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Expand Your Program - Renewal and Upgrading

Renewing annual gifts from major donors should be fairly simple, provided that station staff has been a good steward of the relationship. While mail and phone contact can play an important role in some segments of the annual program, the renewal process provides an opportunity for the station to deepen the relationship through personal contact.

Topics of Interest
Topics of Interest

The Personal Touch

Renewal of an annual gift begins when the previous gift is acknowledged, and it continues through all the stewardship efforts a station makes throughout the year. In public broadcasting membership programs, most of the renewal effort is handled by the station's mail program, with telemarketing and on-air playing a strong supporting role.

In the major gift program, personal contact becomes an important tool. It may not be possible to renew every gift through a personal conversation, but many can and should be.

  • All gifts in the upper tier of the major giving program should be renewed via a personal conversation — in person wherever possible, and by phone only if necessary.
  • Donors identified as having significant upgrade potential should be handled through a personal conversation. Again, in-person is best.
  • While it may seem that gifts in the lowest tier (typically $1,000) can be handled by mail, some stations organize regularly scheduled calling nights in which board and/or leadership volunteers have personal conversations with as many donors as possible.

With planning, a number of annual donors can be renewed through personal contact, affording the opportunity for conversations with development officers and leadership volunteers that will deepen the relationship, improve renewal and upgrading, and provide valuable information for future gift cultivation.

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Designing and Implementing Renewal Strategies

The personal relationship the major giving director has built with the donor changes how a renewal series functions in major giving, as compared to the station's membership renewal program:

  • Mail series do not include as many efforts.
  • They generally start later in the gift cycle.
  • The stationery is of better quality than what is used in membership or mid-level giving.
  • The letter and reply device are highly personalized and the letters should always be hand-signed, not using computer-generated signature.
  • The letters should be delivered in a close-faced envelope with a first class stamp.

Follow-up phone calls by the major giving director, volunteer leader, or other key station staff occur much earlier on than in other levels of membership and the phone call is personal in tone — not read from a script.

A sample renewal strategy might include:

  • 2 or 3 written efforts, beginning in the 10th month of the gift cycle
  • A phone call two weeks after the final notice is sent

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When a Donor Doesn't Renew

Should you not secure the renewal gift, it's important to find out why so that a note can be made in the donor's file. Plus, knowing this will help you choose your next action.

If the donor is unable to renew at their current major donor level, you still may be able to secure a gift in the mid-level range. If the donor expresses a wish to be able to do more next year, you then must decide if you want to extend major donor benefits to him or her in this interim year. Many organizations extend the benefits to further the relationship and position for the gift in the future. And for many organizations, the benefits at major donor levels have so few hard costs associated with them that they do not limit the ability to extend them for a reasonable interim period.

Should the donor inform you that they won't be able to give at the major donor level again, you then begin to work downward with hopes to keep them tied to the station in some way — either through a mid-level program or membership. The crucial thing is that these donors not be allowed to slip through the cracks in your station. They must be handed-off to someone within the station and kept "in the loop." Circumstances may change for them — they may even be good candidates for planned gifts worth far more to the station than their annual gift — and you want to do everything possible to maintain the relationship.

See the Renewal Letters in the Solicitation and Stewardship Letter Templates (MS Word file, 126KB) for sample letter copy.

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Upgrading During Renewal

Annual major donors should be asked to consider an upgrade during the first renewal request, just as one would in other elements of the individual giving program. There are two strategies to be used here, and some personal examination of the records of those in the renewal pool may be necessary to select the correct one:

  • Within a giving category, request a standard upgrade of 5-10%, using appropriate language to justify the request.
  • When a donor is within reach of the next giving category, a very personal appeal asking that they consider rejoining at the higher level, listing benefits, but emphasizing what the higher investment will mean to those the station serves.

This second strategy can also be employed shortly after the renewal gift, by seeking an additional investment to bring the donor to the next highest level. Here, too, while it is important to list benefits to the donor, the emphasis should be placed on the results possible with the donor's increased investment.

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Donor Cultivation System (PDF, 79KB)