Following up with participants after a fundraising trip is one of the most important things your organization will do…and one of the easiest to mess up. Here are 7 Faux Pas organizations make in their follow-up approach after a trip.
Follow-up is bad when it:
1. Is Not Prompt
While you were away the work has been piling on your desk. It’s easy to get sucked into the next big thing and delay follow-up with your participants. You’ve heard the expression, “better late than never”… Well, that’s not always true. Delayed follow-up sends a message that your participants are unimportant and low priority compared to other initiatives. If you anticipate a lag time in following up due to vacation, a major event, or an urgent grant, let them know before the trip has ended:
“I’m so glad we were able to share this incredible experience together. I want to let you know that I’ll be walking off the plane and right into an urgent proposal, so it will take me a couple weeks before I’m able to reconnect with you about the trip…”
2. Is Not Specific
When we don’t know exactly what we want our participants to do after the trip, we send them something vague and hope they will draw their own conclusions.
For instance, instead of saying “please consider a gift of $5,000,” we say “we’d love for you to support the mission…”
Instead of saying, “it would be great if you could post about the trip on your Facebook page by the end of the week,” we say “we’d love for you to spread the word…”
And instead of saying, “I hope you will consider participating in our next event by giving a 2-minute speech about your trip experience,” we say “we’d love for you to be involved in the future…”
These kinds of requests are so vague that the donor will not know how to interpret them and will do nothing.
3. Is Not Immediately Actionable
If you have no specific ideas for how you would like to leverage your donors’ experience, first, read my article to get inspired, and second, don’t ask for anything. Whenever you request something of a donor, it needs to be actionable. Getting someone to maybe commit to speaking at an event you might do in the fall of next year if you can get five corporate sponsors to fund it is just too much ambiguity to put on your donor now. Wait until you are reasonably sure something is going to happen, then make a specific ask: “We’re putting an event together in the fall of next year and would love for you to share your experience on stage…If you’re open to this, I will reach back out in the spring once more details are confirmed.”
4. Is Not Personalized
This faux pas is one of the most common ways I see organizations mess up. Sending one mass email with one message to all attendees carries implicit meaning: it says you don’t have time for this person. You are just too busy and they are not important enough to email individually. Now, it’s ok to email the entire group a thank-you message at the end of the trip – as long as you follow up individually with a more personalized acknowledgement. Not having time is no excuse. You didn’t take 200 people overseas. You took five people. Or twenty. You do have time to write 5-20 emails.
5. Doesn’t Acknowledge Silent Parties
Here’s a misstep that can happen when only one member of a family attends a trip: the organization follows up with the participant, but not the other members of the family. Just because the spouse didn’t attend doesn’t mean the spouse doesn’t have influence over the next gift. Often an adult child from a family foundation will attend a trip when it is actually their parents who make the final giving decisions. Know these dynamics in advance and make sure to address all relevant parties accordingly. For instance, you will want to thank the participant who attended the trip individually, but invite that person’s spouse to attend the meeting discussing their next gift. Leaving the spouse out would be an unintended slight to the participant.
6. Only Comes Through Email
For us digital natives, email is the most convenient mode of communication…and the most passive. Email is easy to ignore and surprisingly easy to “lose.” I’m a firm believer that acknowledgment of pledged gifts must be made by phone, and yes, even if it goes straight to voicemail. A few of the follow-up tactics I suggest are good to start by email, but must be accompanied by a phone call if they go unanswered. Again, your donors will have their preferred method of communication and it is always best to accommodate them, but don’t default to email for your own comfort.
7. Does not Offer Face-to-Face Time
I recommend meeting in-person with the donor within 6 months of the trip, provided they are in the same geographic location of your organization. This could be a one-on-one meeting, or merely an invitation to an event or other engagement opportunity. Whatever the reason, going too long without in-person contact is a way to let the relationship drift. Use some of my follow-up tactics as an excuse to schedule a one-on-one meeting, and use the opportunity to gather feedback or invite them to engage in a specific, actionable way.
Remember, following up is one of the most important things you will do, and unfortunately, it can be done wrong. Avoid these 7 missteps and make your follow-up strategy set the stage for a lifelong relationship with your donors.
Excellent advice! These are mistakes we have all made at one time or another. Experience is the best teacher, as they say.
May I offer a remedy to the first faux pas, “Is Not Prompt”? Write your follow-up correspondence ahead of time. You know who is going on the trip, and you’re pretty sure what’s going to happen. If you write most of the email ahead of time, you can fill in with specific details later. I’ve even gone so far as to write the follow-up emails and programmed them ‘Send later’ for the very next morning following our return. If something unexpected happens during the trip that requires you to change the email, you can always pull the mails out of the outbox and adjust them.
All in all, very good advice, Caliope! Thank you!