What an extraordinary time we’re experiencing as a planet! We’re quarantined at home, striving to keep our families healthy, and – above all – doing our operations work remotely.

It turns out that a lot of fundraising teams want to take advantage of this strange opportunity to shape up their fundraising operations, and Ravela’s phones have been ringing off the hook with questions from current and former clients! We’ve heard two recurring themes:

  • What should we focus on when cleaning up our database?
  • What specific operational areas can we tighten while working from home?

Because there are so many people interested in the same topics, we at Ravela have decided to publish a 5-part blog series on how you can spend any extra time you have to shape up the internal engine of your fundraising department. So buckle up!

We’re going to start out with acknowledgement letters because they often get overlooked. We tend to auto-generate the same thank you letters over and over, and don’t take the time to refresh our templates. Because of that, donors end up receiving the same messages every time they make a gift. We recommend updating your letters at least twice a year because these letters are opened, read, saved, and reviewed again during tax time. Not only that, each of these communications can be one more touch-point in your overall stewardship plan, encouraging donors to think of you fondly the next time you call on them to make a donation.

First, start by conducting an inventory of all acknowledgement letter templates currently being used throughout your organization. See where you can include the following updates:

Acknowledge the global pandemic.

The entire planet is being affected by COVID-19. By not acknowledging this remarkable moment in time, it looks like the organization doesn’t adapt well to changing circumstances.

Share how COVID-19 is affecting your organization, mission, or constituents served.

Your investors want to know how the pandemic is affecting the mission and what your organization is doing to tackle it. If you work for a zoo, share (with pictures!) how your devoted staff are undertaking special enrichment activities with the animals. If you work for a symphony, let donors know where they can find virtuosic videos uploaded by the ensemble’s talented musicians.

Tell stories of impact.

People remember and share stories. Reach out to your program directors and ask for the most meaningful, mission-centered story they’ve heard from their teams over the last 2-3 months. Then shorten it to one power-packed paragraph. If you work in healthcare, there are endless stories to share about first-responders and how staff are weathering this pandemic.

Offer engagement opportunities.

Many organizations are implementing online webinars or Q&A sessions with donors over a certain giving threshold. If your organization is producing these or any other special stewardship efforts, don’t forget to include how to access the sessions.

Once you’ve updated all your acknowledgement letters, upload them into your database and put them into use immediately.

Lastly, put a tickler on your calendar for June 1 to update your acknowledgements again.

Bonus Tip: Revamp your pledge reminders with the above advice, too!

Ravela Insights is always here to help, so let us know if you have any questions!

And sign up for our mailing list to be among the first to read Part 2: 8 Ways to Clean Up Constituents in Your Database.