Donor-centered focus: Heart and Gratitude over WealthI find a widespread misunderstanding about the notion of what constitutes being donor-centered. It derives from two misconceptions:

  1. Assuming people don’t want to be asked.
  2. Spending all your time on cultivation, assuming folks don’t need an ask and will simply give spontaneously as a result of being wooed.

Both of these rationales short-change your would-be donors.

Why?

FIRST: Donors want to be asked because they’re starved for the love that comes from voluntary giving and receiving. Donors have love to give, but don’t always have an object towards which to direct their affection.

SECOND: Donors need to be asked because when they’re not, they don’t know how much you need their help.  Consequently, giving feels a bit empty. Almost a bit like a crap shoot.  Donors want to invest their money where they feel confident it will be most appreciated and will do the most good.

Let’s delve into both of these misconceptions more deeply, putting them into a donor-centered context.

In other words, what are your would-be donors feeling?

Donors are Love-Starved

(more…)

Heart transporting donor through space

The Secret of Donor-Centered Fundraising: No Money Involved

Heart transporting donor through spaceDonor-centered fundraising is not about money.

Huh?  If that first sentence has you scratching your head, it’s time to take a moment.

I know. You’re thinking this is just semantics.  You’re thinking that, of course, fundraising is about money.  You’re thinking we can pretend it’s about something else but, seriously, we need money to fulfill our missions. I know what you’re thinking.

I want you to stop thinking that way.  Because it’s getting in the way of you raising more (ahem) money.  So… close your eyes. Breathe.  Clear your mind. Ready? Okay… now…

Donor-centered focus: Heart and Gratitude over WealthI find a widespread misunderstanding about the notion of what constitutes being donor-centered. It derives from two misconceptions:

  1. Assuming people don’t want to be asked.
  2. Spending all your time on cultivation, assuming folks don’t need an ask and will simply give spontaneously as a result of being wooed.

Both of these rationales short-change your would-be donors.

Why?

FIRST: Donors want to be asked because they’re starved for the love that comes from voluntary giving and receiving. Donors have love to give, but don’t always have an object towards which to direct their affection.

SECOND: Donors need to be asked because when they’re not, they don’t know how much you need their help.  Consequently, giving feels a bit empty. Almost a bit like a crap shoot.  Donors want to invest their money where they feel confident it will be most appreciated and will do the most good.

Let’s delve into both of these misconceptions more deeply, putting them into a donor-centered context.

In other words, what are your would-be donors feeling?

Donors are Love-Starved

(more…)

Man reading book to kids

Donor-Centered Storytelling Boosts Fundraising. Period.

Donors are always a bit nervous about their investment in your nonprofit.  More than anything, they want to know what their hard-earned money is accomplishing!

Bloomerang found that 8% of donors failed to renew their giving specifically because they weren’t sure what their gifts accomplished.

THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN!

If you want more gifts, you must give them.

And in this article we’ll look at why stories can be the perfect donor gift!

For a lot of nonprofit insiders, this is a paradigm shift. Think about it.  I’m asking you to go from focusing on asking to focusing on giving.

Another way to consider this is to shift from focusing on selling to focusing on helping.

The Secret of Donor-Centered Fundraising: No Money Involved

The heart of donor retention: It's not about moneyDonor-centered fundraising is not about money.

Huh?  If that first sentence has you scratching your head, it’s time to take a moment.

I know. You’re thinking this is just semantics.  You’re thinking that, of course, fundraising is about money.  You’re thinking we can pretend it’s about something else but, seriously, we need money to fulfill our missions. I know what you’re thinking.

I want you to stop thinking that way.  Because it’s getting in the way of you raising more (ahem) money.  So… close your eyes. Breathe.  Clear your mind. Ready? Okay… now…

Event guests wearing masks

Nonprofit Event Fundraising: They’ll Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

Event guests wearing masks

 

In Part 1 we looked at establishing event goals and objectives; then determining if an event was the most efficient and effective way to achieve desired outcomes. In Part 2 we reviewed 4 top event planning tips. In this last article of a three-part series on event planning we’ll look specifically at how to make the event “stick” emotionally.

1. Overall, we’ve recognized most events are less about actual monetary return on investment (ROI) than they are about return on engagement (ROE). In other words, if you’re doing an event purely to raise money there are other more cost-effective fundraising strategies.

2. However, events done right are an excellent awareness-raising, branding and donor cultivation tool. You just have to go into events fully cognizant of what success will look like, both from your organization’s and your donor’s perspectives.  Only armed with this understanding can you create events that will be worth your while.

3. Today we look at ways to make events – once you’ve decided to hold them – fulfill both your and your donors’ dreams. This is where you deliver on becoming unforgettable — in a truly great way — so the next time you reach out you are warmly embraced. In other words, this is the first step to getting event attendees to stick with you over time.

Gala event room

Top Proven Nonprofit Fundraising Event Planning Tips

Gala event room

In my last article (Part 1 of a three-part event planning series) I offered a compendium of common sense event planning advice. It centered on the wisdom offered to Alice by the Cheshire Cat when she asked which road she should take:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”
said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

— Alice in Wonderland

When it comes to special events, your goal is important.

Once you settle on a direction, then you’re able to pick the best road to take you there.

Hopefully you read the previous article, determined an event was your best strategic option to reach your primary end goal, and now you’re ready to get to work!

4 Top Planning Tips to Invite and Ignite

1. First you want people to come. 

This means your invitation to the event should incorporate the following:

Muir Woods California pathway fork

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 2

 

Muir Woods California pathway fork

Get on the Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy, Not Forgettable Fundraising

In Part 1 I laid out why philanthropy inspires, and fundraising tires.

Fundraising must be done, of course, but there’s something about how it’s too often practiced that turns too many people off.

It’s the “fund” part of the word. This makes people think it’s all about money, when really it’s all about valued outcomes.

These valued outcomes are shared by many who care about the cause.

  • Donors and non-donors.
  • Employees and volunteers.
  • Users and providers of services.
  • Development departments and program departments.

All these folks have a collective stake in the love and mission-focused organization’s survival.

Because all of them are dedicated to making the world, or some small corner of it, a better place.

How Philanthropic Stakeholders Get Disenfranchised

When fundraising is delegated to the development committee, or the development director, it disenfranchises a huge segment of folks who care about sustaining the cause — both internally and externally.

Similarly, when donors are competed over, donors are disenfranchised. This may take the form of non-cooperation or even outright war between those who should be facilitating philanthropy.

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The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 1

PurpleFlowersJapaneseBridge

Get on the Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy, Not Forgettable Fundraising

 

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!

Sustainable fundraising takes a village.

In fact, in my practice I went so far as to develop a point system for major gifts moves management (you can learn about it here) that ascribed many more points for a donor meeting with a program director than one with a development staffer.  I wanted to show program staff how much they counted!

Everyone counts.

This is exactly the premise of the groudbreaking report commissioned in 2016 by the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, “Beyond Fundraising: What Does it Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy?.” It was one of three reports centering on confronting chronic fundraising challenges, and showcased the paramount importance of building an organization-wide philanthropy culture as a paradigm for the 21st century. When the report came out, here’s what I said:

Control Soup. Caution Soup. Street art.

These Fundraising Appeal Fallacies Will Cost You Money

Control Soup. Caution Soup. Street art.Ever have a well-meaning, yet perhaps overly controlling or risk-aversive, boss say to you:

  • Our fundraising letter must be no longer than one page.

  • That’s too simple; we don’t want to talk down to our donors.

  • We need to say more about our accomplishments.

  • We need to describe numbers of people served; that’s what’s impressive.

  • That’s not how I talk.

  • That’s not our corporate style.

  • That’s not how we do things.

  • That’s not what our donors are used to.

  • That’s not proper grammar.

  • That’s too gushy and effusive.

  • I want happy, not sad, photos.

  • Asking the reader to “please give generously” is sufficient; no need to name an amount.

  • Asking once is enough.

  • The development director should sign the letter.

  • Signatures from both the E.D. and board president will be more persuasive.

  • We don’t need a P.S.

Alas, these are common fundraising appeal fallacies that will cost you money. Money donors might have given to you, if you’d only understood some fundamental fundraising truths.

Truths, Not Fallacies

I was reminded of some of these truths in a post from Jeff Brooks. He spoke of true pearls of wisdom gleaned from his fundraising mentor, the pioneering direct mail writer Bob Screen. We’ve lost Bob and several fundraising giants in recent years, including Simone Joyaux and John Haydon, but we should never lose sight of the wisdom they imparted. It’s the best way to assure their memories live on and their good works continue.

I did not know Bob, but I’m sure I learned from him without realizing it.  Because the good stuff gets passed around. Why?  Because it works.

And it takes someone with experience to not just demonstrate it works, but to forcefully maintain the necessity of adhering to tested principles, facts and truth.  Even – especially – in the face of doubters (e.g. executive directors; board presidents) who would seriously derail your fundraising efforts. With all good intention, of course.

YOU are the fundraiser.

Never forget this is why you were hired. No one is an expert at everything. And chances are fundraising writing is not your leadership’s key area of proficiency. It’s your job to know what works, and what doesn’t.

Person in homemade costume playing a powerful role

Invite Nonprofit Donors Into Your Story, Giving Them a Powerful Role to Play

Person in homemade costume playing a powerful roleYou must invite your donor into the story.

Take yourself out of the equation.

Donors don’t care about you, but about what they can do through you.

Stop talking about your good work.

Talk, instead, about the good work your donor wants to do.

How?

5-Step Strategy to Illuminate the Donor’s Role in Repairing the World  

1.Tell a quick story about a specific project.

You’ve got lots of stories. They’re probably interesting enough to grab your donor’s attention. Don’t make the mistake of trying to talk about your entire mission all at once in a fundraising message.  It’s too much for people’s brains to absorb.

What you want to do,

Time for Change sign

Borrow From Old MacDonald’s Farm to Interview for a Fundraising Job

Time for Change signDid you have a New Year’s resolution to look for a new development position? Or maybe to transition to work in the social benefit sector?

Have you put your job search off, wondering how your skills translate to what you’d really like to do?

We all have an inner critic telling us super unhelpful things like:

  • You’re not ready yet.
  • You need another course or degree.
  • You need more years of experience doing x, y, and/or z.
  • You need time to prepare.
  • You aren’t good at this (math/negotiating/technical/financial/digital/sales) stuff.
  • You aren’t as confident as other people.
  • You can’t take this leap; it’s too risky.

These are all variations on the theme of “you don’t have what it takes.”

Nonsense!

This is a totally irrational fear. Your inner critic is perhaps trying to protect and defend you, but actually this critic is holding you back by ruminating on the risks and worst-case scenarios. If you always play it “safe,” you’ll never grow.

Today, I’d like to tell you what it actually takes to be an effective fundraiser.

I hope you’ll see these innate qualities and strengths are things you have already. All you need to do is formulate them into a pitch format you can use when you interview for a job.

Moonrise-large.jpg

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream for the Social Benefit Sector 2024

Photo of moon rise

I have a dream…

Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday. During his lifetime he challenged us to recognize the privilege of being part of the struggle for goodness to prevail. He did not live to get to the promised land, yet he saw it from the mountain top. And in his famous speech he mused on the question of what he would say were he to be given the extraordinary opportunity to live in any moment in history. His answer to the Almighty was, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.”

Today we are more than two decades in, and our challenge is whether we can approach our world with the same degree of gratitude and moral resolve. Our times are challenging.  Political division, escalating, senseless violence across the planet, threats to taken-for-granted freedoms, the spread of fake news, a deepening divide between classes, the existential threat of climate change, and a creeping sense of dread as events begin to seem out of our control.  The world can seem a cruel and barbaric place. Philanthropy – love of humankind — can seem elusive. Yet it’s right here. In each of us. And at this particular collective moment it has never been more essential for us to develop our capacity to care for one another, to show up for one another, and to love.

King challenges us to recognize that even in dark times, there is light to be found:I know that it’s only when it is dark enough that one can see the stars.” As we toil in the vineyards of the social benefit sector, it is our privilege — and responsibility — to carry Dr. King’s torch and let shine the light. To muster all our spiritual, moral, individual, and communal resources to drive out the darkness. Today, with my annual “I Have a Dream” post, I invite you to consider what you can do to cultivate loving awareness, adapt, stay positive and make a beneficial impact on the world within and around you — yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors and strangers.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream for 2024 – and beyond. I have a dream this is the year your organization will move beyond defining yourself by what you’re not (nonprofit) and will begin to define yourself by what you are (social benefit). I have a dream this is the year your people will move from an attitude of taking and hitting people up (aka “fundraising”) to a mindset of giving and lifting people up (aka “philanthropy”). I have a dream this is the year your staff and volunteers will move from enacting transactions to enabling transformation.

I have a dream you will push yourself and your organization this year. You will take the bull by the horns, fully embrace the digital revolution, look at the ways artificial intelligence can be used for good, and open yourself to the possibilities change brings. You will give up on the static donor pyramid, ladder and funnel theory of engagement and put your donor at the center of a new, active engagement model that reflects the myriad ways people connect with organizations and causes today. You will find donors where they are.

I have a dream you will learn who your best influencers and advocates are and you will embrace them.  You will recognize you are no longer your best messenger. You will understand many forces beyond you influence your donor’s decision to invest with you, and you will expand your thinking and operations from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional model.  You will allow your constituents to engage with you at multiple points of entry, and to move freely between these points during the life cycle of their engagement.

I have a dream you will think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. 

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, implementing the 10 strategies incorporated below, I can guarantee you’ll steadily build trust and make donors happy. They may seem simple, and they are. But honestly ask yourself if you really do these things right now? Trust must be earned, and it can be fragile. So, I’m going to guess you could do better. Please read these action steps 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. It’s up to you to establish trust and magnetically pull your donors toward you so they never let go.

Sign: Thank You! You Are Essential

13 Top Secrets of Donor Thank You Letters Revealed

"Thank You You Are Essential" signLet’s begin with a question: What do you spend more time on? Asking or thanking?

You’ve probably just completed a quarter hyper-focused on asking. I’ll bet you devoted a lot of time to this endeavor.

Now… you should be devoting at least as much time to thanking the donors who responded to your appeals, with the goal of retaining and upgrading them over time.

This is especially true with first-time donors, who cost you much more to acquire than you receive (on average, you spend $1.25 to raise $1.00). The only reason to acquire these supporters is to sustain them over timeso their lifetime value to you merits your investment in them.

Alas, the lion’s share of nonprofits spend a lot more time asking than thanking and reporting back on impact.

Thank you’s are often left to the last minute. They may be delegated to a lower-level support person. They’re treated as a realtively unimportant affterthought. And they’re often carelessly written, coming across as little more than a transactional receipt or a pre-printed Hallmark card with nothing more than a signature (often, also, laser printed).

It’s a BIG mistake.

The number one reason donors don’t give again is they aren’t properly thanked!

You may think you have a proper thank you letter template. But, if your thank you looks like this, it’s not helping you bond with your supporters.

TYPICAL THANK YOU LETTER TEMPLATE

Dear [donor name],

Thank you for your generous donation of $[donation amount] to [nonprofit name].

Your donation is making a difference. Because of your $[amount] donation, we are able to [impact of donation].

[this paragraph usually gives a general description of what the organization does]

Thank you again for your contribution! [nonprofit name] relies on the gifts of donors like you to make a difference.

Sincerely,
[name and title]

Look familiar?

Wah, wah, wah (sad trombone).

Most thank you letters are simply boring.

This could come from almost any nonprofit. It’s generic, not specific.It looks like a form letter.

You can do a lot better, and it’s not hard.

To Retain Donors, Stand Out from the ‘Get Go’

Believe me, most donors aren’t sticking around. Your own retention rates may be better or worse than average (do you know them?), but generally only 19% of new donors give again. For ongoing donors, it’s just 43%.

The time to nip this in the bud is now.

Did you know a study from Charity Dynamics and NTEN found 21% of donors say they were never thanked at all? My hunch is some of these supporters did receive something from you, but it was so perfunctory they didn’t really take notice.

  • Maybe you just sent a form receipt.
  • Maybe you took them to a thank you landing page; then called it a day.
  • Maybe you sent a brief, formal email that confirmed the gift, but didn’t make them feel particularly special.
  • Maybe you sent a letter, but talked more about the ongoing need than the impact of their gift (i.e., it sounded like another fundraising appeal).

If you don’t have a killer thank you letter prepared to send to the folks you hope will be giving to you again between today and next year, now is the time to right this wrong.

If you thank well you’ll see retention rates increase significantly.

In fact, research from Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 70% of donors reported they would increase their giving if they received what they needed from you.

Brilliant, warm, authentic, personal communication stands out and leads to renewals. And this is a much less expensive strategy than new donor acquisition which, again, costs from $1 to $1.25 to raise a dollar. Whereas renewing a donor costs only 20 cents on the dollar  — if you prioritize this as a strategy.

By now you may be thinking: Sounds good, but how do we stand out? There must be some specific strategies that incline donors towards giving again, but what are they?

Today I share my top secrets with you. They’re simple and foolproof.

Ready?

Heart, paper, in hands

How to Use Psychology to Pre-Suade Donors to Give

Heart, paper, in handsAre you leading with a “gift” or “favor” to positively incline your donor to say “yes?”

This time of year is what I call “presuasion time.”

Because if you’re thoughtful about it, you can presuade donors to give up to the moment you ask!

That’s what we reviewed in Part 1 of this two-part series, where I described research from Robert Cialdini, author of the seminal Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and the newer book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuadeand discussed how you might apply this research to your fundraising strategies. We learned the importance of leading with a “gift” or “favor” that will incline your donor favorably in your direction. Even the smallest of favors can create significant goodwill, and there are simple ways to boost the likelihood your favor will be returned.

  1. Today we’re first going to look at a way to tweak your language to make a difference.

  2. Then we’ll explore some types of favors donors are likely to value enough to want to reciprocate.

First, a reminder: Truth be told, every time of year is presuasion time. Everything you do with supporters should be designed to prime the pump so people are pre-disposed to give to you the next time you ask. Whether that’s next week, the week thereafter, or any week of the year! Whenever you’re not asking — and you should plan to send at least three non-asking communictions for every one ask — you should be in presuasion mode.

So, let’s get a little psychologically-minded, keeping in mind one of the six core Cialdini principles of Influence and Perusasion: Reciprocity. In brief, human beings often feel obligated to return favors, even if they are unasked for.

Three San Francisco Hearts. Doggy Days. California Street Captive. Benefit for S.F. General Hospital Foundation.

Plan ‘Random(ish) Acts’ of Nonprofit Donor Kindness, Especially Now

Three San Francisco Hearts. Doggy Days. California Street Captive. Benefit for S.F. General Hospital Foundation.

Getting in the spirit of acts of kindness

It’s been a rough decade thus far, beginning with a pandemic out there killing people. And then the hurricanes, fires, floods and earthquakes killing people. Not to mention the genocides, autocracies, global and domestic terrorists killing people. The list, unfortunately, goes inexorably on.

What can your nonprofit organization do to offer a remedy?

Kill ‘ em with kindness.

I’m talking about your supporters, of course.

In order for people to do good they have to feel good.

Seriously, philanthropy takes energy. It takes the ability to step out of one’s day-to-day grind and think about someone, or something, else. And it’s more difficult than usual for folks to find this generous space right now.

You can help.

Make this the true giving season.

I often say “If you want gifts you must give them.”

Maya Angelou says “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Let’s talk about what you can give – as nonprofit staff and board members — to create happier supporters.

Notice a lot of folks saying “This has been a bad year?” People can use a bit of cheer.  They’re tired of doom and gloom.

Remember when “random acts of kindness” was a thing? People would buy a coffee for the person behind them in line. Or they’d pay the bridge toll for the next car. Their reward was simply imagining the unexpected delight their gift would give to someone that day. Ever have it happen to you?  Ever try it?

Now’s your chance!

I’d like to suggest practicing some creative planned (seemingly random, but not really) acts of kindness.

Something to bring your donors and volunteers a bit of good cheer. It can be as simple as letting them know what they did to change someone’s life for the better. Or it can be a modest, human gesture showing them how grateful you are for their support. This is something you can have fun with.  And the rewards will be huge, both for you and your donors.

10 Acts of Donor Kindness For Today, and Beyond

Three-San-Francisco-Hearts: Love-is-Contagious-San-Francisco-Glow-Transparent-Harmony. Benefit for S.F. General Hospital Foundation

Try These Nonprofit Donor Retention Tweaks with BIG, Happy Outcomes

Three-San-Francisco-Hearts: Love-is-Contagious-San-Francisco-Glow-Transparent-Harmony. Benefit for S.F. General Hospital FoundationHave you ever received confoundingly terrible customer service? Maybe at a restaurant, hotel, fast food restaurant or retail outlet?  It happens all the time and, likely, you’ve thought to yourself: “Why on earth are they treating me like this? It’s so stupid! Don’t they realize I’ll never come here again?

Sadly, this is exactly what many donors feel when:

  • You make it difficult for them to give.
  • They receive poor follow up from you.
  • You don’t seem to know them, or even try to get to know them.
  • You treat them as one of the masses, rather than making them feel special.
  • You ignore what they’ve told you or shown you.

“Customer service, like everything an effective organization does, changes people.”

Seth Godin

Part of the Problem is Culture

Think about it. When you experience poor service in the for-profit world, it’s likely because the person with whom you’re interacting has no stake in the business. They see their job as just a job, and really don’t care about the business as a whole. Whether or not a customer returns again means little to them.

This also happens at nonprofits without a donor-centered culture of philanthropy. While the customer, or donor, may not always be exactly “right,” it is imperative everyone in your organization recognizes and appreciates the value donors bring.

“Each person directly associated with your organization should value donors and implicitly or explicitly express that value with gratitude and appreciation. No exceptions.”

Brian Lauterbach, fundraiser, consultant, entrepreneur

“Without tackling internal issues head-on, we believe the prospects for major fundraising progress are limited. In most organizations, fundraising is limited more by organizational culture and structure than by lack of strategic or tactical know-how.”

— Alia McKee and Mark Rovner, Founders, Sea Change Strategies

NOTE: How to instill a culture of philanthropy is a topic for another article (like this one), but at base it has to do with how people treat each other in your organization.

Three San Francisco Hearts: Love Sent. Received, Shared; Together Under the Stars; Justice

Are You Treating Your Donors Like Gumballs?

Three San Francisco Hearts: Love Sent. Received, Shared; Together Under the Stars; JusticeWant your donors to sustain you? Then you can’t consume them in five minutes.

Yet all too often nonprofits treat their donors exactly like a gumball dispensed from a machine. Chew it up. Spit it out. Done.

Oh, yeah… maybe you send a quick thanks to whoever gave you the change to buy the gum.  But that’s as far as your gratitude takes you. You’re over it. You never even think about that gumball again. You probably can’t even remember what color it was. You’re off hunting down your next snack.

Little snacks are nice.  But they won’t sustain you over time.

One-time donations are the same way.  And they’ll stay that way – one time – if you treat them the way you treat your gumballs.

Three San Francisco Hearts: Rainbow, Love, Resilience. Benefit for S.F. General Foundation.

Top Strategies for Making Friends with Nonprofit Donors

Three San Francisco Hearts: Rainbow, Love, Resilience. Benefit for S.F. General Foundation.Today a friend, who serves on the board of a struggling local arts organization, asked me what they can do to increase their fundraising. I asked her a few questions; then answered simply: “Have more conversations with people; make more friends.”

You see, they have people who know about them but they’re just not giving.

They have donors, but they’re not giving enough.

Why? Because they haven’t been treated like friends and family. They don’t feel connected.

What’s the best advice to build stronger connections with likely supporters?

1. People Give to People

Remember this basic truth. Humans are a social species.

People also buy from people.

So if you consider fundraising “making a sale” (which I do, because it’s part of being human to be constantly trying to persuade others; read Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human), you must show up as authentically human.

And how do you do this?

Head and Heart

Easiest 7 Strategies to Get Inside Your Donor’s Head and Heart

Head and HeartHere is some wisdom gleaned from many decades of personal nonprofit work.

It derives from both my stints as an in-the-trenches development professional (five different organizations, wearing many hats, over a 30-year career), and my past decade as a coach/consultant for nonprofits of all sizes and shapes.

I will also be sharing quotes from donors Penelope Burk surveyed (also here), as these authentic testimonials provide great insight into how donors think and feel.

Finally, we’ll conclude with seven relatively easy things you can do to connect more meaningfully with your supporters so they’ll stick with you through thick and thin!

Felt heart hanging from a pole

Top Secret Strategy to Communicate with Nonprofit Donors

Heart carved into treeDid you ever wonder if there is a foolproof way to communicate with donors?

Actually, there is!

And it’s not about process.

It’s about another ‘P’ word.

Can you guess?

I’ll give you a hint.

It relates to the secret business your nonprofit is in.

You may think you’re in (arts, healthcare, human services, environment, social justice, animal rescue, education or whatever) but, fundamentally, your core business is something else.  Something deeper.

Something that emanated from whoever founded your nonprofit.

Without this special something, your nonprofit wouldn’t exist.

Have you figured it out?

Moonrise-large.jpg

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream for the Social Benefit Sector 2023

Photo of moon rise

I have a dream…

Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King’s 94th birthday. During his lifetime he challenged us to recognize the privilege of being part of the struggle for goodness to prevail. He did not live to get to the promised land, yet he saw it from the mountain top. And in his famous speech he mused on the question of what he would say were he to be given the extraordinary opportunity to live in any moment in history. His answer to the Almighty was, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.”

Today we are two decades in, and our challenge is whether we can approach our world with the same degree of gratitude and moral resolve. Our times are challenging.  Political division, escalating, senseless violence across the planet, threats to free speech, the spread of fake news, a deepening divide between classes, the existential threat of climate change, and a creeping sense of dread as events begin to seem out of our control.  The world can seem a cruel and barbaric place. Philanthropy – love of humankind — can seem elusive. Yet it’s right here. In each of us.

King challenges us to recognize that even in dark times, there is light to be found:I know that it’s only when it is dark enough that one can see the stars.” As we toil in the vineyards of the social benefit sector, it is our privilege — and responsibility — to carry Dr. King’s torch and let shine the light. To muster all our spiritual, moral, individual, and communal resources to drive out the darkness. Today, with my annual “I Have a Dream” post, I invite you to consider what you can do to adapt, stay positive and make a beneficial impact on the world within and around you — yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors and strangers.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream for 2023 – and beyond. I have a dream this is the year your organization will move beyond defining yourself by what you’re not (nonprofit) and will begin to define yourself by what you are (social benefit). I have a dream this is the year your people will move from an attitude of taking and hitting people up (aka “fundraising”) to a mindset of giving and lifting people up (aka “philanthropy”). I have a dream this is the year your staff and volunteers will move from enacting transactions to enabling transformation.

I have a dream you will push yourself and your organization this year. You will take the bull by the horns, embrace the digital revolution, and open yourself to the possibilities change brings. You will give up on the static donor pyramid, ladder and funnel theory of engagement and put your donor at the center of a new, active engagement model that reflects the myriad ways people connect with organizations and causes today. You will find donors where they are.

I have a dream you will learn who your best influencers and advocates are and you will embrace them.  You will recognize you are no longer your best messenger. You will understand many forces beyond you influence your donor’s decision to invest with you, and you will expand your thinking and operations from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional model.  You will allow your constituents to engage with you at multiple points of entry, and to move freely between these points during the life cycle of their engagement.

I have a dream you will think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. 

Why Donor Wooing Requires WOWing

Woman checking out at cashier

The Unfair Exchange Bernadette Jiwa, The Story of Telling.

“That will be eight dollars,’ the woman, who is carefully weighing and wrapping two serves of freshly made fettuccine for us to take home, says.

As my husband is about to hand her the cash, she takes another handful of the pasta from behind the glass and adds it to our package.

She doesn’t announce that she’s giving us twenty per cent extra for free.
She doesn’t even invite us to notice the gesture at all.
It’s enough for her that she knows she has added value.

We think of value as a hard metric—the anticipated fair exchange of this for that.

But value can be a surprising, generous, unfair exchange.

Something that is given because we can, not because we must.

Ah… value.

Wow, wow, WOW!

This is what all fundraising, fundamentally, is about.

A value-for-value exchange.

Yet one side of the exchange is a hard metric: The donor’s cold, hard cash.

While the other side of the exchange is something decidedly less tangible: Freely given gratitude from you and your organization.

Or at least that’s how it should work.

The Difference between ‘We Must’ and ‘We Can’ 

What does your donor love and loyalty plan look like?

Do you even have such a plan?

If the only reason you acknowledge donations is because you feel you ‘must,’ it’s likely your donors aren’t walking away from the encounter feeling much more than matter-of-fact. The transactional receipts many organizations send out are registered by the donors as “Ho, hum. Guess I’ll go file this with my tax receipts.”

This kind of exchange is fair, sure.

But it’s not generous.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE?

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Mailed Fundraising Appeal 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 year-end annual direct mail appeal strategy.

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 letter?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about the mail package? The letter? The remit?
  5. What looks not so good about all these package elementsl?
  6. Would it inspire you to give?
  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.

Carrier Envelope

Appeal Carrier Envelope

Some identifying information has been removed for purposes of confidentiality. I’m not here to shame. Just to teach.

  1. Would you open this letter?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?

I’ll wait…

Have your answers?

Okay!

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

Let’s begin!

What’s wrong or right with this envelope?

Lightening storm

Will Your Year-End Fundraising Be Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?

Lightening storm

Are you thinking “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Kaching!?”

Oh, dear.

That’s akin to making the holidays all about the commercial aspects, and losing sight of the season’s wonder, awe, gratitude, love, and warmth of community.

Yes, many nonprofits raise the lion’s share of their annual fundraising goal in the last few months of the year. In fact, December accounts, on average, for 31 to 50% of all contributions from individuals. So, you’re to be forgiven if you’re excited to see the money come flowing into your coffers.

But, just because it’s solicitation time does not mean it isn’t cultivation/stewardship time.

It’s not just about the money.

Ever time you communicate with donors you need to show the love.

How you spread love through your mission-focused work.

How you love your supporters.

How love, not money, is at the heart of all philanthropy (philos/love + anthro/humanity).

Even though you’re ramping up fundraising activities this month, you can’t lose sight of your donor. And what’s in it for them if they give to you. So, ask yourself:

  • How will donors feel when they receive the year-end missive you’re sending?
  • How will donors feel when they say “yes” to your appeal?
  • How will they feel immediately after they give?
  • How will they feel later — a month, two months, three months, six months and 12 months after they give?

Do you come across as being only about money?

You may if your year-end fundraising looks mostly like this:

  • Help us meet our fundraising campaign goal.
  • Help us raise $XX,XXXX (money) before the year ends.
  • Grab your tax deduction before December 31st.

Such admonitions are all about you, your deadlines and money.

They are things people think about with their brain, not their heart. With their reasoning, not their emotions. WIth the part of their brain that makes them give a token or habitual gift, not a thoughtful or passionate one.

And once the gift comes in, then what?

Do you simply take the money and run?

If a donor makes a gift and you simply dispense an automated thank you, and nothing more, that’s not a donor relationship.  That’s a transaction

If you get all ATMy at this time of year you’re going to lose these donors by this time next year. Or you won’t get them to give more. Or tell their friends how great you are. Or do any of the other things that donors do when they love you.

One-time gifts are here today, gone tomorrow. In fact, a whopping 80%+ of first-time donors won’t give again.

Transactions won’t help you next year or the year after that.

No. You’ve got to transform the transactions into something longer lasting.

You want donors to feel terrifically warm, fuzzy and inspired after they give to you.

Yes, you’re going to ask — maybe multiple times — at this time of year. But to get the desired response – and feeling — you still have to ask the right way.

Sign: Thank You! You Are Essential

13 Top Secrets of Donor Thank You Letters Revealed

"Thank You You Are Essential" signWhat do you spend more time on? Asking or thanking?

The lion’s share of nonprofits spend more time asking. It’s a BIG mistake. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not here to shame or blame you. Of course you have to ask. The number one reason people don’t give is they aren’t asked. And …

The number one reason donors don’t give again is they aren’t properly thanked!

You may think you have a proper thank you letter template. But, if your thank you looks like this, it’s not helping you bond with your supporters.

TYPICAL THANK YOU LETTER TEMPLATE

Dear [donor name],

Thank you for your generous donation of $[donation amount] to [nonprofit name].

Your donation is making a difference. Because of your $[amount] donation, we are able to [impact of donation].

[this paragraph usually gives a general description of what the organization does]

Thank you again for your contribution! [nonprofit name] relies on the gifts of donors like you to make a difference.

Sincerely,
[name and title]

Look familiar?

Wah, wah, wah (sad trombone).

Most thank you letters are simply boring.

This could come from almost any nonprofit. They’re generic, not specific.They look like a form letters.

You can do a lot better, and it’s not hard.

To Retain Donors, Stand Out from the ‘Get Go’

Believe me, most donors aren’t sticking around. Your own retention rates may be better or worse than average (do you know them?), but generally only 19% of new donors give again. For ongoing donors, it’s just 45%.

The time to nip this in the bud is now.

Did you know a study from Charity Dynamics and NTEN found 21% of donors say they were never thanked at all? My hunch is some of these supporters did receive something from you, but it was so perfunctory they didn’t really take notice. Maybe you just send a receipt. Or took them to a thank you landing page; then called it a day. Or maybe they received a brief, formal email that confirmed the gift, but didn’t make them feel particularly special.

If you don’t have a killer thank you letter prepared to send to the folks you hope will be giving to you between today and the end of the year, now is the time to right this wrong.

If you thank well you’ll see retention rates increase significantly.

In fact, research from Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 70% of donors reported they would increase their giving if they received what they needed from you.

Brilliant, warm, authentic, personal communication stands out and leads to renewals. And this is a much less expensive strategy than new donor acquisition, which costs from $1 to $1.25 to raise a dollar. Whereas renewing a donor costs only 20 cents on the dollar.

By now you may be thinking: Sounds good, but how do we stand out? There must be some specific strategies that incline donors towards giving again, but what are they?

Today I share my top secrets with you. They’re simple and foolproof.

Ready?

How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

I hate jargon. With a passion.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

Just. Can’t. Stand. It!

Yes, I guess you could call it a pet peeve.

But, really, why would you ever use jargon if you wanted to truly communicate with someone?

Just check out the definition:

“language used by a particular group of people, especially in their work, and which most other people do not understand”

— Cambridge dictionary.

Jargon = Failure to Communicate

When you talk to people in words they don’t understand, really, what’s the point?

Are you just trying to make yourself look smart?

Because, trust me, that’s not how it comes across.

Hand writing checklist

8-Step Annual Fundraising Appeal Self-Test – Part 1

Hand writing checklistI never begin writing a fundraising appeal without beginning with a template and checklist. It’s always good to remind yourself of the fundamentals.

1. YOU

“The most beautiful thing in the world is you.”

— Alvin Ailey, choreographer and dancer, (1931-1989)

This gets to who you’re writing to. Not to yourself, program staff. or board of directors. You’re writing to ONE donor. It’s about their ego, not yours. Their needs, not yours.

Take a good hard look at your letter. How often do you use “I,” “my,” “our,” “we,” or the name of your organization vs. “you” and “your?”

Fix this! Here’s a “you test” you can use from Bloomerang.

Here’s a “don’t” example:

Master chef creation

Master Chef vs. Line Cook: How Do You Prepare Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan?

 

I learned something many decades ago that I’ve never forgotten.

When I learned this, it made me very happy.

You see, I was transitioning from an unhappy, short-lived career in law and wasn’t really sure about my next chapter.  Nonprofit work intrigued me, but… was it really a discipline or just something folks “winged?”  How would I know I could be successful?

There weren’t a lot of role models around at the time, and I really didn’t know any other fundraisers.  And there certainly were no articles to “google” online!

So, I enrolled in a week-long course offered by The Fundraising School, then led by founder Hank Rosso (who I call the “Daddy of Fundraising”), which is now part of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

What a revelation! My eyes were opened to the very nature of fundraising. And the essential pre-conditions for fundraising success.

Broken Heart

Important News about Relationship Fundraising: Stop Losing Donors

Broken Heart
Do you know how you may be breaking your donor’s heart? Keep it up, and they’ll break yours.

This is important.

It’s about a report that may change how you do fundraising.

It should.

Let me explain.

Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel, by now you should know most nonprofits have been hemorrhaging donors for over a decade.

By tending to focus more on expensive, staff-intensive acquisition strategies like direct mail and special events, charities are bringing in one-time donors who never give to them again. It’s why I focus so much on donor retention strategies and exhort you to make them your priority strategy.

Why? Because otherwise all your acquisition efforts are wasted. The latest Fundraising Effectiveness Project Report  revealed an astounding 81% of first-time donors lapse. [BTW: This isn’t the report that’s going to change your modus operandi; it’s merely the rationale for the release of the report that will. Keep reading.] Of repeat donors, 39% lapse. This means, on average, charities retain only 45% of all donors. For every 100 new donors acquired, on average nonprofits lost 96 existing donors. That means you’re engaging in a whole lot of work, for a pretty miserable return on investment.

“Over 70% of people that we recruit into organizations never come back and make another gift, so we’re caught on this treadmill where we have to spend lots of money on acquisition which most nonprofits lose money on anyway, just to stand still.”

– Professor Adrian Sargeant,
Director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University

This is the proverbial three steps forward, two steps back – only worse!

This burn and churn strategy is killing nonprofits — and burning out the folks who work in them.

Why is it that for profits manage to retain 94% of customers, yet there’s such a huge disparity when it comes to nonprofits?

Mirror image

Be Your Donor Week

Mirror imageWhat I have for you is something you can do this week (or you can pick another week on your calendar that isn’t already overfilled with appointments, assignments, meetings and what-not).  It’s really simple and really powerful.  There’s one catch: you have to put aside 45 minutes/day for five days.  If you’re resistant to change, read no further. This post isn’t for you.  If, however, you have a hunch you might be able to move from good to great, then… read on (oh, and there’s a little bonus ‘gift’ at the end).

I’m going to show you how to become a donor-centered fundraiser in just five days. And by “donor centered,” I don’t mean pandering to donors, letting them abuse you or succumbing to mission drift in order to please them. That’s extreme. I’m going to show you how to simply follow the “Golden Rule,” and do unto donors as you’d wish them to do unto you.

Like I said, it’s simple. But you’ve got to dedicate the time. Go ahead.  Find yourself a week where you can dedicate just 45 minutes/day to find out what ‘donor-centered’ may mean to your constituents.

This exercise is something I hope will dramatically change – and improve – how you approach your donors.  And this change can happen for you in just five days.

In a nutshell, I’m going to ask you to:

  1. Make a list.
  2. Pick five things on your list.
  3. Do the five things.
  4. Consider what five things you’ve learned.
  5. Make an action plan to change how you approach donors based on what you’ve learned.

Ready to get started?

Mythological Frieze

How to Overcome Nonprofit Fundraising Myths

Mythological FriezeIf you’re constantly encountering people on your staff or board who want to curtail your fundraising efforts, you’re not alone.

Generally, people hate fundraising. It’s an “F” word.

And folk can get creative telling you why it’s an “F” word; hence, something to be avoided.

Sigh…

I call these creative explanations, at best, half-truths.

“Beware of a half truth. It may be the wrong half.” – Danish proverb

I use this cautionary proverb a lot.

It fits a lot of circumstances. Half-truths, myths, “common wisdom,” and crowd-sourced beliefs all have the “ring” of truth; this ring, like all bells and whistles, can be distracting. Beware: the core of the matter can get overlooked and/or distorted.

What can you do to avoid basing your fundraising strategy on a lie?

How to Kill Persistent Fundraising Myths

I too often come across six fundraising myths – lies and half-truths — in my work with nonprofits. These myths exist because the word fundraising leads with “fund.” Fund means money.

Gala event room

Top Proven Nonprofit Fundraising Event Planning Tips

Gala event room

In my last article I offered a compendium of common sense event planning advice. It centered on the wisdom offered to Alice by the Cheshire Cat when she asked which road she should take:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”
said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

— Alice in Wonderland

Your direction and goal is important. Once you settle on the goal, then you’re able to pick the best road to take you there.

Hopefully you read the previous article, determined an event was your best strategic option to reach your primary end goal, and now you’re ready to get to work!

What are Some Top Planning Tips to Invite and Ignite?

Do these four things:

1. First you want people to come. 

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Do’s vs. Don’ts: Monthly Donor Appeal 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 monthly donor campaign strategy.

It arrived as an email. There’s (1) a subject line, (2) the email itself, and (3) what happens if/when you click through and are transported to the donation landing page.

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 not?
  9. Once you click through, would you be inspired to take action?
  10. If yes, why?
  11. If no, why not?

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

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Third, if you disagree with me please let me know in the comments below.

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, here’s a simple way to do your part to repair the world.

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 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?”

Major donor meeting

6 Strategies to Make a Powerfully Winning Major Donor Pitch that Gets Top Results

I could just say (1) prepare, (2) prepare, (3) prepare, (4) prepare, (5) prepare, and (6) prepare.

Did I mention that you really need to prepare?

Preparation is the meta-message of Shark Tank’s “Mr. Wonderful,” Kevin O’Leary, to would-be entrepreneurs seeking to get spots – and funding – on the television show.

In “How to Present the Perfect Pitch: From the Shark Tank to the Boardroom” he offers 10 strategies to help you ace a fundraising pitch. Whether you’re seeking venture capital or a philanthropic gift, many of the principles are the same.

I’ve selected six strategies I find perfectly aligned with what it takes to make a successful nonprofit ask. I’ve also suggested some action tips. Take them to heart, and you’re sure to make your next in-person fundraising presentation a winner.

Oh, and there’s one more important thing, says O’Leary:

“The number-one rule is to make your pitch incredibly dynamic.”

Let’s do it!

How to Use Psychology to Pre-Suade Donors to Give

This time of year is what I call “presuasion time.”

Because if you’re thoughtful about it, you can presuade donors to give up to the moment you ask!

That’s what we reviewed in Part 1 of this two-part series, where I described research from Robert Cialdini, author of the seminal Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and the newer book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuadeand discussed how you might apply this research to your fundraising strategies. We learned the importance of leading with a “gift” or “favor” that will incline your donor favorably in your direction. Even the smallest of favors can create significant goodwill, and there are simple ways to boost the likelihood your favor will be returned.

  1. Today we’re first going to look at a way to tweak your language to make a difference.
  2. Then we’ll explore some types of favors donors are likely to value enough to want to reciprocate.

First, a reminder: Every time of year is presuasion time. Everthing you do with supporters should be designed to prime the pump so people are pre-disposed to give to you the next time you ask. Whether that’s next week, the week thereafter, or any week of the year! Whenever you’re not asking, you should be in presuasion mode.

So, let’s get a little psychologically-minded, keeping in mind one of the six core Cialdini principles of Influence and Perusasion: Reciprocity. In brief, human beings often feel obligated to return favors, even if they are unasked for.

Mail-email-300x250.jpg

How Often Should You Mail to Your Nonprofit Donors?

I decided to write this post due to the number of times nonprofits ask me “How often should we mail to our donors?” The corollary question is “How often can we ask people to give?”

The answer?

Well… if there was one quick answer I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole article. I’d just have given you a headline with a definitive response!

I know you want a definite answer.

And I could give you one. But it wouldn’t be the truth. Because the truth is different for every nonprofit. And the truth will even be different for your nonprofit at different points in your life cycle.

There are two definitive things I can tell you:

heart hands

5 More Strategies to Get and Keep Donors for Your Nonprofit

heart handsFor this year’s appeal, are you shooting from the hip?

Going from your gut?

Simply repeating what was done last year?

That may or may not be a good idea. It’s a little risky to take a stab in the dark. Or throw spaghetti against the wall.

It might stick, and draw your donors in, but…

What if there was a more scientific approach?

There is!

In my last article I shared five strategies informed by neuroscience, psychology and behavioral science research to help you be more strategic with your messaging to donors.

Today I’d like to add five more. Don’t worry you’re being manipulative. There are ethical ways to apply these principles. In fact, using them likely will help bring donors more joy, meaning and purpose than if you just threw pasta at them!

Ready for some ideas that might not be intuitive?

Happy donors

5 Strategies to Get and Keep More Donors for Your Nonprofit

Happy donorsPeople are unpredictable sometimes. They’re also predictable.

If you see someone yawn, you’re likely to yawn too.

If I tell you seats are limited, you’re likely to purchase a ticket now rather than later.

What if you knew donating to your nonprofit could be a predictable consequence of something you did?

It turns out you can encourage people to act in desirable ways simply by applying a few lessons learned from neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics.

Scientists have learned a lot over the past few decades. It’s up to us to put that learning to good use.

As Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, has noted: “There’s a gap between what science knows and what business does.”

  • The most successful for-profit businesses use what science knows to “convert leads to customers.”  The secret to more sales is knowing what the customer wants.
  • Your non-profit might convert prospects into donors, and donors into repeat donors, using these very same principles. The secret to closing more gifts is knowing what the donor wants.

Today I’d like to consider five specific strategies that will help you ethically take advantage of some of the psychology underlying human behavior. Once you understand these principles, you can begin to strategically apply them to your integrated development (marketing and fundraising) strategy. If you’re nervous about this, you can test what you did before against a new strategy informed by science. Break your mailing list randomly in half, send an “A” and a “B” version of your appeal, and see which performs best.

Ready for the science-informed strategies?

Sign: Thank You! You Are Essential

13 Top Secrets of Donor Thank You Letters Revealed

Sign: Thank You! You Are EssentialWhat do you spend more time on? Asking or thanking?

The lion’s share of nonprofits spend more time asking. It’s a BIG mistake. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not here to shame or blame you. Of course you have to ask. The number one reason people don’t give is they aren’t asked. And …

The number one reason donors don’t give again is they aren’t properly thanked!

Believe me, most donors aren’t sticking around. Your own retention rates may be better or worse than average (do you know them?), but generally only 19% of new donors give again. For ongoing donors, it’s just 45%.

The time to nip this in the bud is now.

Did you know a study from Charity Dynamics and NTEN found 21% of donors say they were never thanked at all? My hunch is some of these supporters did receive something from you, but it was so perfunctory they didn’t really take notice. Maybe you just send a receipt. Or took them to a thank you landing page; then called it a day. Or maybe they received a brief, formal email that confirmed the gift, but didn’t make them feel particularly special.

If you don’t have a killer thank you letter prepared to send to the folks you hope will be giving to you between today and the end of the year, now is the time to right this wrong.

If you thank well you’ll see retention rates increase significantly.

In fact, research from Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 70% of donors reported they would increase their giving if they received what they needed from you.

Brilliant, warm, authentic, personal communication stands out and leads to renewals. And this is a much less expensive strategy than new donor acquisition, which costs from $1 to $1.25 to raise a dollar. Whereas renewing a donor costs only 20 cents on the dollar.

By now you may be thinking: Sounds good, but how do we stand out? There must be some specific strategies that incline donors towards giving again, but what are they?

Today I share my top secrets with you. They’re simple and foolproof.

Ready?

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7 Strategies to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors

I hear a lot of complaining about donors.

They should do this:

    • Be more compliant.
    • Not make us work so hard to please them.
    • Treat us like we know what we’re doing.
    • Give just because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.

They shouldn’t do that:

    • Give any way other than ‘unrestricted.
    • Demand specifics on how their money was spent.
    • Act like they know more than we do.
    • Require reports that take us hours to complete.

What about what YOU should and should not do to build sustainable, fulfilling relationships with your supporters?

I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

I hear too much of “We already sent a thank you; that’s enough, and they shouldn’t expect more.”

Shouldn’t they?

Donors are people first, philanthropists second. And people need to know they’re important to you.

Let me tell you a true story.

A close friend of mine used to complain to me about her husband all the time. Why? Because he didn’t tell her he loved her enough. Understatement of the year.