The importance of processing nonprofit gifts within 72 hours

first 48 investigation,  fundraising, gift processing, gift acknowledgement, donor attrition, donor retentionAsking for a donation to your nonprofit is one component of fundraising. How that gift is processed once it is received is another. Both are important. Your actions can strengthen a donor relationship, or contribute to its demise. “The First 48” is a TV crime show that stresses the importance of the first 48 hours to the overall criminal investigation. Create guidelines for “The First 72” to keep fundraising on track. Letting gifts “pile up” and processing them once every week or two may appear efficient, but this process may require investigation!

Here are questions to answer when creating your First 72.

Is this a new donor or returning donor? If a new donor, ensure all contact information is entered or imported into database. If you know who solicited or referred the donor, record that information. If a returning donor, ensure contact information is up to date, name is spelled correctly, and you are not inadvertently creating duplicate donors. (Don’t laugh… Andrea Johnson, Andrea Tammy Johnson and Tammy Johnson may all be the same person!)

Who should thank the donor? Is an email enough? When should you send a letter? Who should sign it? Should a telephone call be made? By whom? Figure these things out in advance, and be consistent.

Is the gift an “unrestricted” or “restricted?” This refers to the wishes of the donor. This issue typically arises with larger gifts, when a donor requests that funds be used for a specific program or purpose. Make sure you honor your donors’ requests. More on this topic in a future column. For now, be sure to document gift restrictions and honor them.

What information will this donor receive in the future? Will they receive all communications? General communications plus those related to a specific area of interest? Add them to appropriate lists. Make sure they receive appropriate, timely print and electronic information going forward.

Does the donor have questions or concerns? Who will call or email the donor in order to respond? Don’t let these slip through the cracks! Related to this, was a premium promised? If yes, make sure it is sent out quickly. When a major gift is received make sure staff and leadership know the gift’s impact. Don’t keep good news a secret!

Finally, run gift reports each week and share with leadership and fundraising volunteers. This helps build fundraising momentum, and lets solicitors know who has made a gift so they can personally say “thank you.” Leadership can review these reports and make decisions regarding future cultivation and potentially increase a donor’s gift.

The First 72 is critical to sustaining and growing your donor base. Treat donors well from the beginning to avoid a donor attrition investigation.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

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