By Pamela Grow.
As a fundraising consultant I work primarily with smaller charities. Here in the US, over 50 per cent of our registered nonprofit organisations have assets of less than $1 million.
Fundraising in a one-person shop is tough enough to begin with and these days fundraisers are faced with a barrage of discouraging statistics every day. According to Blackbaud first year donor retention stands at a paltry 29.3 per cent. Email response rates are abysmal, individual donations are declining, foundation grants are drying up, yada yada yada.
You get the picture.
How do you keep your spirits – and funding – up in the face of such devastating statistics? Could the answer be as simple as falling in love with your donors?
Bear with me on this.
We’re all accustomed to the culture of immediate payoffs. When we hear about the $30 million raised via text for the Haiti victims, we all want to jump on the text bandwagon. A friend tells us that their organisation raised $10,000 using Facebook Causes and we’re sold.
The truth is that sustainable fundraising is a nurturing process. You wouldn’t mix up some flour, yeast and water and throw it in the oven expecting bread would you? Of course not, you’re going to mix your ingredients, knead your dough, allow it to rise, punch it down and maybe even repeat the process, then bake it. It’s the same with fundraising – you’re creating a nurturing process with your donors and prospective donors.
That relationship with your donors should be all encompassing: from personal contact to direct mail, to your web presence to email and to how people in your organisation answer the phone.
In everything that you do, you should be thinking about lifetime value.
Nonprofit marketing always takes place in a context of what we call – wait for it – a market. And when you consider your market, there is a line separating your potential donors (demographics, psychographics, etc of people that can or might give you money) and donors (people who have actually given you money). You may prefer to look at them as potential vs. proven. If you must ensure that your messages pay off, do you allocate your resources according to this model? Or do you favour your existing donors?
While on this topic – love your donors, not your mission. It is all too easy to get caught up in nonprofit marketing that is I/me based (we are so good because.... we are number one because...). By falling in love with your donors, you make them the focal point, you monitor their feedback (notice I didn't say ‘dictate’ the marketing as they’re not qualified to do so, but they are very qualified to vote with their dollars as to the effectiveness of a particular appeal), and you are aware of their preferred method of contact. Another word of caution on the meaning of ‘preferred’: just because people say they prefer tweets doesn't mean they respond best to tweets. It is important to test.
So, what are the most powerful ways to love your donors?
• Two words: thank you. One of the ways to show love is by showing appreciation. Make it a practice to say thank you not once but twice or even three times. Schedule 30 minutes in your daily routine to call a handful of recent donors to thank them personally for their gifts.
• Touching: you physically touch someone you love but you can also demonstrate touch by calling or writing to someone and saying, ‘You’re an important person in my life and I just wanted you to know that’. Or, ‘Hey, just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you’. I recommend a minimum of 12 touches a year. They could be a combination of three print newsletters, two direct mail appeals, six email newsletters and one postcard. A minimum of 12.
• Donor appreciation events: you get together with family and friends during the holidays...why not get together with donors (you love them, remember?) and celebrate with them?
• Gifts: do I really need to elaborate? They don’t need to be expensive; they just need to show your appreciation. You could use fun tokens such as a pack of chewing gum, a refrigerator magnet, or a stuffed animal. Not sure how to make this work? Get creative. Here's an example with gum:
‘Dear Dave Donor,
Are you wondering why I’ve enclosed a packet of gum with this letter?
Well, I just wanted to say thanks and I was thinking how 'sweet' you were to give a gift earlier this year and giving you something sweet seemed appropriate.
Enjoy! (These are the new Trident Rainbow flavoured ones so they are sugar free and won't cause cavities.)’
See what we’ve just accomplished? We made our interactions with this person fun (and you do have fun with your friends, don’t you?), it wasn't a 'give me money' communication, and it was most definitely memorable. Do you think they'll see us in a favourable light the next time we do ask for money?
Remember, now is not the time for emulating the majority of your peers when it comes to fundraising. Now is the time for creativity, boldness, a sense of joy and genuine love of your donors.