Happy September! The fall season and, more importantly, Thanksgiving is right around the corner.
This is my favorite season for fundraising since this is when we get to thank our donors for all they do for our organizations with our annual Thank-A-Thon!
So let's start by defining "Thank-A-Thon." A Thank-A-Thon is a series of communication that starts 2 weeks prior to Thanksgiving and ends on Thanksgiving day. It can also be done at different times of the year, but it always works best with Thanksgiving.
The timing for a Thank-A-Thon series prior to Thanksgiving is perfect for any development strategy and fits nicely between solicitations. I like to solicit folks in October (be first in the mail) and again in December to those who haven't given yet. So having a Thank-A-Thon series in November works so well.
However, a Thank-A-Thon isn't only successful because of it's timing, it also works when you following these essential rules:
-Execute via email and social media. It is ideal for it to be an emailed series that's mirrored on social media. *To enhance this plan, consider doing Thank-A-Thon calls. This is where you call and just "thank" donors for their past support and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.
-Introduce the series. Let people know that this is a Thank-A-Thon series where the organization will simply thank donors/families/alumni, etc. for their support.
-Let people know what and how often to expect it. Tell folks what to expect. No one wants to all of a sudden receive numerous emails and not know when they will end. All it takes is to say in the opening email how often they will receive emails and when it will end. I promise you that people will not be upset by the number of emails if they know what to expect.
-Use a different signer. This series is supposed to provide a genuine, heartfelt thank you to your donors so try to get as close to the mission as you can and use someone who is a different signer than your typical signer.
-Don't use jargon. If an 8 year old cannot understand it, then it's too complex. Have someone else read it who isn't familiar with your organization and ask them about specific words that you aren't sure they might know how your organization defines it.
-Include information you cannot find on a website. This is a chance for you to give people something specially crafted for them in this moment. Don't short-change them with a paragraph that could easily be found on your website.
-Utilize video. Emails with videos are so powerful and have been proven to be viewed more often than other emails and have a higher click-through conversion rate.
-Draw from your data. Choose themes that have proven to work. Do your donors like to hear about a specific program? If so, use this to your benefit in this series and save the new programs and funding opportunity information for another time.
-Make it a two-way conversation for donors. Opportunities where you can create a two-way conversation are the best ways to engage your constituency base. During the process you end up learning things about your constituents you might not otherwise know.
-Throw marketing guidelines out the window (well..at least for a moment). Yep, I said it. This is supposed to look and feel heartfelt and genuine as well as stand out from the rest of the marketing pieces. Use an email header, colors, and photos that are unexpected and unique for the theme of the series.
This approach has helped me garner responses from hundreds of people and has been the most popular email series/communication piece I've introduced to organizations. My work has been quoted back to me in interviews and at donor appreciation events - what this series produces is truly remarkable and memorable.