Funding Change Consulting Blog Advice

A Model for Donor Follow-up: What happened after I gave to RAICES Texas…

Provide your donors with the opportunity to do more than donate

In the wake of the horrors being committed at the southern border of the United States, I donated to some organizations working to defend migrant rights and reunite families torn apart.*

RAICES TexasOne of the groups I gave to is RAICES Texas (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services). I’d never given to them before so I was a new donor. I sent them $500.

I got their automated “thank you” email immediately. There wasn’t anything too special about it but it did encourage me to share their fundraiser on Facebook and Twitter. They provided clickable links to make this easy to do. And they also included text for a message I could email to friends.

This is certainly part of why they were so successful is getting the campaign to go viral.

But what really impressed me was the email I got the next day . . .

The subject line is strong.

RAICES: What is next? Updates and Invitations.

Your subject line is the most important part of any email you send. That along with the sender is what determines whether or not your email will get opened.

This message had a subject line that’s relevant and timely. It asks a question I’m curious about. It tells me what I’m going to get if I open the email. And because it arrived so soon after my donation, I remembered who RAICES is and why I gave. All good things!

The first paragraph puts you right in the shoes of the person writing.

I sit here writing this email having just checked the fundraising totals. Honestly, I copied them from the screen into a Word document to add commas because I couldn’t quite process the digits. You have been more generous than we could have imagined. Thank you seems fundamentally inadequate to express what this means.

You can imagine the sender doing exactly as they describe. Their words are genuine and made me feel appreciated. They also link to a sweet “thank you” video on YouTube.

The email is transparent.

I’m going to be honest. This fundraising so far exceeds our expectations that our original plan needed to change.

RAICES admits they weren’t prepared for this response and are making adjustments accordingly. Admitting you need to change your plans to account for the unexpected, and being open about this with supporters, builds trust. Trust builds loyalty. Loyalty is gold.

They tell me about two webinars they’re having.

Wednesday at 1:30PM CST we will host a webinar to launch our plans for spending these funds. You can register by clicking here. […] We’ve been hearing a lot, “But what else can I do?” Thursday at 2PM CST we will host a second webinar for people interested in joining a nationwide network of practical support volunteers. You can register by clicking here.

By inviting me to hear how RAICES will be putting my donation to work, they’ve already begun the process of reporting back to me as a donor. They’re also offering me an opportunity that feels exclusive where I’ll get the inside scoop on their plans.

RAICES is also engaging me beyond being a donor. Knowing people want to do more to help, they are providing me with that opportunity. Alleviating some of the powerlessness I’m feeling is an unexpected benefit I wasn’t anticipating when I donated.

Building my connection with RAICES, beyond being a donor, increases my commitment to them. Commitment builds loyalty. And, yes, I’ll say it again, loyalty is gold.

They recognize the importance of trust.

You have trusted us. You decided, out of all the things you could do with your dollars, to support our work. […] Our solemn promise to you is that we will earn that trust by being transparent with what we’re doing, how we’re spending the dollars, and who we are serving. These are the first of many calls we will offer to keep you informed about our work and invite you to get involved.

This might be my favorite part of the email . . .

By recognizing my donation as an act of trust on my part, they made me feel like I made a really good decision when I hit that “donate” button. RAICES realizes there are other things I could do with my money and they clearly value my choice to contribute.

RAICES also commits to future transparency — promising additional communications in the future on what they’re doing, who they’re helping, and how my gift was used. Fantastic!

Of course, the email wasn’t perfect but very little is.

Here are a few suggestions to improve on a message that does so many things right . . .

  • The donor list would ideally have been segmented into new donors, like me, and repeat donors who had given in the past. Based on this line, “If you are new to our work, welcome,” it seems the email was written to speak to everyone.
  • The third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs are all “we” “we” “we” and could easily be reframed to connect more to the donor.
  • There is no P.S. after the signoff. Never omit this most-read part of your communications.

At the end of the day, these are small critiques of an otherwise fantastic email.

I commend RAICES for taking time to communicate with their supporters when there are unfathomable amounts of work to tackle. It shouldn’t be unique but unfortunately it is . . . especially at times of crisis.

And most importantly, thank you RAICES and everyone on the ground for standing strong for immigrant rights and fighting to keep families together!

*My dear readers, if you haven’t yet, I do hope you’ll give to RAICES or any of the other organizations working to help migrant children separated from their families.

Tina Cincotti, owner of Funding Change, is a donor communications expert and general nonprofit nerd.
July 10, 2018

Comments · 1

  1. Thanks, Tina, for giving regarding this issue (we have done so as well), and then shining a light on a group doing good work. Crisis fundraising has a whole set of challenges – and some opportunities as well. May those working on behalf of the families succeed!

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