.
  4. Include some highlights from our talking points
  5. Include links to upcoming fundraising events
  6. Signed personally from me

Jennie Pilkington, Sister District DC/VA/MD

  1. Thank donors within a day after they made a donation
    1. Note their response and any interest they indicate for future reference
    2. Track those who have made multiple donations and thank them for their continued generosity with a tailored response
      NOTE: In April 2021, we will roll out Action Network as the new tool for managing your team’s list and communicating with the people on it. That tool will enable leaders to capture notes and tags to track information about individual volunteers.
  2. Periodically pull a list of donors who had donated to a specific candidate
    1. Invite to future fundraising events featuring that candidate
    2. PRO TIP: Invite donors to phonebanks — in lieu of phonebanking, Jennie found they often elect to make another donation! (relatedly, see our case study on SD South Bay LA’s Sponsor a Phonebanker program)
  3. Many substantial donors were friends or family members of team leaders. Jennie would encourage her fellow team leaders to
    1. Invite friends and family
    2. Ask friends and family to invite folks from their own networks

Thank You & Invitation Email Examples

Dear Janet,

Thank you so very much from all of us at the Sister District North Carolina team for donating to our candidates Brian Farkas and Frances Jackson! Your generous donation will help these candidates build effective campaigns and has increased our chances of winning this critical election.

I hope you can join us for a virtual Meet & Greet with Brian Farkas 7-7:45pm PT Weds Sept 23. Please sign up here and please invite friends!

Thank you again,

Here is an example of a thank you with an ask from Karen Martin:

Hi Rick,

Thank you so much for your donation in support of our Sister District Sonoma County East team’s candidates! With your generous help, we have raised more than $17,000 of our $25,000 goal!

The local races Sister District is supporting this year are the last chance for Democrats to gain power in state legislatures before redistricting. Your support helps us ensure fair electoral maps for the next decade.

I hope you will be able to join us at one of our upcoming events

(Please share with friends and family)

Wednesday, August 26th, 4pm – Virtual Book Talk with Local author Sara Zeff Geber, Ph.D In conversation with Amy Pearl, one of the Sister District Sonoma East founders, Sara will discuss why she wrote Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers, as well as many of the key concepts and guidelines for being a successful Solo Ager. She’ll explore who qualifies as a “Solo Ager,” why Solo Agers need to do more robust planning than their counterparts with nearby family members, the importance of community, options for where to live in later life, and much more. Register here!

Sister District Sacramento leaders will send hand-written thank you notes to donors! Here’s how SD Sacramento fundraising leader Linda Paoli describes their work:

After a fundraising event, it can be elegant and more personal to send hand-written thank you notes.  Writing a thank you note also gives volunteers who want to help with fundraising (but don’t want to go to planning meetings or ask people for money) a way to contribute.

Our group had a designated Thank You Note team.  They provided their own thank you notes and stamps.  They were mailed out in the first week after the event.  We would have provided cards and stamps if someone needed them.

SAMPLE THANK YOU NOTE FOR ONLINE HOLIDAY AUCTION ITEM PURCHASERS

Dear (PURCHASER’S NAME),

Thank you so much for purchasing an auction item (OR auction items) to the online Holiday Auction to benefit Christine Morse’s campaign for Michigan’s State House of Representative, District 61.  We hope you enjoyed the auction and the item(s) you purchased. Michigan State House of Representative candidate Christine Morse spoke during the auction and was amazing!

It is because of people like YOU that she will get elected and help Michigan’s Governor Whitmer with legislative support to enact laws that protect health during COVID-19 as well as other progressive legislation.

We look forward to seeing you at future SDP Fundraising events and meetings.

Gratefully,

YOUR NAME

SDP Sacramento Planning, Fundraising and Auction Team

Next Case Study: NYC Donor Reengagement and Matching Recruitment