Monthly Archives: April 2016

Successful Non-Profit Stewardship

4-steps-to-stewardshipWe all know that donors are the life-blood of any non-profit organization. With just 27% of donors giving  a second contribution to the same organization, it is imperative that a stewardship program be established.

What is Stewardship? The process of managing and caring for donors with the ultimate goal of developing a lasting relationship is known as stewardship. It is a key step in retaining current donors as well as a proven method of cultivating the next generation of major donors. Through stewardship, non-profit organizations deepen their relationship with their key contributors.

Successful Stewardship! Implementation of a stewardship program takes some planning. Include these 4 key elements in your plan for greater success.

1. Acknowlegement

It’s common courtesy to acknowledge any gift your non-profit receives. Sending off a timely thank you with a tax receipt is typical.

Your acknowledgement should show your donor you appreciate them and not just their donation. Rather than a typical form thank you note, consider these more personal alternatives:

  • A handwritten note from your executive director
  • A phone call from a board member
  • A short video of appreciation

Whatever method you choose to convey your appreciation, strive to make it donor centered and not about your organization.

2. Recognition

People don’t contribute to an organization to receive recognition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like or appreciate it. These are the three most common ways to publicly acknowledge a donor.

  • A listing on your website
  • Wall of recognition in your building
  • Including their names on event signage

Some donors choose to be anonymous. If this is the case, be respectful and not include them.

3. Engagement

Keeping your donor engaged with your organization will increase the likelihood of further, larger contributions. Letting donors know specifically what their donations are doing to further your cause is good practice.

Don’t just TELL them, SHOW them! Using pictures in your correspondence is an easy way to show them how their money is being used.

Consider hosting an event and inviting donors to attend at no cost, of course. The event is the perfect opportunity to share with them all the good you have been able to do thanks to their generosity. This also serves as a great opportunity for them to connect with other like minded individuals that share a common interest. It’s a win-win for all!

4. Feedback

It’s hard to determine exactly what donors want. Don’t waste your time guessing — instead, simply ASK them!

Sending out an annual survey to donors specifically asking for their input on their experience and the programs you offer is the perfect way to solicit feedback. It shows that you truly care and value their opinion.

Hosting a donor roundtable is another way to offer your supporters a forum for commenting their encounters with your organization. The downside to this method is it limits you to only hearing from local donors.

Get Started!

With the goal of obtaining larger gifts and increasing your donor base, it is time to start stewarding your donors.

What stewarding programs have you successfully implemented?


Why Snail Mail Works Best

snail-mailThanks to advances in technology, organizations have options when it comes to sharing their fundraising campaigns with potential donors.  While many choose to stick with the tried and true direct mail strategy, others are giving electronic means a try. After all, there is no risk in trying something new – especially since it is an inexpensive experiment.

While both methods have their place, there are significant benefits to using snail mail to convey a need to potential donors.

Reliability. Let’s face it, the USPS is reliable. Sure, a piece of mail may get lost from time to time but for the most part, what you mail, will be received by the recipient. Sending electronic communication from a large organization can often be overlooked in a crowded inbox or may land in spam.

Emotional. Whatever method is used, the communication needs to be compelling. Using direct mail offers multiple opportunities to emotionally engage a reader. An envelope with a picture will draw a potential donor in more often than even the most well written subject line.

Tactile Rewards. The sensory stimulation of receiving a piece of mail can not compare with an email. Global research agency, Millwood Brown, discovered that “tangible materials leave a deeper footprint in the brain.”  Enclosures, such as brightly colored charts and photographs will further increase the use of a reader’s sense of touch.

Increased Personalization. It’s easy to tailor your next direct mail campaign to be more personal.. Personalization is more than merging the correct the spelling of the prospects name.  Changing colors of paper and font based on the recipient’s gender is a common practice.  Including a personalized post-it note and hand signing the note will appeal to the reader and could lead to an increased response rate.

Research shows direct mail works best for those with a traditional audience such as political, university, and art related campaigns. Direct mail can (and should) be used by organizations in all segments.

How have your snail mail campaigns compared to those sent electronically?


Interview with an Etiquette Coach

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! These words are key to building and maintaining relationships. Most organizations understand their importance, yet struggle with the right way and time to express their gratitude to their employees, volunteers and contributors.

Meet Belinda “Bella” Cermola, Chief Etiquette Officer at Common Ground Etiquette. We asked her to share her expertise with us on the subject.

Why are thank you notes so important to a relationship?

Thank you notes are an important and timeless aspect of business and social etiquette. A thank you note shows the sender values the relationship and wants to remain in the recipient’s mind for future business or collaboration ventures. Thank you notes should be sent as quickly as possible after a meeting or event, while the encounter is still fresh in the recipient’s mind.

When it comes to thanking employees, a handwritten note of appreciation, from the business owner and/or superior, goes a long way in inspiring them. Many times this appreciation is displayed in a pay increase or a bonus. Don’t take me wrong, money is good, but words of praise, are very powerful. They build loyalty, and trust. It is amazing what just a few words can do. Showing employees that you care isn’t just nice — it’s also good for the business.

Under what circumstance should an organization send a thank you note?

A thank you note should be sent anytime there is a need to express appreciation. It is especially important to send one when:

  • Someone outside of the organization has offered their time and advice.
  • An employee has gone above and beyond and done a great job.
  • Someone has volunteered their time for your cause.
  • A donor has made a financial or other contribution to your cause.

Are emailed notes of appreciation acceptable?

It is very confusing in this ever increasing cyber world, to determine whether to send a note of thanks via email or put a handwritten card in the mail.

The short answer is – yes, emails are acceptable.

Keep this in mind –  even though most people have transitioned into the digital world, many still prefer the “very much alive,” “personal,” and “tactile rewarding” handwritten thank you note.

If time is of the essence, email may be the best strategic solution, but bear in mind that a handwritten thank you note is the perfect way to express personal emotion.

Why do so many people shy away from sending a handwritten note?

Many believe that a handwritten thank you note should be longer than a thank you email and are intimidated by this thought. Thank you notes, whether handwritten or sent via email, are done to express appreciation.  Don’t take any shortcuts. You are will always be better off sending a well-written and thoughtful one.

What is the best way for large organizations to thank their supporters?

When it comes to non-profits or other types of organizations that depend on contributions from donors,  it is perfectly acceptable to send a thank you message (along with their receipts) via email. Sending them together ensures that the donor’s effort is not only acknowledged, but appreciated.

When it comes to the volunteers who share their time and talents without compensation, a handwritten thank you note should be sent. It’s key to acknowledge their contributions and let them know they are valued. These handwritten thank you notes are often a  source of encouragement that gives volunteers the drive they need to continue donating their time and efforts.

The writing of business thank-you notes is an etiquette step that is often skipped. Sadly, not every business professional expects or even appreciates a thank-you note, but it is better to err on the side of good manners. In today’s highly competitive business atmosphere, any advantage you achieve is a benefit.


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Belinda Cermola is the Chief Etiquette Officer of Common Ground Etiquette, a global etiquette and protocol firm, with more than fifteen years of experience in business and social etiquette, client relations and personal development training for diverse industries. Belinda is a consummate relationship builder always providing important tips on communication, personal and online branding, professional image, social media and other important skills essential to reach professional and personal success.  She is a certified Etiquette and Protocol Trainer and holds a Bachelors in Business Administration. Belinda can be reached at 703-825-4226 or

How Often to Send Donation Requests

how-often-should-send-donation-lettersMany organizations struggle with how often they should send out donation requests and appeal letters. The answer is simple — OFTEN! We wish we could tell you there is some magic formula, but unfortunately, there isn’t.

Don’t despair! We have advice to help you define what “OFTEN” means to your organization.

There is a fine line between sending too many requests and not asking enough. If you ask too often, your donors will get burnt out yet by not asking often enough, you risk your donors forgetting about you.

Campaign Scheduling Basics. Most organizations run two or three fundraising campaigns annually. Planning one during your “cause” month is a no-brainer. The other(s) should be at least a few months apart.

Typical campaigns run for approximately 30 days. During that time, it is okay to ask for donations multiple times, using a variety of methods. Standard protocol includes sending a direct mail letter once, at the start of the campaign and following it up with a weekly email. Posting 2-3 times a week on social media will also increase the visibility of your campaign and result in greater donations.

December! Donation requests are at an all time HIGH during December. Mailboxes and inboxes are overflowing with requests as organizations push to meet year end goals. If you can avoid sending an appeal request in December, do! If it is inevitable, an online campaign will likely yield you better results. Network for Good reported that more than 22% of donations received during the month of December occurred during the last two days of the month!

Don’t just ask for help, connect with your donors! The key is connecting with your donors and not just asking them for their help. Communicating quarterly is a good starting point. This will make them feel included and part of your organization.

Consider a quarterly newsletter! Sharing stories about your organization is a great way to let your donors know what is happening at your organization and portray the direct impact their donation has. There is no better way to foster a community! It is not only acceptable to include a call for donations within the newsletter, but recommended. By incorporating your donation appeal within other communication will make your request seem less random and potentially result in more responses.

Determining what works for YOU! Every organization is different. What works for one organization may not work for another. The best way to determine what works for you is evaluating the response rate of what you are doing. Are you seeing an uptick in donations following the mailing of your newsletter or an email request? If so, then keep sending them. If not, then dial back their frequency.

If something is working for you — keep it up! If it isn’t, don’t get discouraged, try something new – OFTEN!