Shanon Doolittle and Vanessa Chase are amazing in this training! They showed how to:

  • keep donors in their "happy zone" - and why this is so important
  • why the first gift from a donor is a "test"
  • how to surprise and delight donors - when was the last time donors used those words to describe your nonprofit?
  • how to use demographics and pyschographics to communicate with your donors most effectively
  • why to treat a donor survey like a campaign
  • use the power of "casual questions"
  • to know when to ditch the organizational stationary
  • to use the important "mission moments" in your normal day-to-day
  • why asking yourself what scares you can lead you to incredible freedom
  • to figure out if your welcome packet is working - or even needed
  • do this all on a tight budget

This is a powerful training!

Additional Materials for Making Stewardship Fun

Download the audio here: Making Stewardship Fun for You AND Your Donor MP3

Download the slides here: Making Stewardship Fun for You AND Your Donor PDF

Transcript of the Training

Marc: Well good afternoon and good morning, depending on where you are. This is Marc Pitman of with a very special Stewardship School Tutoring Hour for subscribers of “Ask Without Fear” newsletter.

We are thrilled today to have Shanon Doolittle and Vanessa Chase on the line. They have—Shanon was one of those people; there are certain people you meet and you immediately click with. I’ve been at this for about 20 years, and when I first met Shanon, she started just sharing ideas that were top of mind to her that transformed the way I was doing my trainings.

There’s stuff I hadn’t thought of, and just makes sense, think of your donors, and it’s good for your non-profit too kind of things. So I am thrilled that I get to introduce all of you—and we’ve got a large crowd on the line today, and I know even more people are going to be listening to the recording when we email that out later.

I am so excited to have you hear from Shanon. I met Vanessa through association with Shanon, because I started this crazy cool thing called the Stewardship School. Which I had never thought of taking a training and actually helping—as a coach, I help people put trainings into practice over weekly or biweekly calls. That’s basically, we just make it so it’s really granular, really their own in the coaching process.

What these two brilliant women have done is started a school that also helps you not only get great information that you’re going to get from this time together today, but then also more, and figure out how to put it into practice as you go.

I don’t want to hold back. You know what the cool thing is, Shanon and Vanessa? We already have people using the question and answer feature. A couple days ago they were sending us questions. If you are watching this online, you’ll see a box that has a place to input your questions.

Fire away. As we’re going throughout the prepared slides, go for it. We’ll have time at the end for questions and answers, and any time in between, Shanon, Vanessa and I are all pretty flexible presenters, so we might pepper some of those questions in throughout as well.

I think without further ado, Shanon and Vanessa, take it away.

Shanon: Awesome. Well hello there, everybody. This is Shanon Doolittle, and I’m calling from Seattle. Vanessa, please introduce yourself.

Vanessa: Hello everyone, this is Vanessa Chase, and I’m calling in from just up the coast from Shanon in Vancouver, Canada.

Shanon: Yeah, so call us the upper left coast up in here. We know Marc is on the upper right coast, so . . .

Marc: I’m going to keep us grounded.

Shanon: Thanks. We’re just so jazzed to be here. Part of this again is it really is just a tutoring hour. Vanessa and I are so much into stewardship, we love talking about it. We absolutely, if we were to just click on our next slide, we absolutely love donors. They are the heart of our organization, and pretty much they’re our heroes.

We started Stewardship School as a way to help organizations that were losing their donors and were pretty bummed out about it. I mean, why wouldn’t you be, because your donors were jumping ship? We started Stewardship School because we want to help you keep more donors. We want to give you more ideas about how to do that.

And essentially, we just want you to feel super-confident about making sure that you’re saying the right things and doing the right things to take better care of your donors. Right, Vanessa?

Vanessa: Absolutely, yes. It has been a real pleasure for us to talk to so many non-profit professionals about donors and stewardship, and we’re really excited to be here today to give you a few ideas for the upcoming . . . [inaudible 00:04:06]

Shanon: I think Vanessa cut out. Is she cut out for you too, Marc?

Marc: Yeah, she did.

Shanon: Okay, all right. Yeah, you cut out for just a little bit, but that’s okay.

Vanessa: Sorry about that.

Shanon: No, that’s okay. And like Marc said, we are pretty comfy casual about the way we do these calls as well. Marc being an expert himself will chime in, but we’ll just get started. What we wanted to do was to answer questions, and we already have a few that came in, even before the call as Marc said.

But we also wanted to give you some tips. We are heading into year-end, and year-end is a pretty frantic but important time for non-profits, as most of us know. A ton of our gifts if not 30% of them come in that last week of December.

So for a lot of us in fundraising, we want to make sure that you are doing what you can now to steward your donors to get that year-end gift, and to make that year-end gift bigger and more meaningful as they come in at the end of the year.

So we wanted to answer questions, but we also want to provide you just five quick tips of what you can start doing right now. Right now in September, it’s September 2nd, kids are back at school. [cheering] I don’t know if anyone else is as excited as I am, but I am. But what you can do right now to go ahead and put yourself in a better position to get gifts by year-end.

So we’ll take questions, but really quick, we also wanted to share some quick tips. Vanessa’s got the first one.

Vanessa: All right. So our first tip here for you today is to pull a list of your top 50 donors who have yet to make their annual gift this year. During this month, call them to thank them.

This is a really simple action that you can do to keep in touch with your donors, and really prime them for giving prior to any year-end asks that you may do. If you are in major gifts, you might already have a pretty small portfolio. Making these calls will probably be pretty straightforward for you. It’s probably something you’re already thinking about, because you do have so many touch points with your donors.

But for those of you who are in annual giving, this might be a little bit different. You might be thinking, “Will 50 calls really make a difference?” Especially if you’re dealing with thousands of donors in your portfolio, or thousands of donors across the organization.

Shanon and I are here to tell you yes. Yes, it will make a difference. When you’re focusing on this top tier of your portfolio, there is a really good possibility that this extra appreciation will really increase the chance of them making that gift again this year, and potentially even making a larger gift than last year, because you are putting that extra effort into the relationship with them.

Just a couple of ideas as to what you could say on this call as well. There are three things we would love for you to focus on. First and foremost of course, you should thank your donors. Thank them for their giving history to your organization, whether it’s one year, ten years, maybe longer.

Thank them for being such a great philanthropic partner over the years. The second thing you can do during this call as well is to ask them how their summer was. Chances are you probably didn’t have a lot of contact with donors over the summer, it’s harder to get in touch with people. This is a really great opportunity to ask them what’s going on in their life. Build a rapport with them and get to know them as a person, not just a donor.

The last thing we would love to suggest for you on this call is to give them a really fun update for something that’s been happening at your organization. Whether it’s been a program update, maybe something that’s changing, a program that’s happened over the summer, or maybe something new that you’re starting this fall, it’s great to give them a tangible update about what’s happening. It really shows how their gifts are being used behind the scenes.

Shanon, I’ll pass it back to you for idea number two.

Shanon: Yeah, that’s great. Marc, I’m going to take a break because one of the questions that we got before this call started is someone said, “We’re often told to ring regular donors to thank them.” This person asked, “Can you give me a quick guideline as to how that call should go?”

Look at what just happened. You’re reading minds. Epic mind-meld happening over in Vanessa’s world. So she just told you, but then this person also said, “How should I ask them to consider either becoming a regular monthly donor if they’ve given in an unconstructed way up until now, or be upgrading their existing monthly gift?”

This is actually a couple of different questions here that I wanted to help with, and Marc, chime in as well. Vanessa too. I would say that if you’re calling to tell your donors thank you, if really the only reason for calling is to say thank you, I want you to just say thank you.

I really want it to be just a really great conversation you’re having with your donor about telling them how much you appreciate them, and letting them know that you are thinking about them, that you care about them, and that their gift to your organization really make a difference.

I would be a little bit careful if the call is to specifically thank a donor, to add that second piece in that you’re talking about. Whenever you call specifically to say “thank you,” don’t try to ask for another gift, don’t try to upgrade, don’t try to do that yet. Instead, let that thank you call be what it is, and that is purely for appreciation.

In terms of . . .

Marc: Do you not feel the stress level that just went up of all the people that are listening on this?

Shanon: Yeah.

Vanessa: Yes.

Shanon: Totally.

Marc: Why, that’s it, just to express gratitude?

Shanon: I know, just express gratitude. It’s hard. However, I don’t want to at all say that you shouldn’t have that conversation with them. I just want to be clear that when you’re saying thank you, it really should just be that. Otherwise it feels like a bait and switch to a caller.

When you call a donor and you’re just like, “I want to call and say thank you, just really appreciate, how was your summer,” because a lot of times they’re just like, “okay, get to the part where you ask me for money. Get to the part where you ask me for money.”

What’s unexpected is when you don’t. Then they’re just like, “whoa, wait, you just called to say thank you? That’s different. That is really meaningful. Thanks so much.” And you hang up the phone. I think at that point, after you have that conversation with them, that purely gratitude conversation, then you can move on to maybe emailing them or asking them hey, would you want to go out and grab a cup of coffee or something so I can talk about your giving? And talk about what would be more meaningful to you as a donor to our organization.

From there, that’s when you’re going to have that conversation about—and simply you said, how do I, what’s the guideline for asking them? It’s just saying, “Hey, I see that you are giving to us on an annual basis, and actually, it happens every now and again. I’m seeing that maybe structure might be great for you. Do you know that we have a monthly donor option? Where you could just give us $10 or $25 a month that comes straight out of your bank account, or gets charged to your credit card, and you don’t have to worry about it at that point.”

You can have those conversations, but don’t ever let it creep. I call it solicitation creep. Don’t let it creep into that gratitude call.

Marc: Don’t be creepy.

Shanon: It doesn’t feel good to anyone. Yeah, right, yeah.

Vanessa: No, it never does.

Marc: Okay, so we’ve got another question, but one of the ways I know that faith-based organizations can do this is—or I’ve been a recipient of, and it shocked me, was getting a “thank you” call as a donor and saying, “Hey, we pray for our donors on a regular basis. Is there anything, Marc, that we can pray for you for?”

Shanon: Great.

Marc: I think that helped the call feel solidified for the caller. It wasn’t just this open-ended kind of—I don’t know, it’s like when you’re playing a musical progression and you end without the completion, you don’t end on a downbeat.

That was really powerful, and I still think about it. It was years ago. The ministry called, and it made me realize I’m part of something bigger than myself. You’re not going to pour out your heart necessarily, but you could I guess. It gives you the opportunity.

We’ve got somebody on the call from DC. I’m going to not choose to say names, because I just don’t know—I didn’t tell people I would and I know it’s being recorded. This unnamed person from DC just sent in a question saying, “Is there anything you can do at the beginning of a call to let them know you’re really not going to make an ask?”

She makes thank you calls all the time, and she thinks people are just waiting for the bait-and-switch part.

Shanon: Yes.

Vanessa: Yeah, that’s a good question.

Shanon: I put it out there. I think it’s the elephant, and I’ll let Vanessa talk to this too. My script generally—and by script, I mean things that are just are in my head that I work off of that I want to say.

I’ll just say this. “Hey there, this is Shanon Doolittle,” or “I’m Shanon Doolittle and I’m calling, I’m a board member for Mockingbird, and I’m not calling to ask you for money, so don’t even worry about it.”

Marc: Well there you go.

Shanon: “I’m just calling to thank you.” I just put it out there, because they’re always waiting for it. I honestly just say, “Hey, I am just calling not to ask you for money, but just to tell you how important you are to our organization.”

That’s what I do. I don’t . . .

[inaudible cross-talk 00:13:22 to 00:13:26]

Vanessa: I did, yes.

Marc: She’s a board member. I love that script, because that’s something we can all use with our boards. I love that.

Vanessa: That’s a great one, yeah. I think the same thing can be applied to, say, if you’re not a board member but if you’re staff like many of you are on the call today. You can say “I’m a staff member from such-and-such organization.”

Sometimes just identifying yourself with that qualifier will immediately help defuse, in people’s minds, that you might be a telemarketer. Because if you say “I’m calling on behalf of,” or “I’m calling from,” you’re not really giving them a lot of specific information about how you’re associated with that organization.

But if you say you’re a board member or a staff member, that I think gives people a certain level of trust. Again, as Shanon said, cutting right to the point and say, “I’m calling today to say thank you, and don’t worry, we’re not going to be asking for money on this call. We just wanted to have a chance to connect with our donors.”

Marc: Nice.

Shanon: That’s a good point. That’s a really good point, yeah.

Okay, well I will go onto our second tip for looking at stewardship towards year end. Our second tip, and you should see it on your screen if you’re on the webcast, is schedule weekly calendar appointments for stewardship activities.

This is something that not a lot of people think about, but it’s something that both Vanessa and I do in our calendars. That is—and I think actually, Marc, don’t you do something like you have a calendar appointment that says “be awesome” or I don’t know.

No, really.

Marc: [inaudible 00:14:53] actually but no, I do.

Yeah, so I have two calendar appointments. Every Monday at 10:00 is something about “good things are happening to me” [inaudible 00:15:04]. And there’s another one on Thursday at 4:00 that I have all the things I need to do all the things I’m called to do.

Shanon: Yes. Perfect.

Marc: Just to remind myself of the important things in life.

Shanon: Yes, I love that. That’s why I just had that, like, “Oh yeah, Marc does this too.” But it’s this idea that you want to schedule things into your calendar. That is always helpful. And to stay true to them.

For instance, on my weekly calendar when it comes to stewardship, I am not a morning person. Therefore you will not find me calling anybody or writing notes in the morning, because my brain’s just not turned on. I’m not as super-active. If you hear my voice now she’s like, “Oh my God, what is she like at 2:00 in the afternoon?”

At 2:00 in the afternoon, that’s usually when I turn on. At 2:00, from 2:00 to 3:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that’s my thank you power hour. The whole idea is that that’s where I’m going to have my five people that I’m going to call, and that’s going to also be the five people that I’m going to write handwritten notes to.

` Typically if you schedule that time in your calendar, and you stay committed to it, then whenever someone else comes into your office like, “Hey, I’ve got this meeting,” or “can you do something really quick,” you can immediately say, “You know what, I have an appointment right now, but I can definitely help you after the hour is over.”

It just really puts you in a different frame of mind, and it shifts your thinking in terms of stewardship is important, and it’s so important that it gets two to three hours of my time on my weekly calendar.

I think it’s very important if you don’t have stewardship already in your calendar—I want to see stewardship more than I want to see staff meetings. I think that’s for me. We spend so much time on staff meetings, and you’ve got those in your calendar, but what if you actually had—I call it the “happy handwriting” hour, actually, where I just spend an hour writing handwritten notes.

That is really something that has been helpful to me, and I know that Vanessa does it as well. If you haven’t already, go ahead and start to schedule weekly calendar appointments for yourself to take better care of your donors.

Marc: As a Franklin-Covey coach, I’m a certified Franklin-Covey coach, and this just makes my heart sink. But one of the things that I like to do in some of these scheduled things that are big—we call them big rocks in Covey speak.

This is a big rock. Something that other things will flow around, but we need to put this in our calendar. I like to put these early in the week so that if stuff comes up, there’s still more week to push it to. If we put it at the end of our week . . .

Shanon: Yeah.

Marc: . . . it’s the weekend and then we forget.

Shanon: Yeah, that’s a really good idea, too. Yeah, I really like that. Or also knowing—and this is something that Vanessa has taught me—really knowing the flow of your week. If you know that Monday or Tuesday you’re putting out fires and there’s things that are happening, but Friday typically you’re sitting at your desk surfing the Internet . . .

Okay, did I just out myself? I mean when you’re doing that on Friday, that’s a time when you know you’re . . .

Marc: Nobody can relate to at all.

Shanon: Nobody’s on People or US I doubt it. No, just me? Okay. I mean if I know that Friday is a pretty light day for me, that’s when I’ll schedule a bulk of things too. Just knowing your flow. That’s something Vanessa’s really good at. She’s a scheduling master. And of course you’re Franklin-Covey certified. Of course you are, Marc.

Marc: I had to concentrate all of my golden retriever tendencies, yeah.

Shanon: That’s awesome. Okay, so we’re going to go onto the next one, and then we’ll take a few more questions.

Vanessa: Great, all right. Well idea number three we have to share with you here is to ask your donors for some feedback. October is a really great time to send them a simple three question donor survey.

Shanon will tell you, I absolutely love donor surveys. I think they are one of the most fantastic tools that we have at our disposal as fundraisers. It is such an easy way to really find out how happy your donors are, and also if what you’re doing for them stewardship-wise and communication is working for them.

It’s also a very simple way to just let your donors know that their opinion really matters, and that you value it. I think that that’s a really great tool to be able to use in the process of building trust with your donors over the course of their relationship with you.

It’s fairly simple to run an online survey. Especially if this is something you’re only going to do for a week, or you’re on a bit of a shorter timeline. It can also be pretty cost effective to do this online as well. You can use a service like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to host your survey.

Three questions is a totally great length. I know some of you might be thinking, “Oh my gosh, three questions, what could we actually learn about our donors from that?” Don’t we need to ask them at least ten questions?

Well, the problem with asking that many questions sometimes is people get deterred by wanting to actually answer the questions. We really encourage you to just ask a simple, straightforward question in this survey. Really just ask them for feedback. It’s not about getting to know their demographics and psychographics. It’s really about getting to know them and their preferences.

` Also because it’s three questions too, if you’re doing this online and you’re emailing it out to people, it’s really great to highlight for them the call to action of that email, that it is only three questions. I’m sure you’ll probably find that you get a bump in response rates because people know it’s short, they know what to expect, and they know exactly how long it’ll take them.

A couple of good questions to think about. One, what inspires you to give? This is a really great open-ended question that you can give donors a bit of space to respond to. Or you could give them a couple of options if you want to make it multiple choice. But personally, I think it’s great to hear their voices, give them a chance to use their own language, and tell you in their words what inspires their giving.

Another really great question that I like to ask too—and this is one you can ask on a sliding scale of how much do you agree with a statement. You strongly agree with it, you don’t agree with it, moderately agree, that sort of thing. The question is, “I felt thanked and appreciated after my last gift.”

This is really a great feedback question to ask them. How satisfied were you with the process of stewardship the last time you gave? Again, that’ll give you a really good gauge as to what’s working for your donors.

The last question is wonderful to ask, but it’s a good follow-up to that, is “in your opinion, what could we do better?” This is a really great place to leave some room for them to write, give you some ideas, and really be able to hear from them what they’re looking for in their relationship with your organization.

Shanon, do you have any other thoughts to add to that?

Shanon: No, I think that’s great. Any time, as Vanessa said—and it’s true, everyone. She does love her donor survey. She’s really good at writing them. But the other thing that I want to say too is when you actually are sending out the survey to people, I really want you to take it—I mean when you’re emailing them—take it as an opportunity to also say “thank you.”

Marc: Okay, good point.

Shanon: Instead of just like, “Hey, here’s your, please take this survey or whatever else.” Really put in a nice message when you’re emailing them about why you would like to learn from them, and why they’re so important. One of the things that I recently did on a survey is, you know where it has that “click to take the survey,” I just changed the hyperlink. It said, “Yes, I want to give the priceless gift of my time by taking this survey.”

There’s things that you can do to really just change the way that you interact with people. In Stewardship School, I mean of course you can’t do this in an hour, we go through this a lot. Vanessa’s really amazing about teaching you how to use your voice, and how you in a sense really take every change you get to communicate with your donors as a way to say thank you.

For me, I talk about how I think that our job as fundraisers is to essentially, what we do in our day-to-day, is we’re holding a mirror. That mirror, we’re holding it up to our donor. What we want the donor to see in that mirror is the reflection of themselves and their amazing humanity, and how good they are in this world, and that they are amazing human beings and that being philanthropic does change the world.

Every time you send out a communication, whether it’s a survey request or whether it’s an impact story, remember that essentially you’re holding up that mirror. You want that donor to look into it and feel super-good about being them, essentially.

Surveys are awesome, and Vanessa’s really great at helping you figure out how to write them. But I also would add that take the time to really craft the really short but nice thank you message while you’re sending them a survey link.

Vanessa: Yeah, that’s a great idea, Shanon.

Marc: Okay, [inaudible 00:23:53]. Vanessa, you mentioned Google Docs and SurveyMonkey. One of our listeners also said Wufoo is a good survey tool.

Shanon: Wufoo’s a great one, yeah.

Vanessa: Yeah, that’s a great one too.

Shanon: Yeah, Wufoo is a great one.

Marc: What do you do with it? One thing that I loved, Vanessa, that you said—tell them it’s three minutes. I can’t stand the bait-and-switch feeling of starting to answer a response and then finding out that it’s a 20 minute survey, because nobody told me that up front.

But then what’s the follow-up? Because the other thing that’s frustrating, as a survey responder, is doing the survey and then never hearing what comes out of that. Is that something you find with donors? How do you quantify, or how do you let that shape what you’re doing with your donor stewardship?

Marc: That’s a really good question. Part of the whole process in the exercise of doing something like a survey is so you can find out where you can make changes in your stewardship program. Based on advice that you get back from your donors, maybe they want to hear more stories, maybe they want you to send them interesting videos from programs, whatever it is.

Your donors may, depending on what their feedback, notice those changes that you make over the next couple of months, or maybe the next year or so. But one thing you could do is send them a nice follow-up email.

To the people who responded, you can see, usually depending on your email service provider who clicked the link. You can send a follow-up campaign to those people to say “thank you so much for your thoughts in this process. We really appreciate your feedback and the time that you took to answer these questions.”

Maybe share a few high-level things that you learned. “We heard from all of you. We’re really happy that you shared X, Y, and Z with us about your experience with our organization, and we’re really excited to bring you A, B, and C in the future in our stewardship program.” Or something along those lines.

Shanon, have you ever seen anyone follow-up with a survey like that?

Shanon: Yeah, absolutely. Exactly what you said is something that you can do. One of the other things—I recently just did a survey with a client, and it was a lot of fun. We found out in the survey that 92% of them said that they were satisfied with their donor experience. But in the survey, we let people know that we were going to come back and let them know what the survey results.

So really quick, a week later, we just sent out—and the subject line was, “92% isn’t good enough.” It was that, and we said, “92% of you, of people,” we first said thank you to completing the survey, but we said, “92% of you said you were satisfied with your donor experience, and although that makes us really happy, we’re overachievers and we can do better.

“We are aiming to get to that 100%,” and exactly what Vanessa said. “You said some of the ways that we could do that is by sharing more stories, sharing more videos, or just telling us where the money went. We are going to do that over the next six to 12 months. Please let us know how we’re doing.”

So it’s that kind of sense of what people know, what you received back from that survey. I think it’s important. Or if somebody said, or people said, “we want to see more videos. We want to see more behind-the-scenes of what happens at the organization.” The next time you send out one of those videos, you said, “We heard it, we listened, and now you have it.”

It’s essentially “we listened, we heard you. You said that you wanted more videos of behind-the-scenes, we want to give it to you. That’s what we learned from our recent survey.” So sometimes you can send out a survey thank you, like afterwards, that gives a little bit of what you learned.

Or sometimes you can just pepper it into communications that you tweaked going forward that you tweaked because of the survey results. So highlight that it’s changed because of them.

Marc: Now I know that there’s more content, but there was another good question here. A listener in [inaudible 00:27:55] Creek saying, “Our development committee’s drafted a 15-question survey. How can I persuade them that less is more?”

Vanessa: I love development committees. They’re great, aren’t they?

Marc: Bless their hearts.

Shanon: Bless their hearts.

Vanessa: Yes. This is a really tough question. I think that’s one that we saw a lot of people struggle with at last spring’s Stewardship School, was just that they want to ask a lot of questions because they want to know as much as possible about their donors.

But really I think one of the things that can help you narrow the scope of the survey is to go back to the beginning of the process and ask, what is our objective in running this survey? What is the one thing we want to learn from this process?

It can’t be something as broad as “who our donors are and what they want from us.” You really have to do a little bit more legwork to define that objective well. And I think when you do that, it makes it a lot easier to cut down the survey questions and say, “Oh, we only really need to ask three questions to be able to get to that answer.”

Or maybe we only need to ask one question to get to that objective. So I would go back to the process with your committee and ask them, why are we running this survey? What were we hoping to get out of this process? That might help you rein in the survey questions a bit.

Shanon: Yeah, and I have couple other suggestions . . .

Marc: One of our listeners just tweeted—and you can tweet, everybody that’s listening, feel free to use the question and answer box on the webpage. You can also tweet to Marc, M-A-R-C, Pitman, P as in Peter, I-T, and man.

One of our folks from here in New England just said, “15 question surveys just don’t get answered. See how long it takes the committee members to fill it out themselves.” [inaudible 00:29:41]

Vanessa: Exactly.

Shanon: I love that. I love that. And whoever tweeted that is awesome. I totally agree. So what you guys should know about survey design as well is that if your survey takes longer than five minutes for the person that’s doing the survey to complete, that’s where you’re going to get your best response rate.

Anything longer than that, or anything longer than ten minutes, you’re going to have a really dismal response rate. If you want a really statistically sound, or what is it called—statistically significant . . .

Vanessa: Significant, yeah.

Shanon: Yes. You want that, then you want—which is what you want in these surveys. You want to keep it short. The other thing though is if it’s a development committee, and we know our development committees. We push back, and sometimes they’re going to roll us over with that paving machine.

What I would suggest then, if they don’t want to go down from 15, is I want you to limit the number of required questions. That can totally mess with your flow of a survey. A lot of times if you’ve got 15 questions, really as Vanessa said, what is the one thing that you want to know? For three or four questions, have those be required, but for those other 15 or those other nine or ten questions, don’t make your donor or don’t make your person have to answer them.

If that makes sense. So that’s another way that, if you can’t get rid of the questions, at least you can limit which questions you really want them to answer.

Vanessa: Great suggestion, Shanon.

Marc: Great. Two last things. Somebody asked, “What would be the survey tools,” and that was Google Docs, SurveyMonkey, or Wufoo. W-U-F-O-O.

Shanon: F-O-O, yep.

Marc: Wufoo.

Shanon: Wufoo.

Marc: Because it’s social media, so it has to be spelled funny. Then somebody else said you can export usually a list of respondents from a survey form, so you can get the list of those. Even if your email form doesn’t track clicks, your email service, you can find out from the people that actually filled out the survey if you asked them to leave their name who did.

That’s another good way to collect the data. Great.

Shanon: Yeah. Can I also just point something out? Because I love these kinds of calls, and I love what happens, in that everyone knows something that someone else doesn’t. So that idea of, I love how someone’s talking about you can find these things and other ways, and they’re sharing tips about how to do that.

Because I think one of the things that why Vanessa and I really love to do Stewardship School or the programs that we do is because we’re not just the expert. There’s a lot of learning that goes on, and Marc, you know this too. There’s a lot of learning that goes on, student to student, or that goes on peer to peer, that we’re not even part of.

That idea that the more you can get people together and the more cross-pollination that can happen, I love to watch other people teach other people. Like when I get to stand back and watch that happen, it’s the greatest thing in the world.

Marc: Yeah. It’s a privilege to be able to create the environment for that to happen. Awesome.

Shanon: Totally. And I mean lean on, and here’s the other thing, and I joke with Vanessa about this all the time. I’m not the techie person. So lean on people who are.

One of the things that I always am telling my fundraising friends is you don’t need to know everything, and you’re not supposed to. You’ve got strengths and other people have strengths. If you’re like gosh, but Wufoo, why, [inaudible 00:33:05], how do I do that? Ask somebody who’s really good at the tech stuff. You know what I mean?

They’ll put together surveys in like three minutes, whereas you’ll struggle for eight hours or two days. So don’t. Just go ahead and lean on others. That’s what we’re all here for.

So I will go to number four, so as you guys—and coming back to three—so we talked about September, you want to make calls. In October, you want to go ahead and do a donor survey. You’ll see how we’re layering things leading up to December. In November, this is for our U.S. callers, since Thanksgiving is in October up there in the great white north.

In November, I always like to suggest that you mail a Thanksgiving [inaudible 00:33:49] stewardship touch. And the whole idea around this is something I started years and years ago at one of my organizations, where I turned Thanksgiving into “thanks for giving.” It was an entire month of gratitude.

It was the entire month of November, we really just piggybacked on the gratefulness, that abundance, that message of just appreciation that is prevalent around Thanksgiving and the holiday. We turn that into—we just rode that momentum and turned it into a month where we were celebrating donors.

One of the things that we did is we sent out—instead of sending out a Christmas card or a holiday card or a New Year’s card, we ended up sending out Thanksgiving cards as a way to really, again, just play on that idea of gratefulness and how much we appreciated everything that our donors did for us.

The front of that card, maybe it’s a picture, maybe if you work with kids, it’s a picture of a kid falling in a bunch of leaves. Just having a happy time. Because of them, you’re able to do that. Or maybe it just really is, like I’ve got this card here—it’s one of my favorite cards—it’s just a card that says “grateful” on it, and really just shares the message of we are so happy that you are part of our organization.

But really, or you could do for instance giving a bunch of ideas, if you’re on social media and that’s something that you guys do at your organization—you’ve got Facebook, you’ve got Twitter, you use those for your organization a lot—have a donor of the day during Thanksgiving, where you celebrate one donor a day.

Just pick someone randomly and share why you’re so grateful about that donor. That is something that you can do on social media. The other thing that you can do, if you guys do thankathons, and a thankathon is really just a phone bank where you get a bunch of people together.

It’s sort of like all ears, all hands, all ears, and you get a bunch of people together and they start calling donors. You could do your thankathon during Thanksgiving as well.

So really, it’s about using Thanksgiving as a way to connect with your donors at a time when it’s really cool to thank them, because everybody’s talking about gratitude anyway. Right? I always like to say mail something or call someone, or do something on social media where, how would you turn Thanksgiving into a “thanks for giving” month for your organization? What creative things could you do to say thank you all month long?

Marc: Now I need to ask this, because I know there are people out there that are saying, “Okay, check that off the list. We already do a Thanksgiving appeal.”

Shanon: A Thanksgiving appeal?

Marc: That’s not what you’re talking about, right?

Shanon: I’m not talking about a Thanksgiving appeal at all. Although so, oh for instance, and I could talk to Vanessa, who used to work at Union Gospel Mission for a long time. Granted, she was in Canada, but you probably did your Thanksgiving appeals, right?

Vanessa: We did, yeah, in October when we had our big Thanksgiving dinner for our clients.

Shanon: Right, right, right. That’s something a little bit different, and that’s something I see a lot when people are doing Thanksgiving dinners. Really, I’m not talking about an appeal. Again, I know it’s so hard sometimes to separate asking from thanking. But that’s really what we’re about.

We do the asking as well, but we really want to separate the thanking from the asking. So it really is about just what is a really nice way that you could say thank you around Thanksgiving?

Marc: Okay. One of the questions that’s coming in then is, “Mailings cost money. How do we justify . . .” And this sounds really crass, but basically dollars and sense, how do we justify to our CFO that we can send out a mailing at a certain expense without having any mechanism for getting it back?

Shanon: Yeah. Do you want to take that Vanessa, and then I’ll chime in?

Vanessa: One of the things that a lot of organizations don’t do that you could be doing to justify this is to measure the ROI that you’re getting from stewardship. If you have a database like Razor’s Edge, or maybe you’re using something else, you can create queries and reports that will allow you to track the stewardship touch points you have with people and subsequent gifts [inaudible 00:38:07] after that in the weeks or months afterwards.

You can compare that to their giving history pre-stewardship touch points that you were doing. You can start to correlate that data to say hey, we focused on thanking these 1,000 donors really well this year. Here’s what happened with our giving patterns.

We are thinking that if we do this at a larger scale, we can get even more donors giving more because we’re thanking them well. I think that’s one thing, if you have a CFO who’s really about numbers, which many of them are, you can create your metrics and be able to make a case for why stewardship is worth it.

Marc: That’s perfect, because I just read yesterday, reading Roger Craver’s brand new book, Retention Fundraising.

Shanon: It’s awesome. Everyone should get it. Say that again, because everyone should get it.

Marc: Everybody needs to get this. Retention Fundraising by Roger Craver. Yeah, there’s a lot of studies seem to be pointed to in there that show about a 40% more revenue coming from donors, subsets of donors that were thanked, just one additional time, versus the ones that were just treated normally.

So there are trackable metrics that you can do this. You can record for this for the data crunchers. So thank you for saying that, Vanessa. That’s a good point.

Shanon: Yeah. Marc, we’re super excited, because Vanessa and I are actually presenting with Roger at BBCon next month. I know, we’re in happy land. Again, anyone, if Roger Craver,, if you ever have some thoughts about retention and you want to dig into it a little bit more, that is definitely one of our top resources that we talk about.

The other thing that I would say—this is how I . . . it’s a great question, because I actually went through this at my organization. They were just like, “Yeah, no, you are not going to send a thank you card, a Thanksgiving-themed card.” What I did was I actually pulled, over the calendar year, I took a look at the cost that we had spent for acquisition.

The hard cost we’d spent for acquisition, what I then did was pulled all of the new donors and their gift size, so their gift amount. I had, here is the amount that we spent on these new donors, and here is the amount of gifts that came in because of that spend.

Here is the amount of the donor segment that they have given to us in the last year. Here is the amounts that they’ve given to us. Here’s the spend, which was a little teeny drop in the bucket compared to our acquisition cost. Here’s what I want to spend, knowing that 40% of those people, just because studies show, are probably going to make an even bigger gift by year-end. So here’s what that looks like in terms of a number.

When you start to just put those numbers in front of people, it’s like, oh. Okay. I see what you’re doing. I see what you’re doing. I think data is always your friend in this regard. And sometimes you have to play hardball when it comes to stewardship.

I believe that, because I’ve been in organizations where zero money was spent on stewardship. Zero. Because nobody understood that you obviously have a much better chance of growing your financial sustainability and your donor database by being a really good steward of dollars that come from donors who have given to you before, versus continuing to go after the ones that haven’t given to you yet.

I think that’s one of the things. And one of the things that Vanessa also likes to say, and I’m always “Vanessa this, Vanessa that,” because she’s such a smartie, is that test. I mean, that’s the thing where I’ve been in front of boards, and boards are just like, “Hey, I want to do this.”

I’m like, “That’s not a good idea, but if you’re going to tell me that I need to do it, just please, let’s have this be a test.” So that we can just try it once, then we can come back and see whether it worked or not. But please let’s not assume right now that what you’re asking me to do is something that you’re going to want us to do annual in our fundraising program.

Let’s just test it first. That way you can go back and say, “Hey, it’s just an idea, I want to test it. I just want to test it.”

Marc: There is so much power in that, yeah. Because then it’s no harm, no foul. Either way . . .

Shanon: No harm, no foul.

Marc: Your bad idea, that’s still, that’s great. What you said, Shanon, reminds me of treating business owners in particular on boards as business owners, and asking them, would you treat your customers that way?

Shanon: Yeah. Yeah.

Marc: Would you spend all your time getting new customers and let the ones that you’ve gotten just fall out of the leaky bucket?

Shanon: Yeah, absolutely.

Marc: Would you do nothing to retain them? All of a sudden you’ll start seeing lights going on and realizing no, we keep following up with them. We want them to continue developing a relationship because it’s a lot cheaper to keep customers around than to get new ones. [inaudible 00:42:49 to 00:42:51]

Shanon: And if you’ve never done this, it’s awesome, and I totally agree, Marc. If you’ve never done this at a board meeting, I suggest if you have time to do this, ask your board members where is one of your favorite places to shop?

When they tell you where that is, you say, “Why is that one of your favorite places?” What they’ll go through is a lot of customer retention strategies that that company uses to keep them around. That makes them feel really good about shopping at their location. What you want to do from there is just to say, “This is what I’m talking about. Donor retention is customer retention.”

That’s what I’m trying to do. So if you haven’t done that yet, that’s a really cool exercise to do with your board members. Yeah.

Marc: Quick question that we have coming in from one of my favorite people in Tennessee—you know who you are. If you think your donor’s in social media, do you have to get their permission first? How do you handle that?

Shanon: Here’s my thing about social media. This is kind of my philosophy. If somebody follows you on social media, if a donor follows you on social media, I don’t go and ask them for their permission. Because they’re already on there, and they’ve already opted in to following me and having a relationship with me. By me, I mean the organization.

Typically I’m not going to put anything in there about their giving history, or anything that gives away who they are. That’s where it’s just like, “Oh, Marc, hey, thanks for that $100.23 you gave us in October.”

Marc: “That 23 cents made the difference!”

Shanon: Yeah. You’re not going to do that. But if you’re just like, “Hey, Marc, I just want to give you a shout-out for being such an amazing supporter, we couldn’t do our work without you, thank you, thank you. #youreawesome,” something like that.

I think that if they follow you and they engage with you on social media already, that’s a green light. That’s a green light. But again, don’t give out any information that you feel like would be a violation of your donor relationship with them. Vanessa, do you have any other thoughts?

Vanessa: Yeah. One thing that I’ve seen on a couple of donation forms recently is people are actually including a field for Twitter handle. If a donor gives you their Twitter handle, that’s a really great tool in general, a piece of information to be able to have in your social media pocket.

I think in the one that I saw, it says, “We’d love to thank you or publicly recognize you for your support. Is it okay if we thank you on social media?” Then they have the field there for their Twitter handle. There are ways you can get someone to very explicitly consent to that, and then you have the opportunity to engage with them further.

Shanon: Yeah, and there’s one other thing that I did during my “thanks for giving” month. What I would do is I would screenshot the tweet, and then I would email it over to the donor. Just in case they hadn’t seen it, I would just screenshot it and say, “Hey, if you hadn’t noticed, we sent you a special message out on our Twitter handle today.”

That’s also a good way, they could come back and be like, “Oh, that doesn’t make me feel super-great. Could you take that down?” You can take it down. But just let them know if they don’t see it that way that you could certainly send it to them by email as well.

Marc: Nice.

Vanessa: Great.

Shanon: Oh, okay, and sorry—yeah, here. Our last tip coming in to December.

Vanessa: Great, so the last one we have to share with you all today is share an inspiring story in early December that highlights donor impact.

So I don’t know about you all, but I absolutely love a good non-profit story. Honestly, I think they make for the best donor stewardship content. Stories are your donor’s dollars in actions, and they also help to really emotionally connect your donors to what they’re giving to, and the cause that they care a lot about.

Sharing a story in early December might seem a bit counterintuitive, especially with things like Giving Tuesday and all other sorts of campaigns that are happening. We’re probably all hot on the trail to raising money in the last month of the year. But it’s a really great time to actually take a step back and remind donors what they’re a part of, and what they are supporting when they give.

That it’s something really amazing, and that they can continue to be a part of that project either through gifts that they make this year, or maybe next year, whenever that happens.

So [inaudible 00:47:11] slide there, we really recommend sharing a story that highlights donor impact. Some of the best ones you can share are client stories. These really highlight your organization’s mission in action, and focus on getting the before and after of a client experience that can really highlight how their life has been changed, or what positive things have come as a result of them being able to access this service.

Another type of story that can also be good too, if you’re thinking, “Oh, we don’t really have clients. Not sure what stories we’re going to share.” You can share a donor’s giving story. This could be a really great kind of peer-to-peer story that you can tell and share of a donor who’s generously given to your organization, whether it’s a major donor or an annual level donor.

They all have really interesting stories about why they choose to give. Telling those at this time of year can be very powerful as well.

There are of course lots of ways to share your stories, whether it’s online or offline. I would really recommend thinking about picking a media or medium that allows you to reach the most donors. Think about where your donors hang out, whether it’s online or offline, and choose to focus your storytelling efforts there. That’s where you’ll probably see the most traction.

So Shanon, do we want to take some more questions?

Shanon: Yeah, absolutely. As you guys . . .

Vanessa: I see, yes, we have about ten minutes left here . . .

[inaudible cross-talk 00:48:31]

Marc: We’ve got a ton of questions too.

Shanon: Yeah, we love questions. Basically to go back, because I want to go back to these. Starting now, pull a list of some of your donors, maybe your top 50, give them a phone call. The second thing that you go and do is commit to stewardship, put it in your calendar.

Next month, go ahead and send out that three question donor survey. In Thanksgiving or around Thanksgiving month, do something around Thanksgiving. It could be an email, it could be a card, it could just be social media.

The fifth is in December, go ahead and share that inspiring story. And all of those stewardship touches layer up to that ask that you’re going to make at year-end. Could you imagine if you didn’t do any of those things how that ask at year-end would go? To not do any of that, that year-end ask’ll probably, “yeah, okay, we’ll ask and maybe some people give.”

Could you imagine if you got taken care of like this as a donor over the next four months? Where you were just like, “Wow, every month I’m hearing thank you. Every month I’m feeling really, really good about being part of this organization.”

When that year-end solicitation comes, you bet you’re probably going to be more primed and ready and more inspired to give a year-end gift. So yes.

Marc: Especially if that thank you is tied to, like Vanessa was just saying, a story.

Shanon: Yeah.

Marc: So it’s not just “we like you, you’re great.” It’s not “we’re really needy and we have no one to dance with at the dance.” It’s “we like you because you’re awesome. We know that because look.”

Shanon: Yeah, look what [inaudible 00:50:00].

Vanessa: [inaudible 00:50:00 to 00:50:02].

Marc: That is being accomplished in the world because of your donations. This land is being conserved, these pets are being protected, whatever it is. This stuff is happening because of your generosity. So you are really as cool as you thought you are, and there’s tangible proof for that.

Shanon: I love it.

Marc: Well, one of the things—something that our listeners has asked if we could spell the author’s name and restate the website. So the author’s name is Roger Craver, C-R-A-V-E-R, and the website is The book was “Retention Fundraising.” You can get it there.

Shanon: Yeah, I think he was actually, I think that person was actually asking about Donor Voice.

Marc: I know.

Shanon: Oh, I see. Don’t be smart with me. I can’t track you all the time.

Marc: All the links are in “Retention Fundraising,” and there’s a website, or .com or something. Donor Voice is one of the companies that Roger works with on this, yeah.

Shanon: Yeah, definitely, and I love their blog which is why I definitely put it out there. That’s the, so there’s that.

Yeah, questions. Let’s go, let’s rock and roll.

Marc: Okay, so another person is saying we send out our annual appeal about a week before Thanksgiving. Would you suggest shifting the timeline or shifting our annual appeal in order to focus on gratefulness?

Shanon: I don’t think you need to shift it. I don’t want to ruin your calendar. Instead what I would suggest—Vanessa, chime in here too—is I would just take a look at what can you do in the next six to eight weeks that’s going to feel very authentic in thanking your donors, leading up to that solicitation that goes out?

The reason why I’m not going to tell you to shift your appeal is because what we often don’t think about, just because we’re busy behind the desk actually doing the work, is we’ve actually trained our donors to expect an ask from us at certain times of the year.

If your donors are like, “I know right before Thanksgiving, that’s when I get that solicitation from, or that year-end appeal from that organization and that’s when I typically make my gift,” don’t switch on them. Because you’ve done a really good job of training them to give at that time.

So instead, just really think about, over the next six to eight weeks, what can we do that feels really good and genuine about saying thank you? What stories can we share, how can we appreciate them more, given them more recognition in that respect? Build that into your timeline instead.


Vanessa: Yeah, I completely agree with that, Shanon. It’s hard to make changes to your fundraising calendar once you’ve trained your donors over a couple years or maybe longer to expect those appeals at certain times. But as Shanon said, really think about the space you have before and after that appeal.

Next year’s a new year, a brand new calendar year, so you can even rethink that a little bit more. Maybe not necessarily changing the date, but just looking at the couple months leading up to that appeal, what you can do in that time to take good care of your donors and provide them with some great stewardship along the way.

Marc: We’ve got a couple more—I know we’re coming up on our time, but one of them is, is there a magic number for a budget percentage that should be dedicated to stewardship?

Vanessa: Oh, that’s a good question. Shanon would say 100%.

Shanon: Yeah, I would say 100%, wouldn’t I? I don’t think that there is, because no one is doing it, honestly. It just really depends. It’s one of those questions where it varies, right? But I would think that part of your stewardship budget is . . .

Okay, let me go back, just to say that no, there is no number. However, just having a stewardship budget is pretty amazing. And why I say that is because people aren’t committed, most non-profits or organizations aren’t committed to stewardship. So knowing that you at least have a line item, whether it’s $200 or it’s $10,000, it shows your commitment to your donor. I think that’s what’s most important.

One of the things about stewardship in general is again, if you don’t have any money at all going into stewardship, you want to go back and put together—just like anyone would when they’re pitching something—is hey, here’s a few things that I want to do next year. Here’s the cost associated with them. Is there any chance I could get $7,500, or I could get $2,200, whatever it is.

Pitch that to people. Because when I didn’t have a stewardship budget at my organization, that’s what I had to do. I had to go in and say here are the five ideas that I have. I know you’re already going to cut two of them off, so which top three do you want? From there, here are the costs associated with them.

And really selling them, again, on why a stewardship and retention was important to our organization. And the great thing was, as Vanessa said, once I could start to prove that ROI, that stewardship budget went up.

The other thing too, and this is really fun, that I always like to recommend to people. If you are an office of a few people, share that stewardship budget. One of the things that I did is I gave each of my fundraisers, I mean $200 to do whatever they wanted with for stewardship.

And everybody did something different. Like somebody actually took a class with that $200, because they were like I can better steward my donors if I know fresh ideas on how to do that. Another person bought these really cool stickers that they put on every single thank you note that they sent out. It was just a “you’re the best” sticker that they put on every envelope that they sent out, which was a super-feel good.

I mean, so everyone’s going to have a different idea about what stewardship means to them, but when you get everyone involved in stewardship, that’s where you build that culture of gratitude.

Marc: Okay, so I know that’s so important, but I want to honor people’s time, too. Vanessa, I have a question for you.

Vanessa: Sure.

Marc: One of our listeners work at a high school. They have so many communications going out to parents. She wants to know, how do we make our communications stand out to donors, since for cost purpose we need to send emails versus snail mail?

Vanessa: That’s certainly a good question. The big one would be your subject line. That is the biggest determining factor with people opening your emails. I would really recommend, take a look at the emails you’ve sent over the last year or so that have been more focused on solicitation or thank you rather than informational parent updates.

See what people have been responding to. What have they opened, what have they not opened? What did you think would do well but didn’t do well? Start to get curious about why. Again, this is a really great opportunity for testing as well, is to run some A/B tests through your email program. Start to think about how you can get a little bit more creative with those email subject lines.

Push the boundaries a little bit so that they stand out in people’s email inboxes, and do get their attention and get opened.

Marc: I think my favorite one was from the boarding school I went to that said, “Look what you did.” There was that double entendre of, “Oh my goodness, what did I do? Did I mess up? What’s going on?” There’s a curiosity factor.

Vanessa: Yeah, totally.

Marc: When you open it up, you find this huge picture of all the graduates throwing their hats in the air.

Vanessa: I got two really great ones recently as well.

Marc: Okay, go for it.

Vanessa: Yeah, I got one from UNICEF Foundation in the U.S. that said “Your impact in 16 photos,” which was really great. That was a link to an album that they’d put together on their Facebook page about donors’ impact over the last six months, which was pretty interesting.

I got another one, and I can’t remember which organization it was from. The subject line was, “Worst idea ever,” and after each word there was a period. Very dramatic. Definitely caught my attention in my inbox. I was like, “What is this?” Obviously I opened that.

Marc: Nice. Well, we’ve got a couple more questions. One of them is perfect. Is it okay if we go a little over 3:00 for you guys?

Shanon: Yeah, of course, of course.

Marc: Okay. We’ve got it recorded. Everybody that’s on this, even if you have a 3:00—3:00 Eastern time call—you’ll get an email to the recording of this presentation, because I know people are going to want to go over it. We had some pretty good questions that have . . . Well, every question’s a good question.

We have had some more questions that we want to cover. One of them though feels like it’s a perfect one for this slide. One of them said, “I like how you did the donor activity for the last four months. What about the other eight?”

Shanon: Yeah, that’s really great. Obviously it can’t . . .

Marc: Stewardship School?

Shanon: Yeah, can’t get to all of those things. This is a great opportunity just to tell you guys about, there’s plenty of ways to find Vanessa and I online. You can just Google us or Twitter us, and you can see our blogs where Vanessa has a ton of great content about round stewardship.

If this is something that you actually want to dive more into, Vanessa and I started Stewardship School last year, and we’re running it again. Class starts in about two weeks. We went ahead and left, or put our information up there on the screen, so you can check out Stewardship School.

Stewardship School, what it’s about, is actually developing a really cool and unique donor plan. We call it a donor happiness plan, a retention plan, for you. What we do is we walk you through pretty systematically a lot of work, but basically getting you to a point where you’ve developed a 12 month calendar for what your touch points are, why they matter, what’s the big idea, all of those good things.

If you want more help on that, you should check us out at Stewardship School for sure. But other than that, definitely take a look at Vanessa’s stuff online as well. She’s got such great tips on her blog around how you do this on a year-round basis.

Marc: One of the things that the year-round . . . yeah. So excited with all the interaction we’ve had online and the questions and answers. One of the questions, and I was going to give this to Vanessa, but I’ll leave it to either of you. This is how I know Shanon.

But the writer says, “How important is it to have an event to bring donors together? Should we look at a kick-off event for next year?”

Shanon: You threw me that softball. Who threw that to me?

Marc: Yeah, I know.

Shanon: Yeah. Marc’s joking because I mean, this has been my past life is events. I am a—is it okay if I take this, Vanessa?

Vanessa: Of course it is.

Shanon: Yeah, Vanessa always steers the event questions over to me.

Vanessa: Oh my gosh.

Shanon: Events are pretty amazing, and here’s why. In this day and age, you don’t have an opportunity to get face-to-face meets with your donors. A lot of times the only way that you can draw them out is by having a very nice kick-off or stewardship event to bring everyone together.

There’s a certain energy that I think is pretty palpable and you cannot attain when you’re not with other people. The idea that you can get other philanthropists with each other in the same room, where that energy is just a collected do-gooding energy, is pretty amazing.

I am all for that. However, I am not for them sucking the life out of you. So that’s the thing about events. It just has to be something simple, easy, low key, have it be mission-driven. One of the things that Marc and I once talked about was we—one of the organizations that I worked with, we did transitional housing.

So what we did was we did a stewardship event where we let people come in with their families, and build gingerbread houses. Because that was the point of, there’s a little bit mission-driven there around we provide transitional housing. Come in and build a house for you and your family that you can take home.

There, we featured other homes, other gingerbread houses that families in our transitional housing program had decorated themselves. So something like that is pretty powerful, and I think it’s important, but don’t let events run you. You want to run them. For sure.

Marc: Nice.

Shanon: Yeah.

Marc: We have had people registering for the call all the way through, which is really fun. It’s great. This is a topic that has a lot of people talking. One of the things—another question for the surveys was, “Should we require people to give names, or should we let them do it anonymously?”

Do you guys have a preference either way? Maybe Vanessa?

Vanessa: Yeah. Well I think it’s really great to give donors the option to be anonymous, just because they may not necessarily want to identify themselves in those surveys. That’s totally okay, but it is great to be able to also give them the option to leave their name in the fields in case they do want to be in touch.

Maybe they left a comment that they do want to have responded to. Maybe it was a concern about something that happened with your organization, or a positive experience they’d love to tell you more about in person. It’s a really good opportunity, I think, to be able to have that contact with donors who do want that sort of touch point with you.

Shanon, what are your thoughts?

Marc: As you’re doing that, Shanon, as you’re saying that, also there’s another good question about—I think it’s a simple answer—but what about people that aren’t online? What if we have an older . . .

I cringe whenever I hear “older donor base,” because the best donors tend to be older. That doesn’t mean they’re not online, because their grandkids are, so they tend to be. Anyway, what if we have an older donor database and we don’t necessarily know how to reach them electronically? How else do we reach them?

Shanon: Yeah. One thing that I just wanted to say really quick is another reason why it’s really great to ask people if they want to leave their name is because what I would do, if I got a really good survey response from them, I would copy and paste it and stick it into Razor’s Edge under their donor profile.

That’s the other thing, is now I have a record of communications that they had with us, so the next time I’m calling them I can refer back to that note that’s in my donor database. That’s another good thing that you want to do.

If you have something that they gave you that’s a great comment, stick it in their donor profile database. The other thing around older donors, older donors love phone calls.

Here’s the thing. They love to just talk. I mean this is one thing I knew. I was in healthcare philanthropy, and sometimes I would be on the phone with donors for an hour and a half, honestly.

The thing is in that case, choose about 20 or 25 people that you want to call and call them. And just so pull out a certain segment of donors, and give them a call on the phone. I think that’s a really great opportunity to always connect.

A lot of us are really shy around the phone. We just don’t like to do it. We’d rather just send an email. Actually if you have the chance and the time to make these phone calls and to ask them, it’s a really great opportunity to do that.

Even moreso, if you’ve already picked, let’s say 25 people that you’re going to call, I would pre-send a letter that just says, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know. I’m going to call you in a week. I want to learn more about your experience at a donor to our organization.”

I think the pre-call letter is also really important when you’re working with an older, an “older” I should say, in air quotes, donor.

Marc: Right, because every year I get older too.

Shanon: Yeah, I know. I know. Yes, yes we do. Hope that’s helpful.

Marc: Yeah, it’s so scary.

Okay, well that goes to—you transitioned back to a question we had earlier of, the person in her experience, phone calls are uncomfortable to make, or people around her haven’t, because everybody’s texting each other.

Do you have a script? Is there a flow chart of a normal conversation? She said it sounds like we’re very familiar with it, the three of us, but is that something you cover in Stewardship School, or is that something you have an idea of here you can answer?

Shanon: Yeah. It is something that we cover in Stewardship School. However, I’m not going to leave you there. Both Vanessa and I have a really good friend and colleague, her name is Claire Axelrad [SP].

She’s, which is C-L-A-I-R-I-F-I-C-A-T-I-O-N, Her opt-in, which is a way of saying like what she gives out for free if you want to learn more about her, is a really cool eight page thank you call script guide.

And Vanessa and I have worked with Claire before, and we love her, and we love that tool.

Vanessa: Yeah, it’s a great resource.

Shanon: If you’re just uncomfortable and you don’t know where to start, download that guide, because it’s awesome and it’s totally free.

Marc: That is great.

Vanessa: Yeah, that’s a good one.

Marc: Some people are saying Donor Voice isn’t working, so if you just Google “Donor Voice” instead of trying to go to the website we said, maybe that’ll do it. Oh, it’s “the Donor Voice.”

Shanon: It’s, yeah. But you guys must buy that book. We’re going to tell Roger that we were selling his book on this call, just so you know, Marc, so you can get like a royalty on that.

Marc: So when he sees a spike in Amazon sales . . .

Shanon: No, he’s like “what happened?”

Marc: There’s no royalties.

Shanon: Yeah. And for those of you too, and I mean again, since you guys are already on Marc’s blog or whatever, just so you know. Most people do know the Agitator, which is a very popular blog in the fundraising world too. That happens to be Roger’s blog as well. You guys probably already follow Roger, you just don’t even know it.

Marc: Okay, so people are wondering, we all talk quickly.

Shanon: Yes, we do.

Marc: At least Shanon and I do. Sorry, Vanessa, don’t mean to paint you with that brush unnecessarily.

Vanessa: That’s okay.

Marc: What was Claire Axelrad’s website?

Shanon: Sure it is, it’s Clairification. So I’m just pulling it up, making sure I’ve got it right too on my thing. This is my . . .

Marc: [inaudible 01:07:53]

Shanon: Yeah. I’m going to go ahead, and here is the website. It’s It’s a play on her name, Claire, so That’s a really good one. I was just going to say that’s why Vanessa and I are like the perfect partners in Stewardship School, because whereas my rhythm is a little bit like here’s faster, and bing bing, and here’s this great idea, Vanessa is really, she’s awesome and she’s very tactile. She’s such a good teacher that way.

That’s why it works in Stewardship School, because you’ve got her and you’ve got me.

Vanessa: Thanks, Shanon.

Marc: How is that content delivered? Is it through interaction on a Facebook group? I know it’s with Chris Davenport. How does that all work together?

Vanessa: Let me flip to the last slide [inaudible 01:08:50] talk about that . . .

Shanon: Yeah, sure.

Vanessa: . . . as we wrap up.

Marc: Oh, cool. It’s almost like I had looked at the slides.

[inaudible cross-talk 01:08:56]

Vanessa: Very good.

So Stewardship School is a six week online program, and as Shanon said earlier, we really focus on helping people to create their customized donor happiness plan. We do that through video trainings online, worksheets, group discussions, and also weekly coaching calls as well.

Shanon: Yeah. It’s actually a pretty robust program. It’s six weeks, and like you said, you’ve got—there’s every module, you’ve probably got three or four video modules that happen. Then we’ve got live coaching calls. The other really cool thing too is you have direct access to Vanessa and I too.

You can email us any time, and Vanessa and I will be like, “Oh, yay, fun mail, let’s answer that.” You can tell we really love answering questions. So there’s that.

Vanessa: We do, yeah. It’s a really great program. We ran it in the spring and we had 39 people participate in our first program. It was a really awesome experience for everyone. We have just been hearing so many great stories from the first group of students who have worked really hard on their stewardship this summer, and are having some really great results with that.

Shanon: Yes, it’s all . . . yeah.

Marc: Okay, well thank you both so very much.

Shanon: No, thank you. Oh my gosh, we feel so cool.

Marc: Glad you guys were here.

Shanon: No, Vanessa, it’s so cool, we finally made it to an “Asking Without Fear” coaching call. We have made it.

Marc: Aw, that’s sweet.

Shanon: We’re crossing this off our bucket list. Again, just because we’re all about sharing things, if you guys didn’t know about non-profit storytelling conference, actually all three of us are going to be together teaching at the same time out in Seattle in November. That’s going to be a whole lot of fun. That’ll be good times too.

Marc: That is totally going to be a blast.

Now for those of you who are members of the Non-profit Academy,, Shanon and Vanessa have graciously agreed to be our September NPA Presents webinar. So tomorrow we’re going to be having a whole different set of creative ways to do stewardship.

For everyone else, there’s still time to sign up for that. Otherwise, I will be emailing you the link to this recorded seminar momentarily. Definitely check out the Stewardship School, which is I believe the, or with both S’es capital.

Thank you guys so much for being here. I can’t wait to do this again.

Shanon: Thank you.

Vanessa: Thank you, Marc. We had a great time.

Shanon: Everyone had a great week.

Marc: We’re going to end this, but if you two could stick around, that would be great.

Shanon: Okay, bye.