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. 

Connect with Kyle via:
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The 4 habits of highly engaged donors

the 4 habits of highly engaged donors

When you think of the most engaged donor at your organization, what sets them apart?

Do they volunteer? Do they attend events? Do they donate a lot of money?

Those are fantastic indicators of engagement, but I’m here to tell you about four habits that some of your donors demonstrate that don’t immediately flag their deep level of engagement, but should.

#1 – The habit of RSVP’ing to events

Attending events is one thing, but RSVP’ing – even to say no – is an awesome indicator of engagement. If this donor cares enough about you to let you know they’re not coming – and they feel that YOU care to know? They love you. They really really love you.

#2 – The habit of providing multiple pieces of contact info

If this donor gives you their work phone, cell phone, home mailing address, business address, and more than one email? They want you to get in touch with them. If you can’t reach them at work, try their cell! They like when you reach out!

#3 – The (RARE!) habit of updating their contact info with you

Have you ever had a donor proactively update their mailing address with you because they moved? If you’re like me you’re probably chuckling to yourself because this so rarely happens. More often than not, we know a donor moved because our letter to them is returned to us. But I bet at least once in your fundraising career you’ve had this happen. And let me guess: that donor is one of your most engaged. I’m not surprised. A donor who does this is a donor who cares.

And finally… the least fun part of our jobs…

#4 – The habit of complaining

It happens to all of us. It’s no fun, but it’s a part of our jobs: when a donor calls in to complain. It’s hard to look at it this way sometimes, but the donor who calls in to complain is the most committed, caring, and loyal donor we have. Think of all the people out there who used to give to your organization but something frustrating happened to them and they stopped giving… and now they’re just a lapsed donor. We don’t know why they stopped, just that they did. However, when that “something frustrating” happens to a donor and they care enough to call in and tell you? We can work with that. Complaining means you hope for – and believe that there can be – a solution. That donor wants us to fix the situation. And when – not if – we do, they will continue to be the most loyal donor we have… if not more loyal than ever before.

What are your other unconventional flags for donor engagement? Share in the comments below! Or tweet me @fundraisermaeve.

Thanks for reading!

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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.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Let your guard down & let your donors in!

Let your guard down & let your donors in!

What walls are you putting up between your organization and the donors who support you? 

You might be thinking, “None!” But I challenge you to really think about it.

I was lucky enough to be part of a session Derek Humphries did yesterday for the clients of the company I work for, Blakely. Derek talked about his background as an artist; he used to design books and they were on display at a gallery. The gallery staff wanted to put his books under glass, but Derek wanted people to actually be able to touch them, read them, interact with them.

The gallery staff were worried people would rip the pages. For Derek that wasn’t a problem! It meant deeper engagement; people could change the book, and therefore be part of the art themselves.

The compromise was people being provided with white gloves to flip through the book…

Derek was brilliantly using this analogy yesterday for our fundraising and the way we interact with donors.

So again, I challenge you to think about this: what do you put between your organization and your donors?

Do you make a point of keeping donors far away from the work that you do? Do you sanitize the problems you’re solving in the world so that donors don’t hear the dirty details?

Or do you offer opportunities for donors to get their hands dirty?

Do you invite donors to meet the people their gifts are impacting?

If your organization changes lives in other countries, are there ever opportunities for donors to travel there? To see the well their generous donation built?

Sometimes the walls we put up are more subtle. By now you know the importance of using the word “YOU” in your direct mail appeals. Any time I’m editing a solicitation letter, I’ve got Jen Love on one shoulder and Tom Ahern on the other encouraging me to make the donor the hero of the story.

That’s another great example of the walls we put up; why must we say “WE” so often? We accomplish this, we change that… Why can’t we say that the donor did it? Why do we have to put some sense of formality in our appeals? Something between the work and the donor.

Why can’t we give donors opportunities to feel more a part of our organization? To allow for deeper engagement… even if they get their hands dirty!

I’ll finish this post off with a story from when I was working as a mid-level gift officer at a school. As often as possible, we would try to create opportunities for bursary/scholarship donors to meet the recipient of their award. It was a great chance to let our guard down and really let the donor see the impact of their generosity.

However, it was also a risk. How could we be sure the student would act appropriately? Would they represent the university well? Would they be professional and courteous and grateful?

Well, I invited a donor to meet the recipient of his award over coffee on campus one day. This donor had had a few negative experiences with the school; having to reach out to find out who the award recipient was rather than the school telling him, feeling ignored, not stewarded well… the works! So I was determined to make him feel better about his giving, and make sure he knew how much it mattered to the school, and to the students.

So we were waiting in my office for the recipient… and we were waiting… and we were waiting… and then finally – a good 45 minutes late – the student arrived.

The donor didn’t seem too shaken, so we went to have coffee, had a great time, and then I walked him back to his car.

Let me also say what this award was. It was an award in honour of the donor’s son who had tragically committed suicide years before. His son had a passion for writing, so it was an award for a student with the best short story submission, judged by the English faculty. It meant a lot to the donor, understandably, and he loved meeting students who shared his son’s passion.

On the way back to his car, he said to me, with tears in his eyes, that his son would’ve been late for the meeting, too.

Letting your guard down is a risk… but the reward is deeper engagement, and that is well worth it!

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Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

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.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email