While data will drive your fundraising success, adding in the human touch can make a world of difference to both your donors and your organisation.


I’d like to share a story that I heard recently about an NFP organisation that is really going the extra mile with their donors.

We rely on data to drive our campaigns, rather than logic and common sense, as marketing and fundraising for not-for-profits is quite often counter-intuitive. While these data-driven strategies are key to your success, if you fail to humanise your interaction with your supporter, it’s quite possible you will come across as cold and uncaring.

This is certainly not the case with the following story.

Alana from MS QLD told me about her interaction with Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV).

Early last year we had to transition my elderly mother into an aged care facility. Given she’s a country woman, it was easier to just get the neighbours to forward her mail. Working in an NFP I wanted to ensure those organisations she supports were notified of her change of address. When I rang ICV I happened to mention that the beautiful calendar they’d sent had been destroyed by weather. The donor supporter person sent out another for my mum and a beautiful note. My mum couldn’t have been more appreciative. As a jaded old fundraiser this made me smile and proved the value of putting your donor at the centre of all your activities.”

This story really reminded me how great the industry is that we work in, and of a few tips I recommend to any charity I talk with.

So whether you have a supplier, staff or volunteers processing your next campaign, keep these three points in mind.

TIP 1 Ensure your database is kept up-to-date

Remember that a database wash is retrospective. But you can keep your database as current as possible by recording any changes in a supporter’s details (eg change of address) as they come in from letters or other response mechanisms.

TIP 2 Keep your communications donor-centric

Record communication preferences AND know how you will deal with each one.

For example, respect their wishes and know what your response will be if a supporter asks to only be approached for one appeal per year (or only for tax & Christmas appeals). The same goes if they ask to be put on a “no list swaps” register.

If you receive donor-written notes via a response mechanism, respond appropriately. This can also can be the driver for personalising your comms (see TIP 3).

If you discover that a supporter has died, know how you will respond to grieving family members.

It is a good idea to create a brief procedures manual, which everybody in your organisation from the volunteers to the CEO has access to – this will ensure consistency throughout your organisation.

TIP 3 Be personal

Most importantly, go the extra mile and include personalised hand-written notes with your receipts and/or thank you letters. This is a nice touch that donors will value highly.

If someone has donated from a relative’s estate, then why not add a short personalised note with the receipt that acknowledes this sad occasion.

If times are tough but an elderly donor has still made a small donation with a hand-written note, reply in kind with one of your own.

If a supporter has changed their communications preference indicating Christmas appeal only, then send a note acknowledging their next appeal will be sent at Christmas. Word of warning: ensure the communication preference is updated and your appeals selection criteria is up-to-date.

This might seem like a lot of work, but with a bit of pre-planning it’s not hard to do and you will reap the rewards. Remember, these notes should not be professionally drawn up by a copy writer. A simple acknowledgement in two or three lines is all you need. It will make a world of difference and put some human warmth back into your campaigns.


David Packenas is a Data Capture Specialist and Director at Crystal Clear Data.

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