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Love Is In The Air

by Dan Kimball

Now that America’s favorite day of buffalo wings and binge snacking is over (Super Bowl Sunday, for those of you who weren’t sure), it’s time to focus on the next February holiday where Americans will spend over $20 billion. Of course I am talking about Valentine’s Day.

In 2016, Valentine’s spending surpassed the football craze with a total spending record of $19.7 billion, according to Forbes and the National Retail Federation. Some 54.8% of Americans are expected to celebrate the holiday this year, with candy, greeting cards, and an evening out topping the gift list. In a matter of two weeks, Americans will have spent approximately $35 billion on football-themed food, helium-filled hearts, and fancy flower arrangements. Wow!

Before you assume I’m a buzzkill and click back to your Facebook page, don’t worry. I’m not going to write about fundraising for all the needy organizations, starving children, and animals without homes. However, all this love for football and chocolate did make me wonder a few things. Are nonprofit and fundraising leaders showing their donors and supporters the same kind of appreciation and attention we show a bowl of guacamole? Are they also trying to win the heart of a partner, spouse, or future date? (For the sake of transparency, I LOVE guacamole and can consume a serious amount of it in a very short time.)

Show Your Donors Some Love Without Trying to Fundraise

Valentine’s Day (and the month of February in general) is a great time to stop fundraising and asking for money for a bit, and start loving on donors and friends of your organization. The other day I received a very simple, yet effective Valentine’s Day card in the mail. It was made by a patient of our local Children’s Hospital, thanking me for my past support.

I loved the card and the idea, but you know what really impressed me? The first thing was I am not a big donor to their organization. The second was they didn’t ask me for money. They didn’t even slip in a reply envelope in case I wanted to make a donation. This was just a thank you with a few words about how my donation had helped one patient.

Here are some ways you might consider showing appreciation and love for your donors in February.

Thank You Calls And Cards

I recently talked with a nonprofit leader who reaches out to five donors each week, either by a phone call or a handwritten card. These are not always contacts who just gave a recent gift. These are various people in the database who have donated, volunteered, or served in some capacity.

Assuming he takes two to four weeks off for holidays and vacation, there are still 48 weeks in the year, which means 240 people in his database get a phone call or card. Now that is showing some love. And not just in February. Cards and phone calls require time, but they are proven to be effective and meaningful. And they cost very little money. Even a phone-a-thon where you have your staff, board members, or program recipients make calls just to say thank you will go a long way in showing your appreciation.

Theme Your February Newsletter For Valentine’s Day

Consider changing up your usual newsletter, and give it a Valentine’s Day theme for February. Focus on some of the people who are champions for your organization and what their support is doing. Make it about them, and not about you and fundraising for your organization. Photos and stories are a great way to draw people in and have them read your entire newsletter.

Digital Valentine’s Cards

It’s best if you can make your own graphics, but if time does not allow that, you can always get one from a free online card service. Similarly to the newsletter, try and tell a story, or use a compelling photo.

Create A Simple Video

Create one or two awesome Valentine’s videos to send to your special donors. It’s so inexpensive to create shareable videos. Anyone with a smartphone can make one. It can be as simple as a thank you from a group of kids or the staff, or a short testimonial from a donor. You don’t need to produce anything fancy, but it does need to be sincere. You can do a video for a large group, or do a personalized video like what Charity Water did.

Deliver A Gift From The Heart

If you have the time and some volunteers, a special delivery is a great way to show some extra appreciation to a group of donors or friends of your organization. It can be as simple as homemade goodies or a small inexpensive item with your logo on it. Any personal token of appreciation is a sweet reminder of how much your organization appreciates them.

I cannot emphasize enough that you don’t need to spend a lot of money, since donors don’t want to think you are spending their donations or gifts on them. I worked for a nonprofit where one of our staff got a local shop to donate a huge box of caramels. We wrapped them in small packets and delivered them to a group of longtime annual donors with a small card of appreciation. We received around 15 calls afterward, thanking us, and we were even given a check, though it was not asked for or expected.

Allow People To Donate In Honor Of Someone

Even though the focus of this post is to not fundraise, some organizations will set up a Valentine’s Day giving program. With some planning and creativity, this can be very effective. Similar to the holidays where people can make a donation in lieu of gifts, you might consider setting up your donation page as a way for people to make a gift in honor of someone else. I saw one recently that used the tagline “Looking for a way to get your heart pumping?” It definitely caught my attention.

There are a lot more ways for you to build around the Valentine’s Day theme. The bottom line is to be creative, have fun, and take advantage of the attention this time of year gets from the marketing world. Change your mindset from constant fundraising and “show me the money” to “show them some love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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