Love Is in The Air


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 other Hallmark Holiday where Americans will spend over $20 billion. Yes, 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 percent 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 fanciful flower arrangements for that special someone. WOW!

Before you click back to your Facebook page thinking I’m a buzz-kill, you needn’t worry, I am not going to write about all the needy organizations, starving children, and animals without homes. That said, all this love for football and chocolate did make me wonder about a few things. Are nonprofit and church leaders showing their donors and supporters the same kind of appreciation and attention that 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 amount of time.

Valentine’s Day (and the month of February in general) is a great time to stop asking for money and start loving on those friends and donors of your organization. I received in the mail the other day a very simple-yet-effective Valentine’s Day card 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 fact that I am not a big donor to their organization and they didn’t simply ask me for money. They didn’t even slip in a bounce-back reply envelope “just in case” I wanted to make a donation! No, this was just a thank you with a few words on how my donation had helped one patient.

Here are some ways you might consider showing appreciation and love for your donors on Valentine’s Day.

Thank-You Phone Calls and/or Cards

I recently talked with a nonprofit leader who reaches out to 15 donors each week by either a phone call or a hand-written 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 three weeks off for holidays and vacation, that’s still 48 weeks in year, which means 240 people in his database get a phone call or card. Now that is showing some love. Phone calls and cards require time, very little money, and are proven to be effective and meaningful. Even a phone-a-thon where you have your staff, board members or program recipients like a youth program make the calls just to say thank you will go a long ways in showing your appreciation.

Valentine’s-Themed Newsletter

Consider changing up your usual newsletter and make it Valentine’s Day themed, focusing 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. 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 visual, but if time does not allow you can always grab one from one of the many free online card services. Just like with the newsletter, try and tell a story or use a compelling photo.

Create a Simple Video to Show Your Donors Some Love

Create one or two awesome Valentine videos to send to your special donors. It’s so inexpensive now to create shareable videos; anyone with a smart phone 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 here: https://www.youtube.com/user/charitywaterthanks/videos

Deliver a Gift from the Heart

If you have the time and some volunteers, a special delivery to a group of donors/friends of your organization is a great way to show some extra appreciation. It can be as simple as homemade goodies or a small inexpensive item with your logo on it – any personal token of appreciation as a reminder of how much the organization appreciates them. I cannot emphasize enough that you don’t need to spend a lot of money, as donors don’t want to think that you are spending their donations or gifts for 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 long-time annual donors with a small card of appreciation. We received around 15 thank-you calls afterward and 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 ask for money, 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 memory of someone. I saw one recently that used the tagline “Looking for a way to get your heart pumping?” and definitely caught my attention.

There are lots more ideas and 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 that this time of year gets from the marketing world. Change your mindset from “show me the money” to “show them some love”.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dan Kimball is a seasoned fundraiser with twenty years of experience in strategic fund development and nonprofit management. He’s currently developing Aplos’ Donor Management Platform to help nonprofits connect with (and cultivate!) their donor base.

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