Hi. It's Me. I'm the Problem, it's Me!

Nov 09, 2022

It’s happening. That time of year where I get the invite to the Google doc where we sign up for what we’re bringing for Thanksgiving dinner. While I am abundantly grateful for those of you who have the ability to cook, I do not belong to your club.  Hi. It's Me. I'm the problem, it's me. I'm Phoebe Buffay from Friends—they ask me to bring the cups and ice—crushed, cubed, and dry! LOL!

Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit here. They do allow me to bring things that I can simply warm up…like the rolls. One year for a big event, my son requested macaroni and cheese. So, I bought like 10 tubs of Bob Evan’s Mac and Cheese. Bob’s big around our house. I dumped them all in a huge pan, seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with cheddar cheese, and popped it in the oven for 25 minutes. Everyone loved it!

In fact, my neighbor loved it so much she asked for the recipe. When I told her the truth, she copied it exactly and made it the next time her family came over to visit. When they asked her for the recipe, she just said, ‘Oh, I got it the recipe from my neighbor’. True story. The point here is that we’re all gifted differently. Even Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” So, I’m a fish that can’t climb trees! And you likely are too if you believe in sonder. The point with the Google doc, whose bringing what to Thanksgiving, and the cups and the ice is this:  Thanksgiving. We’re all trying to create a holiday that might even be a core memory or at least memorable.

Why else do we take pictures of every birthday cake we’ve ever had? Do you actually remember what that cake tasted like?  No. But you remember who was there, who was singing, and how those people gathered around you made you feel that day. Thanks for giving!

As we approach this holiday in America, it’s typically a time when nonprofits think about the gratitude they have for their donors. And clearly there are left brain marketing methods and right brain marketing moxie that should be considered to do this well.

Left Brain Marketing Methods: Left brain is all about data and logic and quality decision making. So, how do you thank your donors with this in mind?  I’ve got a couple of ideas.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: Right brain is all about creativity and stories and bringing out an emotion in the recipient. It’s done all the time—just don’t thask (thank and ask).

Let's get on that thankful train!

Thanks Thanksgiving GIF by Chippy the Dog

Left Brain Marketing Moxie:  I was at the Annual National Conference for Growing Community Foundations in Kansas last month and sat with a group of nonprofit marketers at one of their evening receptions. One of the attendees asked me how we go about thanking donors without spending a lot of money.

It’s a great question because one thing the left brain is really good at is monitoring that marketing line item in the budget, right?  The thing is, you have two battles you’re fighting when thinking about thanking donors:  (1) you have a budget, likely a small one and (2) you don’t want your donors to think that you’ve spend too much money. Afterall if you have all that money to spend, why should they donate, right? It’s a fine line to balance.

James Franco Eye Roll GIF

First and foremost, even if you segment your donors, you don’t have to thank them all in the same way. Perhaps you Top 50 Donors are thanked in a much different way than your Top 50 Prospects. If you aren’t at the place where you segment your donors yet, that’s ok—just pull a report from your database and make data-driven decisions about who to thank and how.

For those that you want to give a special thanks to, think about how to do that in a way that is both special and frugal. For example, Indiana is known for our Sugar Cream Pies. Holly, if you’re reading this—and I know you are—you likely don’t know what a Sugar Cream Pie is since it’s not a Texas thing—just trust me they’re to die for and a great Thanksgiving delight! In fact, I’d even be able to bring one to Thanksgiving since it’s basically heat and eat. As long as I don’t bring the fancy gold-laden paper plates from Hobby Lobby again—the gold in those plates will catch on fire in the microwave. But I digress.

Anyway, since Sugar Cream Pie is Indiana’s state pie, they’re not only readily available here, but there is a Wick's bakery nearby that bakes them by the thousands. So, the gift of a Wick's Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie delivered to the door of a donor the week of Thanksgiving would be readily appreciated--special and frugal.

We also have a local charity that makes homemade cheeseballs as their major fundraiser of the year. I have a feeling that the women in this charity must promise they’ll go to their graves with the recipe because people buy dozens of them just to freeze and enjoy all season long. So, yes, a lovely gift of cheese and crackers shows that we support other local charities while still expressing our undying gratitude—special and frugal.

Put your mind to work and think about what your bottom line can afford and what your donors would appreciate without thinking you’ve gone bougie. It’s a fine line, but you and your left brain can do it!

bougie GIF by Laff Mobb’s Laff Tracks

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: I hate a thask almost more than any other donor marketing piece. I’ve personally received many of them and will likely get several more in the next few weeks. They all start out looking like they are thanking me as a donor but ultimately there is an ask in there somewhere.

You know how kids are when they are little and they want something, a cookie or money for gas?  They start out by saying how pretty you are or how much they love you—the thanks.  But you know what’s coming next because they always want something—the ask.  And that little marriage right there is where the thask was born.

So, no, let’s pledge to each other right now that we won’t be guilty of thasking this month.  Don’t do it.  Just say no. Then, put your noggins together to think about how you genuinely want to thank you donors. Thank them…nothing more, nothing less.

Penelope Burke, in her book Donor Centered Fundraising, shows data she collected depicting how donors love a phone call. Just a quick call to say thanks! Crazily, her data also reveals that it doesn’t even matter if the donor doesn’t answer, that a message expressing your gratitude without even leaving a number to return the call will be equally valuable. So, call some donors! It’s free!

I Love You Reaction GIF

Perhaps you’ll call a subset of donors or maybe you’ll schedule a full-scale Thank-a-thon where you, your team, and your Board all call your donors just to say thanks for giving.

While in Kansas, I also re-met a friend who had seen a presentation of mine nearly 8 years ago. Paula heard me talking about thanking donors and avoiding the thask. So, what did Paula do? That very night, she skipped the conference field trip, put on some sweats, and stayed in her hotel room writing emails to her donors. I know this because I saw Paula at the airport as we were both flying back to our respective destinations. She excitedly told me what she had done the night before. In fact, she pulled out her laptop and read me the email she sent. Short, sweet, and filled with abundant gratitude. Then, she was beaming with a gratitude of her very own when she shared with me some of the responses she had received. Wow! Just wow!

Sure, there is a lot of creativity that goes into your direct mail pieces. But sometimes creativity can come in the form of a phone call or an email, or even a handwritten letter—who gets those these days?

Dog Thank You GIF by Red and Howling

What’s important here is that you’re thanking them for giving—thanksgiving. And if you don’t thask and try to think of something you’d like the donor to do for you, you might even create a core memory or at least a good memory. Maybe even one they'd tell their friends and family about on Thanksgiving!  

And isn’t that what generosity is all about? The joy of giving! It’s amazing that it happens. It’s amazing to know the most philanthropic people in your community. And it’s amazing that we get to be just a small part of the process.

Sure, not all your donors will donate their estate, just like not all your Thanksgiving attendees can make homemade mac and cheese. Meet them where they are, be thankful for their spirit of generosity, and tell them why you’ve chosen this nonprofit career of choice.

After all, you’re talented. You could be doing darn-near anything. Yet you’ve chosen to make your corner of the world a better place through the power of generosity. And, for that, my friend, I am abundantly grateful—thanks for giving.

All My Best,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc. 

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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