By Ron C. Emanuel, CPA, Business Assurance & Advisory Services Manager | Not-for-Profit Team
Many not-for-profits rely on gifts from donors to accomplish their mission. It is in the organizations best interest to cultivate these relationships from the beginning. While every not-for-profit would love to bring in new donors, retaining them is equally, if not more, important. How can your organization start off on the right path with first-time donors? Let’s take a look at a recent study conducted and presented by West Avenue Associates at the Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives monthly meeting in October.
West Avenue Associates (WAA) selected 25 local Richmond-based not-for-profit organizations to understand their various stewardship activities of first time donors. Their approach was to send an unsolicited donation of $20 to each organization selected as a first-time donor, with the exception of one, via handwritten checks and hand-stamped envelopes. WAA then collected certain data based on the responses of each not-for-profit organization and highlight best practices.
The Results and Best Practices
WAA found, of the 25 donations made, all but one of the organizations sent an acknowledgement response. Here are some results from the study:
- 50% (12) responded with two weeks*
- 92% (22) sent acknowledge letters*
- All but one were one-page letters
- 8% (2) sent a card acknowledge
- 29% (7) had handwritten envelope
- 13% (2) had “Thank You” pre-printed on envelope
- 96% (23) mentioned IRS requirements or included a receipt*
The acknowledgement responses received included the following:
- 42% (10) signed by President/E.D./CEO
- 42% (10) signed by Development Leader / Representative
- 83% (20) had inked signature, with 5 including additional handwritten comments*
- 13% (3) enclosed additional materials with acknowledgement (e.g, marketing, development)
- 17% (4) sent additional correspondence within six week period*
* Based on the results of study, WAA considered these as best practices.
Letters of acknowledgement can serve as the first step in cultivating relationships with donors. Organizations should utilize the letter to reiterate their mission, highlight programs, extend an invitation to visit, celebrate the donor’s gift, and remind the donor about matching gifts opportunities.
Every organization should allocate time and resources towards stewardship to ensure donor relationships get stronger. Building these relationships involves planned communications, getting donors involved in the organization’s mission and engaging them. As with many things in life, the first impression can be a lasting impression.
Ron applies his expertise and knowledge in helping clients understand accounting standards and identify opportunities to improve internal controls. He is a Manager in the Business Assurance and Advisory Services Group and serves clients in the not-for-profit, manufacturing, distribution, waste management and financial services industries. Ron is a member of Keiter’s not-for-profit team. Read more of Ron's not-for-profit insights on our blog.
Source: West Avenue Associates (2015), Stewardship 2015 Best Practices – – The RVA Way. West Avenue Associates provides counsel to the leadership of non-profit organizations related to key issues like fiscal discipline, operational sustainability, planning, and rational, data-based decision making. Additional information can be found at www.westavellc.com.