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. For every 100 new donors acquired, on average nonprofits lost 96 existing donors.

“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?

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3 people with marching orders

3 Ridiculously Easy Strategies to Boost Fundraising by 27%

3 people with marching orders I’m excited to share three easy tips with you, and the results are measurable.  Do these things and you’ll be able to tell if they impact your bottom line!

I was inspired to share these ideas with you based on a 2019 study by NextAfter and Kindful looking at how organizations are cultivating donors via email. They found plenty of data-driven ideas that can improve donor retention and boost online fundraising revenue — by as much as 27%!

Think about how much an increase like that could mean for your organization!

That’s right!

Make way…” for these ridiculously easy, revenue-boosting strategies!

If you raised $100,000 last year, you could raise $127,000 – or more – this year.

And that’s without having to apply for a new grant, hold a new fundraising event or even ask for a new major gift or two to reap these rewards.

All you must do is simply pay a little more attention to your follow-through communication with donors.

Did you know most of the top reasons donors give for not renewing their giving have to do with how you do/don’t communicate with them after they make a donation?– or fail to personally, meaningfully and promptly communicate.

Meaningful, regular donor communication can hugely impact your bottom line.

To make a demonstrable difference in donor behavior, however, your communication strategy must tick more than one box. It must be prompt, personal and relevant to what your donor cares about and how they want to hear from you. Don’t just guess what your donors might like from you. Ask them!  In fact, surveys, social media queries, online quizzes, solicitations for comments and feedback are all wonderful ways to communicate digitally in a manner that personally engages your supporters.

Never forget: The best fundraising is personal.

So… what are you waiting for?

Here are three strategies revealed by the research: 

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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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Customer-service-300x300.jpg

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.

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How to Rock Donor Thank You Calls

7 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors

You’ve got to make donor retention more of a priority to survive and thrive in today’s competitive nonprofit marketplace.

Research shows the average nonprofit in the U.S. loses 81% of donors after the first gift!!!!!

In and out a revolving door is too expensive to be sustainable.

To make matters worse, the probability a donor will make five consecutive gifts is only 10-15%. These numbers are just not sustainable for most organizations. By the time you’ve added a new donor most of your previous new donors are out the door.

And, by the way, did you know donor acquisition costs you money?  Yup. On average, it will cost you $1.00 – $1.25 to bring in a new donor dollar. So… the value of a new donor to your organization is wrapped up in the concept of donor lifetime value. Once you have a new donor, the cost to renew them is much less expensive than the cost to acquire them. Just like in for profit marketing, keeping a current customer is easier than finding a new one.  But… you have to actively engage in customer cultivation and renewal strategies.

If you don’t energetically renew and upgrade donors over time, you may as well never have recruited them.

Allow that to sink in a moment.

Might you effectively be wasting a lot of time, energy and money on acquisition? Could some of your resources be more effectively deployed to donor retention?

I’m going to go out on a limb and wager the answer is a resounding YES.

Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you do, there’s hope for you to improve it. Read on.

If you don’t, you don’t even know there’s something that needs fixing! Read on.

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trust sign

Wrong Ways to Woo Nonprofit Donors

trust signWhat do you most need to sustain your nonprofit through thick and thin?

A steady, reliable source of income – natch!

For most nonprofits this means loyal donors.

How do you get them?

Alas, too many nonprofits act as if all they need to do is acquire the donor; then, magically, that donor will stick with them forever.  Sadly, the data shows otherwise. On average only 20% of first-time donors renew; only 43% of all donors renew. And there’s a very good reason this sorry state of affairs exists.

Most nonprofits woo donors the wrong way.

It may not happen all the time. But it happens enough. Too often, in fact.  Does this look at all like the trajectory of how you handle a newly acquired gift?

  • You badger the donor for gifts.
  • When they give, you warehouse them in your database.
  • You then send a form letter (pretending it’s personal because you use their given name and indicate their gift was earmarked for a particular purpose; in reality, most of the time you don’t know them from Adam nor do you try to get to know them beyond what they wrote on the flap of the remit envelope).
  • Next, they get on your newsletter list and receive mass mailings.
  • Before you know it – or know much about them — they’re getting another appeal letter.

There’s a better way.

Actively show donors love and trust. This is the best way to get them to love and trust you, and the two most important aspects of donor loyalty. Relationships that last are reciprocal. Penelope Burk, the queen of donor-centered fundraising, famously found through her research that donors’ number one desire is … please, please “show me that you know me.” If you want donors to trust you and be loyal to you, you have to trust them and be loyal to them.  Simple, yes?  Actually, no.

To earn trust and loyalty takes strategy.  And it takes work. Mark Schaefer makes a brilliant analogy

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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.

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Donor screening call

Donors Screening Calls? 12 Strategies to Stop Being Defeatist.

Donor screening callHave you ever made a phone call hoping to talk with someone, but instead reached voice mail?

Of course you have!

Does that mean you don’t ever make phone calls?

Of course not!

What do you do?

You leave a message and ask the person to call, email or text you back.

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

But at least they know you reached out to them. If they want to connect with you, they now have an invitation to do so. And if they know you, and like you, they’re very likely to return your call.

Donors know you. They like you. Otherwise they wouldn’t have made a gift to you.

So why are you, or your board members, so afraid to pick up the phone to thank them?

All the time nonprofits tell me “Asking our board members to make thank you calls won’t work, because people screen their calls these days; they won’t pick up.”

Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t.

Either way, you’ll have accomplished something important merely by proactively reaching out.

Stop worrying about how your donors will or won’t behave. Instead, worry about how you’re behaving. Or not.

Don’t donors deserve thank you calls?

Of course they do!

Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 91% of donors said this is their number one preferred method of recognition.

Thank you phone calls, IMHO, are the number one underutilized strategy in your fundraising toolkit.

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Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Donor-Led Progress

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Philanthropic Progress

Greg Warner of Market Smart writes a lot about the difference between “work” and “progress.” I appreciate the distinction, both professionally and personally. I think you can use this notion, so I’m going to suggest a way to extend this idea to your nonprofit fundraising.

Warner notes in Why You Should Never Get a Job and Go to Work: “work” is tedious and negative; “progress” is inspiring and positive.

This is about being intentional about where you’re going.

It’s somewhat about perception and desitnation, but I’d argue it’s largely about the journey.

Your journey. Your donor’s journey.

And how everyone feels about the endeavor.

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