10 Strategies to Actively Build Nonprofit Donors Trust

trustTrust defines the credibility and legitimacy not only of your organization, but of the entire social benefit sector. Yet too few organizations make the effort to operationalize this construct into their fundraising and marketing planning.

You should.

Without donor trust and confidence in philanthropy there’s no future for social benefit organizations.

Donor retention guru Professor Adrian Sargeant has spent 20+ years researching the relationship between trust, philanthropy and continued donor commitment. And he has found, unequivocally, that trust is the essential foundation of the philanthropic relationship.

Ignore this at your peril.

Actively Build Donor Trust

The Donor’s Bill of Rights is a great starting point.  But simply using it as a checklist is not enough.  Too transactional. I encourage you to go above and beyond. Because the best predictor of future giving is when people feel good.

You can make giving to you a transformational experience. How? By actualizing what you learn here into a series of multi-step plans for:

  1. Gift Acknowledgement that Satisfies Donors
  2. Donor-Centered Communications that Instill Happiness
  3. Useful Content Marketing that Offers Gifts
  4. Consistent Branding that Instills Confidence
  5. Relationship Fundraising that Creates Meaning and Builds Loyalty

If you take these five steps, I can guarantee you’ll steadily build trust and make donors happy. What I’d like to do now is break these steps down into 10 action strategies. They may seem simple, and they are. But honestly ask yourself if you really do these things? I’m going to guess you could do better. So please read these with an eye to what you might do to make your donor retention plan – what I prefer to call a “donor love and loyalty plan” – more vigorous.

Girl dips toes in the water

12 Top Tips to Broaden Your Nonprofit Donor Community

Philanthropy should not just be about big checks.

That’s why you should never eschew small gift fundraising. Today I’m offering some tips for building and mobilizing your community to find, sustain and grow smaller gifts.

This is important, because a donor’s first gift is seldom their largest.  It’s a starting point.

The majority of your gifts will be small, but the majority of your income will come from a small group of major donors.

You have to grow this cadre of loyal, passionate philanthropists by building relationships with supporters over time.

The lion’s share of major gifts come from previously small gift donors.

A client I’m working with told me 50% of their major donors began with very small gifts.  How about tracking this for your organization? Sure, some major donors come in at the top. But I’ll bet you a majority start by dipping their toe in the water. How can you get folks more fully immersed?

Clouds and sky

How to Kon Mari Your Nonprofit Work Plan

This year it’s been easy to hoard.

You had all the strategies that worked for you in the past, PLUS you had to add a bunch of new ones when faced with the realities of the pandemic economy.

Then you had to add things to be relevant to supporters who were thinking about a million news stories. You needed to be relevant, and consider your stance on BLM, BIPOC, DEI and a range of political and social justice issues.

The extraordinary times could not be ignored, so strategy got piled upon strategy, got piled upon…

And your nonprofit work plan got super crowded.

Time to clear out some space!

You’re likely wondering if you have to do everything virtually as well as in person. You’re wondering if your messaging needs to change to be more inclusive? You’re wanting to connect with folks in ways they’ve come to expect, and to offer meaningful engagment opportunities, but… where is everything going to fit?!?!

Never fear. Help is here!

What if you were to look at your work plan this year from the KonMari perspective?

If you’ve been living under a rock, Marie Kondo’s KonMari is the art of “tidying up to transform your life.” It’s a popular book that’s become a Netflix sensation, and it may not be your cup of tea, but…

What if, through some simplification and organization, you could transform your life (at least at work) as well as your nonprofit’s life — so all involved felt greater inspiration and even serenity?

You. Can. Do. It.

Alas, I’ve participated in many a planning session, and seldom do I recall – if ever – really focusing first on what we could stop doing to make room for new endeavors.  If this sounds familiar, you’re likely also familiar with the unfortunate consequences.

There are some things that really should not be part of your work plan moving forward. Or, at the very least, they should be pared down. Quite. A. Bit.

Here’s how you know you need, as Marie Kondo might say, to tidy up.

  • Do you try to stuff too much into your work plan and end up doing nothing as well as you’d like?
  • Do you allow daily clutter to crowd your inbox so you’re often responding to the little issues rather than the big ones?
  • Do you keep working on things that no longer have the payoff they once had, causing you to miss out on newer and more cost-effective opportunities?
  • Do you allow inertia to divert your focus towards ‘make work’ transactional stuff that satisfies your need to feel ‘busy,’ while you know it’s not really transformational work?
  • Have you allowed your job to become overloaded with tasks you don’t enjoy, to the point where you feel a bit like a lobster in a pot?

Photo of a cobweb

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

Photo of a cobwebSpring is always a good time for rebirth and dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a grave, dusty, cobwebby year it’s been.

As I sat down to write today’s article, I found my mind jumping from idea to idea. After all, it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on. So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, and fundraisers, grapple with in the past year.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year.

It’s not too soon to be thinking about this.

I ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.

1. How to Message During Uncertain Times

Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four basics in mind.

red rose on imagine tile

What Causes Tribute and Peer-to-Peer Donors to Renew?

red rose on imagine tileOne of my pet peeves as a donor is making a contribution (via a peer-to-peer request or tribute gift in honor or memory) in support of a friend; then receiving nothing but a form receipt.

Some of you may be thinking, “That’s exactly how I like it; now I have no reason to get sucked in as an ongoing donor to this organization.”

Exactly.

Your job as a fundraiser and nonprofit marketer is this: Suck. People. In.

… with the good stuff.

Draw folks to you like bees to honey.

Give them something sweet and irresistible.

A one-time formulaic, “thank you on behalf of the board and staff of XYZ charity for your $50 gift,” won’t seduce or tempt me in any way. It won’t make my heart sing.

If you don’t reach your first-time donor’s heart immediately with something that makes them feel warm and fuzzy, guess what happens? When you come back to them a year from now with an annual giving appeal, they’re highly unlikely to make another donation. They don’t care about you. They car(ed) about their friend.

What Causes Tribute and Peer-to-Peer Donors to Feel Good?

When I give in honor of someone else, to a charity to which they’ve directed me, I tend to feel a little bit good because I did something meaningful to them. But… I don’t feel good because it was meaningful to me.

Unless the charity does something proactive to make their cause resonate with me more directly, I’m not likely to be a repeat donor to this organization.

So don’t kid yourself.

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

The more that you know, the less they’ll say ‘No!’

Such is the advice given by Jay Love, Founder of Bloomerang and a seasoned board member and major donor, some years ago at an online conference where we both presented major gifts master classes. His was on the topic of major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

Do you think about your donor’s perspective before you ask for a major gift?

Here’s what I learned from Jay:

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

This advice is SO important I want to dig deeper into ways you can get inside your donor’s head and build the type of relationship that will be a win/win. When your donor gets what they want and need, you get what you want and need!

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

2 different frames

Use Behavioral Science to Positively Frame Year-End Philanthropy

Are you framing your ask as an “annual appeal” or as “we only ask once a year?”

It matters, because people will account for how much they spend on usual annual giving differently than how much they’ll spend for exceptional, one-time occurrences.

A growing body of research in psychology and behavioral economics shows how you frame your ask can have a big difference in your fundraising results. Much of this has to do with how people mentally account for consumer ‘purchases’  — including charitable giving.

Researchers have found people don’t treat their money, time, effort or other resources as if they have one big pool of it. Rather, people have separate mental accounts.

When we spend resources we keep track of each expenditure based on the mental account it came from.

This has significant fundraising implications, so it’s important to delve further into this mental accounting principle. Especially this year, when you can legitimately frame your work as a response to exceptional times.

woman waving magic wand

Magic Wand to Wave to Keep Nonprofit Donors Close Virtually

It’s a scary world out there.

Is there a magic wand you can wave to keep your donors close while living in a socially distanced world?

Getting up close and personal with donors has always been the gold standard killer strategy for generating passionate gifts and keeping donors loyal.  But we didn’t take the term “killer” literally!

Today it’s simply too dangerous for folks to leave home.

So… what can you do instead? Plenty!

Thanks not only to digital technology, but also to familiar tools like the telephone and snail mail, it can be pretty easy to stay attuned and in touch even when practicing social distancing.

Your ‘donor love’ wand still has an abundance of fundraising and donor stewardship magic in it, if you just think a bit creatively. And it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money.

Today I want to share with you some of my favorite ‘wand wave’ tricks for end-of-year fundraising season. Depending on who you connect with, and how you tweak your message, they work to:

  1. Acquire new donors
  2. Retain existing donors
  3. Upgrade existing donors

Consider your goals first. Then pick from among these strategies.

Even if you just do one of these things between now and the end of the year, you’ll boost your fundraising results.

Photo of Claire

How to Segment Nonprofit Donors: Identity vs. Identification

There are lots of aspects to a donor’s identity; not all are equally important to them.

Well, duh, you may say.

But this matters more than you may know. Because if you don’t really understand the difference between identity and identification you may be wasting a lot of time heading in the wrong directions.

Let me explain further.

If you loosely segment donors by aspects of their identity that are relatively meaningless as far as they’re concerned, you won’t improve your fundraising results.  You’ll certainly be busy doing all this segmentation – and you’ll be able to report back to your boss on all the great, ‘scientific’ work you did – but it will end up being a lot of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.

Perhaps you’re an organization that develops personas or avatars for your constituents. This is something marketers do to know who they’re selling to, and what that person may value. Sell sweaters? It helps to know if you’re creating messaging for “Chilly Charlie” (who wants warm sweaters), “Stylin’ Stella” (who wants fashionable, trency sweaters), or “Frugal Freda” (who wants discount priced sweaters).

So too it helps when you write to ‘Suzy Soccer Mom’ vs. ‘Funky Grandpa.’ You assume they’re interested in different things, and they generally are. So you tailor your appeal differently to different target market segments.

But wait…

Get even smarter about donor identity.

Ask yourself if the way you’re segmenting your donors is too generic. As helpful as it is to group prospective supporters by persona, it’s important not to go overboard with this strategy.

Why?  Because it’s non-specific and based on the most obvious common denominator. If you don’t drill down a bit, you may miss the forest for the trees.

'Wearing is Caring' Street art

Fool-Proof Nonprofit Crisis Fundraising Communications Templates for Every Audience

'Wearing is Caring' Street artDuring a crisis is no time to be passive. Build a list of audiences, prioritize contacts among those lists, and develop a step-by-step written PLAN to reach out. With updates, engagement opportunities, little gifts of content folks can use, and opportunities to contribute and make a demonstrable difference.

Sharing is caring too.  Do you have a plan in place to regularly share what you’re up to, and offer opportunities for donors to engage?  Are you communicating with donors as if they’re a part of your family or favorite group of friends? If not so much, what are you waiting for?

Establish templates with talking points in advance of your communications; then let the reaching out begin. First determine your purpose.

  • Do you want to say thank you?
  • Do you want to simply check in to see how your donor is doing, and whether they have any questions about your organization’s status and work right now?
  • Do you want to ask them to volunteer their time?
  • Do you want to ask for a philanthropic gift?
  • Do you want them to complete a survey?

Figure this out first, because the more you know where you’re going the more likely you are to get there! If you’re light on staff right now, ask your volunteers and influencers for help.

These communication templates can be used for phone (or other online) conversations and emails. Got that? Conversations! Merriam Webster describes a conversation as “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.” In other words, you want to prompt two-way participation on some level. This is not about you delivering a monologue or formal dissertation. Think of your communication as you raising an issue for discussion. You want to pique your donor’s interest and ask open-ended questions that invite their engagement.

Start with your top priority donors who have the highest likelihood of making an additional gift to get you through this crisis. I suggest

Mural art, pointing finger

Philanthropy Trends Your Nonprofit Needs to Know Mid-Pandemic

Mural art, pointing fingerCould you be getting it all wrong when it comes to the what, who, where, why, how and when of your nonprofit’s communications and fundraising as this pandemic plays out?

You could.

Especially if you’re leading from opinion above knowledge. You know, going with your gut when it comes to what your donors want or need from you right now. Otherwise known as guessing.

That’s never a good idea for someone whose job is to facilitate philanthropy. Because a lot is known about how much joy it brings people to demonstrate their ‘love of humanity’ through philanthropic acts. Your gut telling you donors don’t want to be invited to become heroes? P’shaw.

Now, thanks to the folks at Blue Frog Fundraising, more is known about how donors feel about giving in response to the current pandemic. In the recently revealed Coronavirus Research Findings: What do donors think now? they focus on what donors have told them about how their approach to giving has changed. Or hasn’t.

These philanthropy trends are important to understand, so I’ve selected the most salient among their key findings (highlighted in the break-out boxes) and have grouped them according to the traditional journalist’s rubric of what, who, where, why, how and when.

Research Graph, Blue Frog, What Donors WantI’m going to explain what your nonprofit should do to show donors you do, in fact, understand where they’re coming from.

Before taking any marketing message or fundraising appeal off your plate, and before adding anything new, always make sure to ask yourself these six important questions! They will help you assess almost any situation, plus focus your efforts and aid you in telling more relevant, compelling stories.

Let’s get started…

Heart sculpture

Should Your Nonprofit Participate in #GivingTuesdayNow?

Heart sculptureIf you feel too busy to contemplate adding one more task to your plate right now, you’re not alone. A pandemic is no vacation!

Not to worry. I’m here to help.

But first, in case you haven’t yet heard, the folks at GivingTuesday.org are organizing an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. I believe it began as more a rallying cry than a fundraising call to action, as you can see from the GivingTuesdayNow landing page and press release with suggestions you can share with your constituents, as appropriate (e.g., (1) Support healthcare workers by donating supplies, advocating for them, and staying home; (2) Combat loneliness by reaching out to a neighbor, relative, seniors or, veterans, and (3) Join a local mutual aid network and come together to help neighbors in need).

Lately, you may have seen a rash of articles and webinars designed to help you launch a #GivingTuesdayNow campaign. I shared some of these in last week’s Clairity Click-it, so if you want to turn this into ‘#GivingTuesday in May’ (the next ‘regular’ GivingTuesday is December 1, 2020), don’t let me stop you. It may work.

However… I’ve got another idea for you. Because a single day of fundraising during a period where crisis (flashing lights!) is permeating people’s every thought doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I hope, if your organization and/or those who depend on you are at risk, you’re asking for urgent support on more or less a weekly basis. So please don’t interpret this article as a caution against asking for money right now. I absolutely want you to ask!

Just not necessarily on May 5th.

Of course, I’ve never been a fan of using the ‘Hallmark’ opportunity as an impetus for fundraising. It’s a bit generic, and everyone and their dog is fundraising on this day. If you want to stand out, I’d advise doing something different.

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Major Donor Cultivation Strategy

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoHere comes my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature, where I share with you something arriving in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity.’

Today we’re going to review a major donor engagement strategy.

It arrived as an email. There’s a subject line, preview pane, the email itself, and what happens if/when you click through.

We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open this email?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about the email?
  5. What looks not so good about the email?
  6. Would it inspire you to click through?
  7. If yes, why?
  8. If no, why?

First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Really take the time to notice what you like and don’t like.

I promise you’ll learn a lot more this way. We learn best by doing.

Seriously, I mean it.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Subject Headline

Claire, tell us what you think

Preview Pane

We’d like to hear from you

This may help: Take three minutes and jot down your answers to the first three questions on a piece of paper or your screen. I want to know if what was in the subject headline (“Claire, tell us what you think”) or the email preview pane (We’d like to hear from you”) would have caused you to open the email or hit ‘delete.’

Okay.  Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?

Let’s begin!

Does this Email Say “Open Me?”

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

The more that you know, the less they’ll say ‘No!’

Such is the advice given by Jay Love, Founder of Bloomerang and a seasoned board member and major donor, some years ago at an online conference where we both presented major gifts master classes. His was on the topic of major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

Do you think about your donor’s perspective before you ask for a major gift?

Here’s what I learned from Jay:

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

This advice is SO important I want to dig deeper into ways you can get inside your donor’s head and build the type of relationship that will be a win/win. When your donor gets what they want and need, you get what you want and need!

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Year-End Donor Retention Email

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoI’m continuing with my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature which I began last spring.  I promised whenever something arrives in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity,’ I would share it with you. I hope you find this timely example useful for your year-end fundraising ‘clean-up!’

Clean-up?  Yes. That’s exactly what I want you to do right now.

Get. Everything. In. Order.

Tie up loose ends so you assure nothing slips through the cracks before the calendar year closes.

Take a look at all your sources of support last year.

Who’s given this year already?  Who hasn’t?

Important: Don’t let any of last year’s donors lapse!

4 Keys to Raise Money in Today’s Social Nonprofit Fundraising Environment

keys 4 Pixabay-791641_640Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world?

It’s a bit of a jungle out there, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, political campaigns, friends, family.

It’s a wonderful time to seize the opportunity to put in place a system that values multiple voices.

Truly, if you’re able to really show people how much you value them, you’re going to rise to the top of the heap.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Today we’ll explore 4 keys to raising money in our socially-revolutionized zeitgeist.

Bad News/Good News:

Leverage Millennial Marketing Strategies to Woo ALL Nonprofit Donors

Marketin to MillenialsDo you ever worry you’re not doing enough to attract the donors of the future?

Does thinking about how to market to Millennials (who already are the largest segment in the workplace, will be 50% of the U.S. workforce in the next two years, and who will be 75% by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) fill you with anxiety, because it’s just one more thing to add to your overflowing list?

Fear no more!

Today I’m going to tell you how you can have it all – and with very little extra work.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not dissing a multi-generational strategy. If you can manage to treat different types of donors differently, you absolutely will get the biggest bang for your buck by so doing.  However…

cheerleader

3 Ways to Remove Psychological Barriers to Philanthropic Giving

If you can remember this acronym, you’ll be able to persuade more donors to join you and stick with you. This is deceptively simple stuff.

And it really, truly works!

Give me a ‘D’ for DOUBTS!

Give me a ‘U’ for UNIQUENESS!

Give me an ‘E’ for EXPECTATIONS!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must overcome to win over donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you owe your donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must meet to show you’re worthy!

Ready to ‘D.U.E.’ it?

Let’s get started!

Get Up Close and Personal with Major Donor Prospects

Be Up Close and Personal with Major Donor Prospects

I couldn’t possibly write this any better than the inimitable Jerry Panas (as told to his partner of many years, Jerry Linzy), so I’m not even going to try.  Please read the entire, brief and to-the-point article: listening with your whole body.

It covers five important ‘rules’ to guide you in all human interactions.  Don’t forget them when it comes to meetings with major donor prospects:

  1. Face people directly.
  2. Maintain positive eye contact.
  3. Use open gestures.
  4. Use your head.
  5. Activate your smile power.

Now, let me add a few things from my experience, plus some actionable tips.

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

Some years ago I had the opportunity to present a major gifts master class where Jay Love, Founder and President of Bloomerang (and a board member and major donor himself) offered his thoughts on major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

SO important!

The more that you know, the less they’ll say “No!”

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

Magician performing

7 Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

You’ve still got time to sprinkle a little magic into your year-end fundraising!

Consider each of these seven words a magic potion unto themselves.

  1. You
  2. Because
  3. Thanks
  4. Small
  5. Immediate
  6. Expert
  7. Support

The more of these words you use, the more powerful a spell your appeal will cast.

Each of these packs a bigger persuasive punch than you might imagine.

 

Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

2 different frames

Framing Year-End Philanthropy: Behavioral Science Tweak

Are you framing your ask as an “annual appeal” or as “we only ask once a year?”

A growing body of research in psychology and behavioral economics shows how you frame your ask can have a big difference in your fundraising results.

Much of this has to do with how people mentally account for all consumer ‘purchases,’ including charitable giving.

Researchers have found people don’t treat all of their money (or time, effort or other resources) as if they have one big pool of it. Rather, they have separate mental accounts. When they spend resources they keep track of that expenditure based on the mental account it came from.

This has significant fundraising implications, so it’s important to delve further into this mental accounting principle.

#GivingTuesday or #GratitudeTuesday? Choose!

I’ve long been an advocate of turning the tables on #GivingTuesday and using the “giving” part of the day to give to donors rather than add yet one more ask from them in an already crowded solicitation season.

If you want gifts, you must give them. 

#GivingTuesday is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but in actual implementation it can be less than ideal.

Why?

Because it comes smack dab in the middle of most folks’ annual campaigns. So there’s often little time to do it right. And it can suck your energy and focus away from other critically important year-end fundraising efforts.

I’ve got a better choice for you.

Flip the idea and rather than asking folks to make a symbolic gift to you, why don’t you make a heartfelt gift to them?

TWO Strategies to Tell a Compelling Nonprofit Story

I always tell nonprofits writing appeal letters to tell a story. One compelling, exceptional story.

Actually, you need TWO compelling stories.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

First…

Forget the data.

Forget the history of your organization.

Forget the explanatory prose about your processes.

Forget the list of all your programs.

Forget the superlatives about your longevity, awards, and so forth.

That stuff is compelling only to you. Donors don’t care. It’s just not relevant to them. At least not right away. Donors don’t have time to enter into all your self-indulgence.

Really, most folks don’t have time for you at all.

But…

four people raise hands in support of your cause

Psychology of Securing Lasting Nonprofit Donor Commitments

I recently happened on an article by Otis Fulton and Katrina VanHuss of Turnkey, Trump Buyer’s Remorse? Not Likely…. It relates to one of Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence and persuasion: “commitment and consistency.”

The main point is this:

Once we make a decision, and strongly attach ourselves to an idea by agreeing orally or in writing, it’s more likely we’ll stick with that decision than change our minds.

Because we are wired to want to be consistent.

That to which we commit becomes congruent with our self image.

What does this mean for you as a fundraiser?

a cup of coffee a la heart

Why Would a Donor Give to Your Charity?

People do not give to the most urgent needs, but rather they support causes that mean something to them.”

This is the finding from a report done by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at the University of Kent: “How Donor Choose Charities.”  They begin their study from the widely-accepted premise that charities exist primarily to help needy people and the desire to meet needs is a key criterion in the selection of charitable beneficiaries. Interviews with committed donors found this was not the reason they gave. In brief, the study concludes:

Giving and philanthropy have always been supply-led rather than demand-driven: the freedom to distribute as much as one wants, to whom one chooses, is what distinguishes giving from paying tax. Yet the methods used to encourage donations tend to assume that philanthropy depends on objective assessments of need rather than on donors’ enthusiasms. The tendency to overestimate the extent to which people act as rational agents results in fundraising literature that often focuses on the dimensions and urgency of the problem for which funding is sought. The assumption underlying this approach is that donations are distributed in relation to evidence of neediness, when in fact much giving could be described as ‘taste-based’ rather than ‘needs-based’.

If there was ever a time to commit to finding out more about the folks on your mailing list so you know what floats their boats, this report indicates that time is decidedly NOW. Otherwise, you’re just ‘spraying and praying’ as you buy into the conceit that “if only” folks knew about the need we address they would give.  Because they “should.” That’s not why folks give.

In fact, the study cites four criteria that influenced donor decision making, and they are not based on meeting your or your clients’ needs.

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Don’t Eschew Small Gift Affinity Fundraising

Did I ever tell you about the fortuitous happenstance that taught me about the power of small gift fundraising? A few years ago I went to research something online. Not surprisingly, I ended up viewing the first entry Google gave me – which was on Wikipedia.

As luck would have it, and to my delight, I ran into an awesome fundraising campaign. [This is an occupational hazard with fundraisers. We actually like and admire things like pledge breaks when they’re done well!]

Here’s what I found superimposed at the top of the screen:

DEAR WIKIPEDIA READERS: To protect our independence, we’ll never run ads. We take no government funds. We survive on donations averaging about $15. Now is the time we ask. If everyone reading this right now gave $3, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. We’re a small non-profit with costs of a top 5 website: servers, staff and programs. If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online and ad-free another year. Please help us forget fundraising and get back to Wikipedia. Thank you.

I was then given the option to make a one-time gift of $3, $5, $30 or $50, or a monthly gift of $10, $20, $100 or other.

It’s not all about major gifts for everyone.

The Wikipedia campaign serves as a great reminder. Even though many nonprofits survive by the grace of 3% of their donors providing 97% of their contributed income (or something closer to the 80/20 rule) there are indeed nonprofits that are exceptions to this rule

How Positive Feedback Boosts Nonprofit Fundraising

Recognition. Appreciation. Acknowledgment. Gratitude.

Psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, economists and historians have often studied and documented this phenomenon. It’s part of our quest for meaning and connection.

  • Darwin talked about “survival of the most loving.” Communities who took care of each other were the “fit” ones.  Similarly, those members most sensitive to group feedback survived. It’s difficult to make it alone.
  • Maslow talked about the need for love, community, esteem and self-actualized identification with a higher purpose.
  • Psychologist Matthew Lieberman, in “Social, Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” writes about how MRI scans reflect that our brains are hard-wired to respond to positive recognition from others.

I like the way

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

A year ago I had the opportunity to present a major gifts master class where Jay Love, Founder and President of Bloomerang (and a board member and major donor himself) offered his thoughts on major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

SO important!

The more that you know, the less they’ll say “No!”

  • The more you know what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • The more you know what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to be recognized…

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

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4 More Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

In a recent article I gave you the “Holy Trinity” of fundraising success:

You, Because and Thanks.

Those are essential ingredients for any fundraising appeal.

Today I’m going to give you four more magic words:

Small, Immediate, Expert and Support.

Each of these packs a bigger punch than you might imagine, and tends to persuade folks on the fence to jump right off and land in your court.

Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

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Last-Minute Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising

Do you have that year-end feeling? You know, the one many fundraisers get around this time of year?

Kind of frenetic? Anxious? Stressed?

You’re not alone.

The average nonprofit receives 30% of all donations in December. And 12% arrive in the last three days of the year!  So, yeah, it’s really busy.  And a lot is on the line.

I was talking with one of my clients, who apologized for acting so frantic and rushed.  She said:

“Do you remember having that feeling? Did you get it when you used to work in the trenches? That worry that maybe you won’t hit your numbers? That people won’t give as much as they gave last year? That some of your major donors won’t renew. That maybe you’re not sending enough emails? That you’ll wake up on January 1st and be in BIG trouble?”

Oh, yeah. That feeling…

Of course I’ve felt it!  But over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help overcome that feeling.

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3-Word Recipe Guaranteed to Raise Money

I consider these three words the holy trinity of fundraising success.

I’ve written about these words before, and do so again as an important reminder. Because you’ve still got time to wrap them into your year-end fundraising appeal. And, if you do, I guarantee you’ll raise more money.

They are simple.

They are easy to remember.

They really work.

Plus, if you wrap them up with some emotional color, you’ve got an offer that can’t be refused.

Let’s take a look.

Just as there's a first kiss, there's a first time for everything for your nonprofit.

How to Persuade New Donors to Join Your Nonprofit Mission

What makes us think a perfect stranger, who’s never given to our organization before, will choose to do so?  It’s highly counter intuitive.

People are more likely to continue doing what they’ve done before.
Commitment and consistency is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence, and it’s useful in nonprofit marketing and fundraising. But only if you’ve got existing donors.
We talk a lot in fundraising professional circles about the folly of concentrating too many resources on donor acquisition and too little on donor retention. And for good reason. It’s significantly easier and more cost-effective to keep a current donor than to recruit a new one. Why?
It’s appreciably more difficult to get people to reach a new decision than to repeat an old one.
Whenever I coach volunteers to do fundraising, I always suggest they remind current donors how many years they’ve already been giving to the organization.  This acts as a decision-making shortcut for these folks. Aha! They already decided this was a good idea.  No need to sweat it out again.  Done!
But… what if you’re a start-up organization that doesn’t have many donors?

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5 Proven Content Strategies to Convert More Nonprofit Customers to Donors

Your nonprofit has a variety of different constituencies. You need to devise communication strategies that connect with all of them.

Because, guess what?

All of your ‘customers’ are potential donors.

Which is why you should take mastery of nonprofit content marketing seriously.  It’s not something you should simply delegate to marketing staff.

They need your input. And you need theirs.

Let’s consider your different nonprofit ‘customers’ for a moment.

They begin with actual users of your services… then range to volunteers… social media followers and advocates… community leaders with whom you interact… and philanthropic donors. Then there are your most likely potential ‘customers’ in all of these categories, including

How to Use Psychology to Pre-Suade Donors to Give

What can you do now to prime the pump so your donors are pre-disposed to give to you when they receive your year-end appeal?

In Part 1 of this two-part series I described some new research from Robert Cialdini, author of the seminal Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and the new book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, and discussed how you might apply this research to your fundraising strategies. We learned the importance of leading with a “gift” or “favor” that would incline your donor favorably in your direction.

I promised that today we’d take a look at how to cement the likelihood your favor is returned, as well as explore some types of favors that are likely to be perceived as valuable.

A Revolutionary Way to Influence Year-End Philanthropy

You asked a bunch of folks to give a year ago. Some did. You thanked them. Once. Maybe twice. Now you want to ask them to give again this year.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Too often nonprofits ask once; then assume folks who’ve made the decision to give will continue to do so. This is similar to retailers thinking that once someone has bought from them they’ll automatically do so again. Not true in either case.

How to Use the Multiplier Effect to Inspire Annual Giving

People love to S-T-R-E-T-C-H their dollars.

This is the basic psychology underlying “BOGO” (Buy One; Get One free) and “2 for the price of 1” sales.  For a variety of reasons, we’re crazy about getting a good deal!

If I get more for my money, that’s smart.

It’s frugal to find ways to leverage our family’s spending.

I like to use my money in the most effective way I can.

It’s easy to apply these desires – to be smart, frugal and effective — to the creation of compelling fundraising offers.

10 Ways to Build Donor Trust and Overcome Negative Views about Charities

trustWhat prompted me to write this article was a recent post by Matthew Sherrington on the 101 Fundraising Blog about the dangers to the public benefit sector posed by erosion of trust.  We’ve known for some time that whenever there’s a charity scandal, the bad behavior of one player can become detrimental to all.  But over the past year in the U.K. the problem has become even more challenging. Could it happen here?  Matthew says “yes.”  And I concur.  Trust is a fragile thing.

In the U.K what happened was a perfect storm of perceived over-solicitation and insufficient outcomes, exacerbated by a barrage of media that sounded an alarm about nefarious practices.  Trust plummeted. A wake-up call, for sure.

But what does it mean?

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The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 1

Philanthropy is a mindset. An embracing culture. A noble value.

Fundraising is a means towards that end. Servant to philanthropy.

Philanthropy, not fundraising.

This has been the tagline for my business and blog since I began Clairification in 2011. It grew naturally out of my experiences working as a frontline development director for 30 years. I’ve always insisted that no single person could possibly receive credit for a donation.  “Donors don’t give because of development staff,” I’d tell program staff.  “They give because of the great work you do!

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10 Ways to Get More Donors for Your Nonprofit – Part 2

10 ways to get more donors for your nonprofit using principles of psychologyIn Part 1 of this article I encouraged you to make this the year you begin to study psychology and apply it more to your integrated development (marketing and fundraising) strategy. I shared with you an infographic developed by marketing strategist Gregory Ciotti that some of the psychology underlying human behavior. Because there’s a lot for nonprofits to learn and apply, I’m taking you through them one by one.  Today let’s complete the Top 10 list.

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10 Ways to Get More Donors for Your Nonprofit – Part 1

10 ways to get more donors for your nonprofit using principles of psychologyToday’s focus is on donor retention, as our year-long “Dive the Five” virtual course continues!  In fact, you can use the principles you learn here for donor acquisition as well. In for-profit parlance, we’ll be discussing how to “convert customers.”  In non-profit parlance it’s all about turning prospects into donors and donors into repeat donors.

I encourage you to make this the year you begin to study psychology and apply it more to your integrated development (marketing and fundraising) strategy.

Clairity Click-it Year-End Giving Edition 3: Online Frenzy Time

In my previous Year-End Fundraising Planning Editions One  and Two I promised I would have more for you as year-end – and the biggest fundraising time of the year for most nonprofits – inexorably approaches.  Salsa reports that end-of-year giving can result in 40% or more of total yearly donations.

Online giving gets particularly frenetic at this time of year.

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It’s Not All about Major Gifts: 10 Ways to Succeed with Small Gift Fundraising

Small giftsNot long ago I went to research something online and ended up viewing the first entry Google gave me – which was on Wikipedia. To my delight, I ran into an awesome fundraising campaign (this is an occupational hazard with fundraisers – we actually like and admire things like pledge breaks when they’re done well)!

Here’s what I found superimposed at the top of the screen:

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Foolproof Fundraising Trick Mom Knows and You Need

Do it because I said so!
Do it because I said so!

I’m a huge fan of a too-little used tool when it comes to fundraising. It’s called behavioral neuroscience, and it’s pretty awesome stuff.

Moms use it all the time without evening thinking about it. Moms. Just. Know.

I’ll bet you even use it yourself. Unconsciously.

But what if you could use it intentionally to persuade prospective donors to say “yes” to investing in your cause? Or to give more often or with greater passion?

You can!

Today we’re going to talk about one foolproof way to get donors — and anyone — to do what you want them to do.

And it’s as simple as Mom saying “Because I said so!

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How to Magically Multiply Your Donors

By now I hope you’ve read the latest Fundraising Effectiveness Survey results and know that, on average, U.S. and UK nonprofits are retaining only 41% of their donors. This is abysmal, and it makes me sad.

When I started out in fundraising, many moons ago, I consistently retained 60 – 70% of my donors. And I thought that was insufficient!

While there are all sorts of reasons this is happening, what matters most is stopping the attrition before your nonprofit withers and dies. Because at these rates, after seven years you’ll only have 10 out of 1,000 new donors you acquire today. You read that correctly! Did I mention that first-time donor retention rates are only 27%?

Time for some magical math.

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7 Proven Keys to Inspire Nonprofit Boards to Lead and Give

My first year as a nonprofit fundraiser was before social media, cell phones, email, computers and even FAX machines. I had never heard the term “information overload” and I wasn’t distracted by interruptions every five minutes.  Why do I mention this?

Because in today’s fast-paced world we are often so bombarded with bells, whistles and flashing lights that we lose sight of the basics. We lose focus.

Back in the day, I focused.

My number one focus was our board of directors. I knew that before we could get others to give, the board needed to give. Passionately.