Take those generic donor acknowledgment plaques and toss ‘em in the recycling bin! The Atlanta Union Mission is here with new, effective ways to say ‘thank you.’
Let's start with results.
The Atlanta Union Mission is budgeting a ten percent increase in income for the coming year. This is based in part on an actual eight percent increase last year (doubly solid since US donations, overall, were down about three percent).
What's more, its major giving club, The Agape Society, boasts a net retention rate of fifteen percent, year on year.
Suffice it to say that AUM's Chief Development Officer James Gleghorn knows a thing or two about raising money and keeping donors.
One place where his stewardship savvy shines is in major donor acknowledgments.
According to the Georgia-based, Christ-centered charity's website, Atlanta Union Mission provides "emergency food and shelter, residential recovery programs and transitional housing" for men, women and children.
As part of this, AUM operates a 576-acre working farm for men and women in its six to 12-month residential recovery program. Designed, among other things, to provide life skills training and work therapy, there is also a sawmill where clients cut timber (harvested at the farm) that is then crafted into handmade furniture and wood crafts. And therein lie the seeds of creative donor stewardship.
“I get lots of plaques, but this...”
Members of AUM's $5,000-and-up giving club, The Agape Society (ah-gah-pay), receive a recognition plaque that -- judging by donor feedback -- beats all recognition plaques.
Crafted entirely on-site, the plaque holds a raised wooden cross breaking through two chains -- symbolic of how clients break the chains of addiction through AUM's Christ-centered recovery program. The plaque is inscribed with not only the donor's name, but also the first name and last initial of the man or woman who made it.
Included with each recognition plaque is an invitation for donors to visit the farm, where they can tour the program -- and meet the client who crafted their plaque.
This, says Gleghorn, is where the magic happens. "Clients see that 'here is a person who pays for me to go here to create life change' ... someone who is now invested in their story. If you look at the socioeconomics, they're in totally different places. But I don't know who is more excited, the client or the donor."
This exceptional donor stewardship doesn't end with the plaque, either...
A quarterly communication goes out exclusively to Agape Society members. In addition, these donors also receive the monthly direct mail newsletter that is sent to the general membership... with a twist. At least four times each year, a handwritten note is added to Agape Society issues.
These major donors also receive invitations to "State of the State" conference calls with AUM president Jim Reese.
The personal attention is working so well that AUM has extended it to middle donors, too. For example, all donors who give a single donation of $500 or more receive a handwritten thank you note and a phone call.
According to Gleghorn, this strategy has yielded more than a "significant increase" in donor retention -- he's finding that more middle donors are now going on to give $2,500-plus, and ultimately, to become Agape Society members ($5,000+).
But what makes AUM's donor stewardship so special is that the motivation for good donor care goes far deeper than dollars. Says Gleghorn, "Our goal is to serve our donors, and to pour in all they pour into us."
AUM Stewardship Supplement:
The Private Donor Thank-You Page That Went Viral
In addition to the extraordinary stewardship of its major donors, AUM has found an equally engaging way to thank other donors who go the extra mile to help the charity: with a "thank you AUM" website that is not accessible to the general public.
Example: a young Atlanta girl recently launched a neighborhood shoe drive. She collected 12 bags of shoes for the men, women and children of Atlanta Union Mission's shelters. Armed with a Flip camera, staff took videos of the shoes being unloaded and getting put to good use at the shelters. The videos were uploaded onto the thank-you-AUM site, and a link -- along with a thank you -- was sent to the girl's parents.
The results? The shoe drive page received 2,500 visits in 72 hours -- and all from a link that was originally sent to just two people: Mom and Dad.