Donor stewardship postcards? They work!


UIUC student unionI have a confession to make. For years, one of the ideas I’ve shared with clients is that a postcard can be an effective stewardship strategy. The truth is that I’ve doubted the effectiveness of this strategy primarily because I had never seen it done well. Today, I’m able to say that I’ve seen the light and officially have become a believer thanks to my alma mater — University of Illinois (UIUC).

Let’s take a moment to review . . .

Back in December, I blogged about how the University of Illinois finally convinced me to make a contribution to the annual fund. I explained in that post how my first gift had been a long time in the making. Click here to read about the initial solicitation, the rejection, the expert use of donor management systems and the persistence involved in securing gift number one 20 years later. It really is a great story in fundraising persistence.

At the end of my December post, I said this:

“For the record, I am excited to now see how the university stewards its donors. Stay tuned!”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the fundraising professionals at UIUC are good at stewardship. Here are just a few of the stewardship strategies they’ve used on me:

  • an automated gift acknowledgement letter
  • another letter from the Department Head  with a little handwritten notation on the letter
  • a letter from the President of University thanking me for my support and updating me on what’s been going on since I made my contribution
  • a number of different email communications
  • a postcard with some many different subtle (and not so subtle) messages

Have you done the math yet? I made my contribution in mid-December. It is mid-August and I’ve probably already received between five and seven stewardship pieces and countless marketing impressions with targeted messaging all designed to secure a second charitable contribution.

It was this last stewardship piece that convinced me that postcards can be an affordable and effective strategy for donor stewardship. I scanned the front and back of the postcard and inserted them below for your viewing pleasure.

UIUC postcard front

This is the front of the postcard. Here are some of the things that jump out at me:

  • The content of the picture conveys a happy graduate and implies that my support helped make her future very bright.
  • The picture also features the most iconic and powerful image that every UIUC graduate loves — Alma Mater. Every graduate I know has some story and happy memory associated with this statue. Just seeing it again on the front of the postcard brought a smile to my face and fond memories flooding back.
  • The two simple words — “Thank You” — are printed on the front of the card. In combination with the words “Illinois Annual Fund” in the lower right hand corner, I don’t even need to turn the postcard over to understand what they are trying to communicate to me.

A picture is worth a thousand words and this stewardship postcard exemplifies this in spades!

UIUC postcard back

This is the back of the postcard. There are 165 words used in the  letter. Here are some of the things that jump out at me:

  • I am updated and told what my charitable contribution is doing (In reality, my gift was made to a department scholarship fun, but that doesn’t stop them from giving me credit for lots of other great things)
  • I am thanked again in gracious tones
  • They specifically recognize that I was a first time donor (so this postcard is obviously targeted)
  • They specifically recognize that my first gift was secured as part of a solicitation to support the Department of Urban & Regional Planning
  • They tell me how I can make a second gift online (this time to the annual fund). Obviously, this stewardship tool is also a cross-channel  ePhilanthropy solicitation tool. It is also a crossover strategy to move me FROM a donor restricted gift to a departmental scholarship fund  TO the annual fund.
  • The words are few, but they are powerful and emotional. They are purposely used to repeated hit my heart. Here are just some of those emotional words and phrases: generosity, impact, invest, choosing, transformational, discovery, innovation, friends, makes a difference, shape the future, etc

We can learn a lot from this stewardship postcard. What do you see? What impressed you? What ideas are you walking away with and plan to incorporate into your next stewardship postcard? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on August 14, 2014, in Fundraising, nonprofit, resource development and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I have used the postcard method for years and have found that the personal note means far more to people than the form letter…that they consider “Junk Mail”.

  2. Good one Erik! I have been contemplating this concept for some time. I already have an idea in the pipeline!

    • I actually thought of you when penning this post, Jeff. Probably because your agency is also in a Big Ten community. Good luck and let me know how it works out. We love success stories at DonorDreams blog. 😉

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