What’s In My Mailbox | “My board wants to cut print and go digital.”

November 1, 2017


I feel lucky to get a lot of emails that inspire me. Often times, the ones that do are usually notes from Grow Report subscribers, Basics & More students, members, and alumni, and Simple Development Systems members.

And then there are times when an email makes my week.

I’ll start off by introducing Laura Block, Individual Giving Manager at Housing Opportunities for Women. HOW is a Chicago-based nonprofit working toward breaking the homelessness cycle. To this end, their long-term solutions empower women, children, and families. Through prevention strategies, including providing affordable housing and individualized support programs, HOW has provided the tools for self-sufficiency for thousands of people, and continues to do vital work every day.

Laura is guiding a transformation at HOW in the form of a cultural shift, and it is ongoing. She is a Basics & More Ticket Holder and she’s not only read through the lessons, she’s synthesized the materials in her brain and gone on to implement what she’s learned at her nonprofit. She has a keen understanding of how fundraising today, given the unique circumstances, really is different. Her email sheds some light on how she’s doing it, and so does HOW’s recently-revived print newsletter. Read on…

Dear Pamela,

Today’s Grow Report started me thinking about everything that’s happened – personally, politically, and otherwise – since around this time last year when I received the 2017 Fundraising Calendar and decided to sign up for Basics & More. Since then, I’ve gone from working in one small shop nonprofit to two (part of a 4-person team at my new full-time job, and solo at my part-time spot), and even though I’ve been so busy that I don’t always keep up with Basics & More each week, I always revisit modules when I’m working on something and need some advice. Plus, “What’s in my mailbox” is a constant source of help and inspiration.

All that’s to say, thank you for what you do! My Basics & More membership was 100% worth the expense and time invested. After almost a year, it’s becoming second nature for me to write in a donor-centric way. There’s still a long way to go at my new job, but we’re in the process of recovering from years of non-communicative, self-centered, stingy treatment of donors and I can already see lapsed donors coming back, increased interest in volunteering and events, growth in our mailing list, and other positive signs. Thank you!!

Here are some ways I’ve changed how we’re thanking and communicating with donors at Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW), my new job:

I ordered a bunch of thank you cards with photos of happy clients and use them frequently to thank donors, event sponsors, and volunteers. They’re a big improvement over the old in-house printed cards with a boring logo on the front, which seem to have barely ever been used!

I check each donor’s giving history every time we receive a gift, and when donors are celebrating a 3, 5, or 7+ year anniversary of giving with us, I make sure to write them a special note or make a phone call to let them know how important they are to us.

A few years ago, our print newsletter was retired in favor of more frequent e-newsletters. Although the e-newsletters have a respectable open rate by industry standards, nothing can replace direct mail and so we revived the print newsletter this year. So far we’ve received tons of great feedback from donors and brought in a handful of significant gifts from lapsed donors – it easily paid for itself and then some. Between the print newsletters and e-newsletters, we make sure to touch base with our donors at least once a month, if not more often. I’ve attached a copy of our summer print newsletter – all of its success is thanks to your advice (and some ideas I borrowed from Nashville Rescue Mission, once I discovered them on your website).

We hear a lot from fundraisers who are abandoning print in favor of solely digital communications because it’s *cheaper.* Truth: if your print newsletter is done well, it can be a consistent source of revenue throughout the year. Discover how to create your organization’s *rinse-and-repeat* revenue generating newsletter in Nonprofit Donor Newsletters at Basics & More™ U..

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michelle Brinson November 2, 2017 at 4:45 pm

It’s always nice to receive compliments like this. Thank you Pamela for continuing the amazing work you do in helping people with their fundraising. And Laura… so glad our materials can be a resource for you. We are all in this together… making the world a better place. Blessings to you both!

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