What stories have we been telling our mid-level donors?

what-stories-have-we-been-telling-our-mid-level-donors

In a few hours, I’m jumping on a plane to Chicago to speak at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference and I couldn’t be more excited!

This conference has had such a positive buzz about it since it started 3 years ago, and I can’t wait to be part of it.

What will I be talking about? Surprise, surprise: mid-level donors. You know they’re my favourite kind of donor, and I can’t wait to share some thoughts on them with the crowd.

My presentation is called “Telling mid-level donors the stories they want to hear”. I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but I will say this: if I’m saying that we need to tell mid-level donors the stories they want to hear, am I suggesting that we haven’t been?

The answer is yes.

So what stories have we been telling our mid-level donors that haven’t been working?

#1 – The brand story

I spoke about this in my post on “The Field of Dreams Myth”, as I call it. A lot of organizations have the instinct to brand their mid-level giving program – give it a name, a logo, and letterhead. This tactic is not off-base, but it’s not enough. (And all too often, it’s based on internal organizational needs vs. the needs of the donor.)

#2 – The variable paragraph story

Variable paragraphs are best practice in direct mail (and email, to a degree) and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. But, if we expect to inspire mid-level donors to step it up just because we call them “generous” in a variable paragraph, then we’re going to be sorely disappointed. We need to do more.

#3 – The closed envelope story

One of the most commonly used tactics is to send mid-level donors exactly what your regular donors get, but with a distinction – rather than a #10 envelope with your usual postage indicia, mid-level donors get their letter in a closed envelope with a real, live stamp on the front! Don’t get me wrong – it’s a classy touch, makes the package stand out in a pile of bills… but is this going to inspire donors to give at a new level? No.

#4 – An insert story (if they’re lucky)

Finally, the most we might do for mid-level donors to try to distinguish their experience from everyone else is to insert something extra into their package – maybe it’s a lift note from someone meaningful to them/the package, maybe it’s a small insert that expands on the funding priorities… And this comes from a great insight about mid-level donors wanting more from the organizations they support. More content! More behind-the-scenes info! More! An insert will take you part of the way, but on its own will it do enough? No.

The stories aren’t working. 

I promise you I’ll talk to you about what stories will work in a few weeks.

Until then – what are you seeing that doesn’t work? What does?

Let me know in the comments!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What I learned about fundraising from a terrifying experience

what-i-learned-about-fundraising-from-a-terrifying-experience

Something really scary happened to me last night…

I was driving home from a meeting around 7:30 pm, and rolled up to a very sketchy intersection in Toronto very close to my home. The stoplight was red, and there was one car between me and the intersection.

All of a sudden, a man darted across the street. He ran up to the car ahead of me and tried to open one of their back car doors. He couldn’t get in, so he headed over to my passenger door. I hurried to lock my door but I wasn’t able to do it in time, and suddenly the stranger was sitting in my passenger seat next to me.

What happened next felt like an out-of-body experience. I calmly told him to get out of my car. He begged me to drive him, as he’d just been “jumped” and needed to get out of the area. I – again, calmly – told him I was not driving anywhere and that he needed to get out of my car. He said he was being threatened by people on the street and needed me to take him away. I said that was not my responsibility and that I needed him to get out of my car.

“Get out of my car,” I said. “Please get out of my car. You need to get out of my car.”

I kept repeating myself until finally, he opened the door, got out of my car, and ran away.

I gathered myself and drove home. Although I’m still feeling shaken, I’m OK and I’m safe.

I recounted the story a few times afterwards – to my girlfriend, a friend, and two of my sisters. Everyone seemed impressed with my calmness in the situation.

The truth is, I’m impressed, too. I didn’t urge myself to be calm in the moment. I just was.

I simply requested that the stranger get out of my car. I was calm, I was assertive, and I was serious. I didn’t scream, cry, or get emotional. I didn’t make a spectacle of it. I simply told the man what I wanted and eventually he did just that.

I don’t want to trivialize the situation that I experienced. I genuinely was shaken by it,

But when I sit down to write my weekly post on Wednesdays, I draw from experience – sometimes very recent, and sometimes unpleasant – to inspire my posts.

And so, I can’t help but think – what could I learn about fundraising from my experience last night? 

We talk a lot about storytelling in fundraising. Inspiring donors through stories is such an important technique in what we do.

But sometimes a story isn’t necessary. Sometimes flowery language, emotion, and a spectacle isn’t required.

Maybe it’s because of the ask you’re making, or maybe it’s who you’re making the ask to.

But sometimes, the best ask is one that’s calm, assertive, and serious. Sometimes you have to make the ask a few times in order for the donor to really feel the impact of what you’re asking. Sometimes they need to know you’re really serious before they consider responding to your ask.

Have you had any experiences that have inspired your fundraising lately? Hopefully they didn’t shake you as much as mine did, but maybe you learned something nonetheless.

Share in the comments below!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Asking the Right Questions

asking-the-right-questions

What do you need to know? 

What are your BHAGs? Your big hairy audacious goals?

What’s preventing you from achieving them?

When it comes to these things – the big topics that come with big questions – it’s time to have a real conversation.

This post is inspired by my recent experience attending the International Fundraising Congress a.k.a. #IFC2016 (which was amazing, by the way).

Asking the Right Questions was the theme of IFC, and for me that theme came to a head at a session run by the amazing Simone Joyaux.

Simone talked us through those big topics that come with big questions that I mentioned above.

There are questions in the office that we don’t need a real conversation for: When should we have our next office social? What food should we serve at our next meeting? How often should we schedule staff meetings?

Then there are other topics that do require a real conversation. And in order to have those conversations, we need to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions? They require openness. The right questions force us to remove our biases and assumptions. They cannot be yes or no.

So, if your organization has some money in the budget for something innovative, that might be when you need to have a real conversation.

What might you ask? Maybe, “What opportunities do we see for growth in the organization?”

Which could lead you through a winding conversation full of more questions that arrives at finding an opportunity to invest in innovation.

By asking these questions, we generate learning, which generates change, which builds stronger organizations.

So what are your big questions that require real conversations? 

Answer in the comments below! Or better yet – create the space for a conversation about it in your office, and let me know how it goes!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Acquiring & Retaining Millennial Donors: Part Two

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A while back, we wrote a post focusing on four ways to acquire and retain millennial donors. In order to provide the best advice we could, we drew from many of the best practices we had learned over the past two years, organizing our annual fundraising event in Boston, the Boston Fall Formal.

Our fundraiser is geared almost completely toward millennial donors, and has donated over $175,000 to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in two years!

To help you and your team with your next fundraising endeavor, we thought we’d expand a bit on our fundraising experience, and provide you with detailed information on how we improved our contribution each year, while still keeping our donors engaged. To help guide our conversation, we’ve answered questions from a fellow fundraising host (thanks, Elsa!).

Q: How much of your total proceeds from the two years (about $175,000) came from ticket sales versus pure donations versus opportunity drawing proceeds?

A: This is a great question, and brings up an important point to keep in mind as you plan your next fundraising event. Depending on the type of event you hold, different cost components could include:

  • Venue Cost
  • Food / Drink Cost (higher cost for open bar)
  • Entertainment (band, DJ, photographer, photobooth, etc.)
  • Décor
  • Ticketing Processing Fees

When planning your event, it’s always good to have a detailed estimate of the costs you will incur. This level of detail will give you a better idea of what your final contribution to your charity will be and will also help you understand what you can afford for your event.

For our event, revenue broke down as follows:

Revenue Item Dollar Amount Percent of Total Revenue
Ticket Sales $185,000 67%
Sponsorship / Donations $72,000 26%
Opportunity Drawing Proceeds $20,000 7%

You’ll see that our revenue was well over our total proceeds of $175,000, meaning we incurred about $117,000 in costs over the past two years of our event! 

Q: What was the breakdown among corporate sponsorships and pure donations?

A: As with costs, we find it to be extremely beneficial to track all of your sponsorship and donation amounts.

Surprisingly, we did not solicit sponsors in the first year of our event, meaning all of our proceeds from donations were from individuals, not corporate sponsors. While we considered the inaugural event to be a success, we clearly had a lot to learn.

Using this lesson from our first event, we put a lot more effort into attracting and winning amazing sponsors. (You view our Ultimate Guide to Sponsorship here!)

Shifting our efforts resulted in a much different breakdown than in our first year, and as a result, sponsorship and individual donations were at about a 50:50 split – a huge improvement from our prior year!

Q: What was your retention rate from year one to year two?

A: Our high retention rate played a significant role in the growth of our event. While we were very happy with the new attendees we attracted in year two, the return attendees helped spread the word on the event, and continue to drive awareness up until the night of the event.

Comparing year two to year one, we retained about 58% of our initial attendees!

More to come on our tips for engaging these attendees, further down in this post.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on engaging millennials as straight donors instead of as event attendees? Fundraising events can be expensive – are they truly necessary to engage millennials in order to garner donations from them?

A: While it is definitely possible to generate straight donations from millennials, we’ve found that the key to acquiring and retaining millennial donors is to provide engaging and unique experiences. Millennials constantly seek connections to the causes they support, and one of the best ways to create this connection is by building a relationship / experience through a special event.

Some of our additional thoughts on engaging and retaining millennial donors include:

  • Get Personal – Tell the story of your cause, and how it has personally affected yourself and your committee.
  • Utilize Technology – Millennials are very connected. In order to gain their donations, you must be, too! For your next fundraiser, be sure to embrace mobile technology through donation pages, mobile silent auctions and raffles, and even email campaigns.
  • Embrace FOMO – Play into millennials’ fear of missing a great time. Promoting your event through social media, videos, and other digital media will cause those in your audience to fear that they will be missing a great time, further convincing them to engage with your event and support your cause.
  • Show Your Appreciation – This is a staple for all nonprofits and fundraising events. Don’t forget to thank your attendees and donors for their contributions – this is their hard-earned money that you are asking for, after all!

Finally, while we do think that fundraising events are one of the best ways to engage millennial donors, this does not mean that you need each attendee to join your event each year. By putting together thoughtful email campaigns, social media updates, and utilizing mobile technology, you can keep your initial attendees engaged, even if they may not attend your event, or if you’re not planning on holding one each year.

  • Email Campaigns & Social Media Updates – Both of these tools are great ways to update your audience. We use these mostly to:
    • Update donors on progress made from our fundraising event.
    • Provide any updates that the organization or cause you support has made.
    • Thank your donors and attendees for their support.
  • Mobile Technology – Mobile technology allows you to reach your donors throughout the year, regardless of their geographic location or the timing of your event. With tools such as donation pages and mobile silent auctions and raffles, you can promote your cause or organization anytime throughout the year, and can reach a large potential donor base of people who may not be able to attend your physical event.

These elements combine to create a connected approach to fundraising that will keep your donors in the loop and donating year after year.

Conclusion

After reading this post, we hope you have a more detailed view into the numbers behind running a fundraising event. We’d love to answer some more questions, so ask yours in the comments section below!

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Written by Zach Hagopian

Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Connect with Zach via:
Twitter | Facebook

7 reasons why I’m SO EXCITED for #IFC2016

7-reasons-why-im-so-excited-for-ifc2016

In two days, I’m boarding a plane to Amsterdam.

Three days after that, I’m travelling from Amsterdam to Noordwijkerhout, the site of the International Fundraising Congress, a.k.a. IFC.

I am so grateful to get to attend IFC, and I am counting down the minutes until I get there.

There’s about a million reasons why I’m so excited for IFC, but here are 7 of them –

#1 – Seeing friends

I’m lucky to have built up a network of fundraising friends over the years, including some international fundraisers who I only get to see once in a while. Some of these friends will be at IFC – Rachel Hunnybun and Beate Sørum, to name a few – and I can’t wait to catch up and talk shop with them.

#2 – Making new ones

I also expect to forge some great new friendships at IFC. There are so many fundraisers there, from all over the globe, and I hope to start conversations with as many of them as I can, absorbing all they have to share with me, and giving back all I can.

#3 – Learning how fundraising is done across the world

And on that note of making new friends, I’m most excited about the international aspect of IFC. I want to learn how fundraising is done in India, Africa… everywhere! Fundraising markets are so different from one another and yet there are so many approaches and practices from other places that could help us here in Canada. I intend to find out what they are!

#4 – Seeing my heroines & heroes speak

It’s like when you’re in your last year of university and you start picking classes based on who are teaching them, because you know who inspires you the most. I’m going to attend whatever sessions interest me the most, but a big factor will be who’s presenting. So many of my fundraising heroines/heroes are speaking at IFC – Alan Clayton, Lucy Gower, Charlie Hulme, Simone Joyaux, Howard Lake, Adrian Sargeant, Kay Sprinkel Grace – it’s going to be hard to choose.

#5 – The chats outside of sessions

I’ve often found that the most rewarding parts of conferences are the conversations that take place outside of sessions. Given the unique nature of IFC – the fact that basically everyone is in the same hotel, you’re in the middle of nowhere, everyone hangs out together, it’s intimate – I can only imagine it’s a hotbed of the kinds of conversations I’m thinking of.

#6 – Speaking overseas

I’m actually lucky enough to speak at IFC myself. I’m part of a special session called “IFC Introducing… Scholars”. That’s right, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend IFC, and as part of that, I get to speak about my fundraising story and participate in a panel. I can’t wait!

#7 – Hanging with colleagues

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love working at Blakely, and I adore my colleagues. Three of them are also coming to IFC, and it’ll be fun to hang out, chat, and share ideas outside of the workplace.

 

Are any of you going to be there? Comment here to let me know, tweet me @fundraisermaeve, or email me at maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 fundraising lessons I learned from causing a stir

5-fundraising-lessons-i-learned-from-causing-a-stir

Sometimes I equate my blogging schedule to SNL. SNL doesn’t go on air because it’s ready to go on air. It goes on air because it’s 11:30.

Similarly, I post a blog every Wednesday. I do it because it forces me to write on a weekly basis. I do it because I think consistency in a blog is important. I do it because I believe there are some readers out there who really value what I write, and I appreciate that, and don’t want to let them down.

Sometimes I’ve spent weeks of careful thought on my post, and sometimes it’s a quick post in the morning based on something that I was recently inspired to think and write about.

Case in point: last week’s post — What if we are the problem?

I wrote this post quickly the morning I posted it. Not to say I hadn’t thought about it, but I didn’t carefully choose my words or re-read it a million times.

When I clicked “Publish”, it didn’t occur to me that this post would start a conversation, only that it would make readers think.

In fact, I was a lot more worried about a post I wrote a few weeks ago — #donorlove has its limits. I thought that one might cause a stir.

But lo and behold, I get into the office Friday morning (two days after the post was published) and I get a message from John Lepp letting me know that my post has started a conversation on the Facebook group, Fundraising Chat. A conversation that, for the most part, is very much in disagreement about what I wrote. Then my boss gets into the office and she’s apparently been given a heads-up from another fundraiser who spotted the Facebook thread. So I caught up on the thread and inserted myself in there, too.

At the end of it all, it was a very fruitful conversation, and an interesting one, to be sure. Also, it was a conversation I’m proud that my blog post initiated, even if my ideas were argued against.

In retrospect, I would not have done a thing differently, and I’ve learned some lessons in the process that I can apply directly to fundraising.

Here they are:

#1 – Done is better than perfect

If I hemmed and hawed about every post I wrote, trying to perfect every word, make every thought complete, and ensure it was critic-proof, I’d (a) never post anything, and (b) write really boring posts.

Similarly, sometimes our donor communications go through so many hoops and levels of approval that they end up sterile and totally uninspiring.

Sometimes what we write – for readers or donors – is better a little bit messy. If I had defined every term in my post and been more careful with my ideas, it might have never started a conversation.

#2 – Words matter

That being said, words do matter. If it had ever occurred to me that the word “asset” could be defined so differently by readers, I would’ve chosen a better word, or done a better job defining what I meant by asset.

We can’t expect our donors to give us the benefit of the doubt or interpret what we mean if we aren’t clear enough, so we do have to sit back and consider some critical messages we’re conveying, and make sure it’s clear what we’re trying to say.

#3 – Be part of the bigger conversation

This experience reminded me just how glad I am that I converse with so many amazing fundraisers around the world. Sure, in this instance, they were arguing against what I was saying, but that doesn’t phase me. What I loved was that I was part of a bigger conversation, one that had people debating and challenging each other and sharing new ideas.

At the end of the day, this conversation strengthens our work as fundraisers. Hearing different opinions, participating in debates, connecting with different people, learning about fundraising trends in other countries… this all makes us better fundraisers. We can’t stay in a little bubble. We’re better together.

#4 – Have fundraiser friends

Although I wasn’t personally hurt by disagreements with my ideas, I was buoyed by the fundraiser friends I have out there who gave me the benefit of the doubt and interpreted my blog the way I meant it. There were some great people that I respect who spoke out on my behalf in the conversation and I was so grateful.

Like with #3, it’s important to build relationships with other fundraisers – from different organizations, sectors, and places. These are the people you can vent to, talk through ideas with, gain inspiration from, and more. Again, we’re better fundraisers when we have fundraiser friends.

#5 – Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean you have a bad idea

Like I said, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I learned some things as I’ve shared above, but the disagreement and the conversation that was started doesn’t make me take back what I said. I still think my point was sound; people didn’t like the word “asset” and that’s OK. I still think it works!

And that’s why we have to have thick skin as fundraisers and sometimes charge through, even when others are in disagreement. There are a two outcomes – your idea could work and lead to great success! Or it fails. And who cares if it does?! Surely you learned something along the way. I did last week!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What if we are the problem?

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On Monday, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Evelyne Guindon, CEO of Cuso International. I was recording a podcast for Blakely and Evelyne was my interviewee this time around. (Stay tuned for the podcast, by the way!)

Evelyne said something that really resonated with me. She referred to the beneficiaries of their work as “assets”.

Assets.

I absolutely loved that.

Here’s an example: one of Cuso’s focus areas is Livelihood, including the development and financing of enterprises for individuals living in poverty. So if a young woman has the spirit of entrepreneurship and wants to start her own business, Cuso’s programs – supported by donors – can help.

But this young woman isn’t the beneficiary of donor support; she is an asset that’s been tapped into through donor support.

It’s like she’s a natural resource that just hadn’t been discovered yet. I find that it’s a much more empowering way of talking about it.

Besides just loving the way Evelyne spoke about assets, it made me pause and think about the language we use as fundraisers and whether the gap between where we are and what we really want to accomplish is created by ourselves.

I once heard someone say that donors don’t give to charities that have needs, they give to charities that meet needs.

I also often think about the ripple effect millennials have had on the world of charitable giving. No I don’t have the silver bullet to ignite millennial giving, but I do know this group is skeptical about where their money goes when they give, and therefore when they do give, they expect to see a return on their investment, shall we say.

Some donors have always been like that, but I believe millennials as a group really do think this way, and that’s spread to more demographic donor groups over time.

So as fundraisers, if we don’t adapt to be seen in that lens donors are now looking through, we won’t accomplish our big goals.

This is all to say that donors are – and have for a while – thinking differently about their giving. And like Evelyne, we need to change the way we’re talking about our work and our “beneficiaries” to meet donors where they are, and inspire them more than ever before.

Food for thought…

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

My problem with awareness campaigns

my-problem-with-awareness-campaigns

When I worked at the Canadian Cancer Society as a corporate fundraiser, I had a sign on my desk that read:

“You are here to:

(1) End cancer

or

(2) Raise money so we can end cancer”

It guided everything I did.

Could I work with a corporate partner who wanted help changing their workplace to a healthy one? Even if it didn’t raise money, it met the criteria for #1 so I’d happily pass them along to our cancer prevention team.

Could I help write a letter to go to all employees asking them to give during the staff campaign? It accomplished #2 so you bet!

But it also helped when a board member would suggest something like this: “Let’s get all the taxi companies in the city to put our logo on the side of their cabs” (real suggestion).

I’d run it through my test: does it accomplish #1? Nope. Does it accomplish #2? No. So it’s not worth my time. Because ultimately those “awareness” campaign ideas often came from someone’s ego, not an honest desire to give generous donors the opportunity to help people with cancer.

Because at the end of the day, the family who can’t pay their rent because mom had to quit her job to drive her daughter to chemotherapy… There’s not much she can do with “awareness”.

highres

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Written by Rory Green

roryRory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter

#donorlove has its limits

donorlove-has-its-limits

There. I said it.

You are probably not happy I said it – and I know my besties in the fundraising world won’t be – but I had to.

You know how much I believe in #donorlove. I think it’s such an important lens for us to look through when it comes to our fundraising practices. Putting the donor at the centre of what we do is critical in our work.

But #donorlove is not the be-all and end-all of successful or right fundraising.

Let me backtrack.

You probably know that Rory Green – a.k.a. Fundraiser Grrl – is one of my best friends. So you can imagine that when I get a fundraising appeal in the mail for one of my clients that I’m really excited about that Rory is the one I want to tell first.

So I did just that the other day. I took a photo of three envelopes for a client’s campaign (one control, two test packages) and sent it over to Rory for us to gush over together. The first thing Rory said was –

“It doesn’t say the word ‘you‘ on any of those envelopes.”

If you’ve learned anything about #donorlove, it’s the power of the word “YOU”. And Rory is right in that the word “you” is an incredibly important thing to look out for in fundraising. Traditionally organizations have spent far too much time in their fundraising talking about what “they” – the organization – do, rather than about what “you” – the donor – do. If we want to inspire – and even more importantly, retain – donors, we must celebrate them. We must make the donor the hero.

I am not questioning the importance of this type of #donorlove principle. Or any #donorlove principle.

What I’m questioning is the interpretation and application of these principles.

We need to acknowledge that there’s more in successful fundraising than #donorlove.

Let’s think about the donor journey. Why does the donor give to our organization in the first place?

Because they’re asked, yes.

But donors give because they believe in the need our organization meets, and that our organization needs their financial support to meet that need.

The vast majority of donors out there do not give because they need more love in their life. 

Now don’t get me wrong – some donors actually do give to create a relationship and a connection between them and an organization. We often see this among our older donors, and this is an important donor need to acknowledge and to meet. #Donorlove is especially needed here.

#Donorlove is also needed to retain donors. There are a lot of great charities competing for donors, and if your gift to one of them goes unacknowledged for an unforgivably long time, I don’t blame you for saying, “No more, charity! No more gifts for you! I’m giving all my money to the charity that treats me right!”

But speaking of a lot of charities competing, let’s talk about acquisition.

And let me start by saying the dirtiest word there is in #donorlove:

PREMIUM

That’s right. I’m talking about something included in a mail pack beyond a letter and maybe an insert. Maybe it’s a bookmark, maybe it’s holiday cards, maybe it’s a luggage tag.

If you believe in nothing but #donorlove, you’re not having this. Because you believe that donors just want to know they matter.

But if we go back to why donors give, then we’re talking about the fact that donors give because we need their support to do what we do. And so donors want us to do what it takes to get the funding that helps us do what we do.

And unfortunately – in this saturated marketplace, with this competition – we sometimes require premiums to get the package opened and the responses we need to bring in the new donors that we need.

No – I agree that it’s not ideal. And I really agree that it can create a transactional relationship that we need to work extra hard to change once the donor first gives to us.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. We work hard to make the premium at least mission-based, and we can make strategic decisions about what the premium is and test which ones lead to a longer-term relationship between the new donor and the charity. We also work to choose a premium that’s less costly so that we’re not bringing donors in on some kind of ridiculous trinket, but this is our reality.

Does it align with the sometimes rigid principles of #donorlove?! NO.

But does it align with the principle of getting as much funding as we can to meet the need that our donors care about?! YES.

So what’s my moral here? Walk the tightrope of #donorlove, my fundraiser friends. Don’t let your principles cripple you, but never let the donor out of your sight.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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How to use tiny asks to retain donors

How to use tiny asks to retain donors

Fundraising involves a lot of asks.

But not every ask needs to be a big one. The reality is, timed and designed right, tiny asks can reap big rewards for your development efforts. In fact, I think they’re actually one of the best kept secrets of successful donor retention.

There are, essentially, two types of fundraising tiny asks.

The first one is to ask why somebody did something. You can time this for when a person signs up for your newsletter, volunteers, or donates.

These tiny asks are incredibly powerful because they allow you to:

  1. Gain the insights you need to do better
  2. Create a positive association between you and the individual

A simple ask of why addresses both of these two critical components of donor retention.

Your donors will tell you about themselves, why they connect with your mission, what they want out of their relationship with you, and how they hope to help. And you can use these insights to build longer lasting relationships with donors, as well as to refine your fundraising program overall.

The second type of tiny ask is one where you ask someone to do something for you.

This goes a bit against the prevailing thinking in fundraising that says you should build a relationship before asking a person to do something for you. Done right though, it builds deeper donor relationships and attracts more supporters to your work.

Let me show you what I mean.

First off, the relationship building rule is in place for a very good reason. We all know people who ask us to do things too soon or too often, and it certainly doesn’t endear them to us, right?

But great fundraisers know there are ways to use tiny asks as a means of building a relationship, even early in the donor experience. So what kind of an ask is appropriate and how should we make it?

Well, my favorite kind of tiny ask is to encourage a new supporter to refer another person to the organization. This has three key benefits:

  1. Donors strengthen their relationship to your organization by doing something for you (ie. referral)
  2. Donors strengthen their relationship to your organization by having close peers who also support your work
  3. You rapidly expand your supporter base by leveraging your donor network

Of course, it’s a bold move to ask a donor to do something for you early in their experience, so you want to be cognizant of the balance in the exchange.

Whether you’re asking donors why they chose to support you or to bring in their friends, always remember that your real goal is to use the tiny ask as a means to create a relationship between you and your donors that successfully retains them from year to year.

You’ll be amazed by the big rewards you can reap from a couple tiny asks.

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Written by Kyle Crawford

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Kyle Crawford is the Founder of Fundraising Genius, an innovative fundraising course for universities, nonprofits, and foundations. 

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