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NEW IDEA’S FOR THE NEW YEAR: Create an On-Board Strategy!

NEW IDEAS FOR THE NEW YEAR: Create an On-Board Strategy

What is an On-Board Strategy? Simply put, it is a strategy to keep those new 2010 donors on board. Fundraising Professionals know that it costs more to acquire new donors than it does to retain current donors.

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) acquiring new donors through direct mail averages between $1.25 to $1.50 cost per dollar raised with a 1% rate of return vs. renewing current donors via direct mail which averages $.25 cost per dollar raised with a 50% rate of return (better).

Makes for a pretty good case to develop an On-Board Strategy for 2011 doesn’t it?

This fundraising consultant believes that the most important element to consider while developing your On-Board Strategy is keeping in touch with your current donors or as I like to call them, new family members – because that is exactly how they should feel. So let’s start there. Here are six simple ways to stay in touch with your new family members.


  1. E-mail quarterly newsletters.
  2. E-mail press releases and press clippings.
  3. Promote your website and other social media (facebook, Twitter et al) on every e-mail sent. Ensure your website and social media is continually updated and informational.
  4. Host an open house or other appropriate event bringing your donors to you face-to-face.
  5. Letters of endorsement. If appropriate personally contact your donors (within a specific giving level) and thank them for their support while also asking for an endorsement you can place on your social media sites. This will not only convey appreciation, but will also engage them more intimately in the promotion of your organization.
  6. Identify those within a certain giving range and grab a cup of coffee to discuss your organization and get their feedback on why they give and thoughts on the future of the organization; make it clear this is not a meeting to ask for money (that will come later).

Now that you have some ideas on how to keep in touch with your donors, the second element of your On-Board Strategy should be to develop and implement ways to better engage your donors. Here are four simple ways to successfully engage donors.


  1. Find ways for donors to hear your success stories, when possible use p ictures or post video’s onYouTube of your work in action.  This brings your mission directly into their home  environment.
  2. Let your supporters know what your organization is currently working on, inform them on any internal changes, provide them with a contact person if they have questions, suggestions or want more information.
  3. Make it easy for your donors to become active in your organization. Ask them for advice, insight, time (as a volunteer), leadership (on the board or committee), advocacy. You will be surprised at their willingness to do more than “just give money”.
  4. Always let volunteers and donors know how much you appreciate and count on their support. And do this immediately after their gift of time or money. Let them “see” the difference they have made for the people, place or thing which serves your mission.
  5. Publish lists or photos of your volunteers, donors, committee members and friends (those who give in-kind gifts) in newsletters, on a designated wall in your building, your annual report, website and so on. Make sure they are sent a copy of the publication or email directing them to the website or other social media site.

The third element of an On-Board Strategy is to make certain your donors don’t feel their usefulness is only a financial one. In fact an On-Board Strategy is less about fundraising and more about advocacy for your mission. If you successfully, concisely and continually promote your mission, the money will follow. Here are a few ideas to turn your donors into advocates.


  1. Host a monthly or quarterly breakfast or lunch to discuss issues around your cause, welcoming your donors as active participants and problem-solvers. Perhaps include a  guest speaker as a draw.
  2. Strategically invite certain donors to write a post for your blog on why they support your cause AND how the relationship has made a difference in their life.
  3. Invite donors to mention your non-profit or “like” your organization on their social media sites. Create and provide them with a “widget” to include on their website.

And finally, if you do not do this already, TRACK your donor retention. You want to know what strategies and tactics work. The only way to do this is to diligently track the percentage of donors retained each year. You can start now. Generate a report listing donors who did not renew in 2010; at the end of 2011 run the same report and my guess is you will find you lost fewer donors or rather you RETAINED more donors.

The best of luck and success in this New Year! Marcie

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