Why, if you could hire her, your charity should crave Lisa Sargent to advise you on donor comms

aog8L-r, the MQI team goes audience crazy: Sandie Collette (designer), Lisa Sargent (writer/strategist), Denisa Casement (director of development/strategist)

LAST ISSUE, a reader asked me to comment on this dispute:

Recently I heard a webinar by Lynne Wester where she vehemently defended the idea that a true donor thank you cannot include an ask, even a soft ask.

That means in donor newsletters no envelopes or reply devices, and in donor e-newsletters no Donate Now buttons.

I said I disagreed (respectfully) … and showed my cards. Lynne has her rule. Mine is different: of course (I’d say) newsletters, print or digital, SHOULD include a LOUD, OBVIOUS response device.

In response to my comments, the world’s champion THANK-YOU GURU, Lisa Sargent, took the time to fill in some newsletter blanks, from her experience.

Lisa starts with due kudos to Lynne:

If it’s Lynne Wester, she probably has hard, longitudinal data to support that advice. So maybe it’s different for universities, I’ve no idea.

Then Lisa S. went on:

But in my humble experience, in newsletters, we ALWAYS include a reply slip and a reply envelope.

Always and always.

Been doing this since the days of Best Friends Animal Society (who are, what, $30M+ in revenue annually now?).

Some clients see response rates of 6-14%, to a newsletter. Best Friends routinely pummeled industry benchmarks.

And since our reply slips of today include a legacy checkbox, we generate bequest interest too.

(While the cover letter never ever asks for more money, folks like Willis Turner might label some of my language as a soft ask: in this context, because it’s stuff like “We couldn’t do any of this, without you,” I don’t.)

One example, of course, is MQI’s newsletter pack; so if the rebuttal comes back to you that asking harms retention, MQI’s 69% retention rate pretty much flies in the face of that.

Keep in mind that we started at 57%, so not only does the reply slip/envelope in a newsletter not harm retention, the packs appear to boost it.

Also we started without a reply slip and envelope, because Denisa held firm about no ask until donors started requesting them.

Response rates went up. Best Friends numbers would support the same, at least back in the day — not sure where they’re at now.

And I have another client, after one year of donor-driven newsletters, seeing a kind of “donor awakening.”

After a 20K gift from one donor and a €2,500 gift from another who hadn’t given much at all, she wrote me, “This is cool!”

She also saw her first request for legacy info from one of the reply slips. So it takes awhile for the newsletter goodness to sink in, and if your person tests it, tell them to be patient.

Might take 3-4 issues before donors notice you’re actually being consistent with the love and gratitude, and respond accordingly.

And for the record, they need to be asking for more than money too: attend events, tours, etc. Engage. You know all this stuff already, I know. But feel free to include the anecdotal stuff from me if you want.

Hugs and thanks again,
Lisa

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