puzzle pieces

Bring Top Value to Your Donor Survey

I get lots of questions about what to include in donor surveys.  But that’s the wrong place to begin.

First you must have clarity on why you’re sending the survey. You can’t bring top value to your donor survey unless you’re specific about what value you want to receive and deliver. The great thing about donor surveys is they’re a genuine “twofer.”

  1. One is for you(useful information you will act on);
  2. One is for your donor(a way to usefully participate, other than giving money, and feel a part of a community of like-minded folks).

Donor surveys are an opportunity for a value-for-value exchange. This is at the heart of all successful fundraising and marketing. The donor gives something of value (usually time and/or money) and you return something of value (usually an intangible “feel good;” a sense of meaning, purpose and connection). Donors are focused on value; you need to focus there too. And value is understood as a clear ‘walking’ of your talk.

Never do something merely to check the task off your ‘to-do’ list. If you’ve had “do a survey” on your back burner for a while, now’s the time to move it to the forefront and give it a closer and more purposeful look. What pieces of the puzzle are you looking to uncover? Begin with asking: How will I know this survey was successful?

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8 Strategies to Celebrate Nonprofit Donors on Valentine’s Day

I love a good celebration.

And nothing is more worth celebrating than a holiday, and your donors!

So… let me wish you a happy Groundhog Day! Whether or not the groundhog sees their shadow, chances are good we’re still in for a long season of time during which donors could really use a little extra love from you. As I’ve written before, during this season of isolation and uncertaintly, people — your donors included — are love starved.

You’ve still got time to send a little love your donors’ way!

Why might this be something for you to consider, amidst all the other “to-do’s” on your plate?

If you don’t do a lot more donor loving, you’re going to do a lot more donor losing.

I hope by now you know donor retention is the name of the game. It costs so much more to acquire a new donor than to keep an existing one. Yet too few nonprofits have serious, intentional donor stewardship programs in place. Because of that, on average, nonprofits lose nearly 8 out of 10 first-time donors and close to 6 out of 10 of all donors.

Don’t be one of those organizations!

If donors only hear from you when you want something from them, they’re not likely to give more. Or even give again.

Be generous! Show donors how much their support means to you.

Really, donor love should be like breathing for you. In and out. Out and in.

  • They love you, and show you.
  • You love them, and show them.

You’ll be amazed at how a little love can go a long way.

This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking?

If you can’t send valentines to every donor, pick a segment or two.

Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love, because they showed you some. Show them you noticed! They could be:

  • Major donors.
  • Monthly donors.
  • Donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more.
  • Donors who increased their giving this year.
  • First-time donors of $100+.
  • Donors who also volunteer.
  • Board and committee members.
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Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year:

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.  Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgivings, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company. This year the company may be virtual, but the gratitude for shared connection will be the same.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

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Street art: "Doing the right thing isn't always easy."

6 Strategies to Upgrade Nonprofit Donors Using Suggested Gifts

Street art: "Doing the right thing isn't always easy."I’m a fan of suggested ask amounts.

As you put the finishing touches on your year-end appeals, don’t make donors guess how much you need, or what you expect from them.

Clue people in. It’s the right thing to do.

If what you’re currently planning is some version of “please give whatever you can” or “please consider increasing your gift,” I encourage you to rethink your plan. Those phrases are vague.  And vague requests yield token gifts. Or no gifts at all.

The best requests for money are for a specific purpose and a specific amount.

As in “Dad, I need $250 to buy school books.” Or “Grandma, I need $5,000 to buy a used car.” Or see the philanthropic ask examples from Oxfam and Charity: water below:

Oxfam Donation Landing Page

Charity water ask string

When you don’t give folks anchor amounts to hang onto, they’re apt to put your appeal aside for some time when they’ve more time to think about it.

More often than not, that ‘some time’ never happens.

So give folks an anchor of some sort, unless you want folks to stop dead in their tracks trying to figure out the right amount.

  • No one wants to feel ungenerous by giving less than is considered helpful.

  • No one wants to be a ‘chump’ by giving more than you need, or more than others like them are giving.

  • While some donors upgrade their giving without being asked, most donors wait to be asked – or at least to be offered a darn good reason to give more.

Research tells us donors will give more, on average, when they’re prompted with specific amounts. They’ll give even more when offered a choice of giving levels (download Sustainers in Focus by Blackbaud).  But you have to do it the right way.

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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.

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Show Me You Know Me* — 5 Strategies To Sustain Donor Relationships

Let’s pretend you and your donor are not connecting meaningfully right now. You’re not sure why. Could it be they feel financially insecure…  they’re worried for their kids… they’ve been let down by politicians… they’re just feeling cynical and/or hopeless? For whatever reason, things aren’t singing between you and them. They haven’t renewed. They haven’t upgraded. They haven’t responded to any of your outreach. They seem to have other priorities.

So, you decide to go to counseling to reinvigorate the relationship. The therapist makes a wise observation: Sometimes in life, one partner feels strong; the other less strong. In such times, the stronger partner has resources to support the weaker partner. Other times, neither partner feels they have coping resources. During these times, we have to depend more on ourselves, be patient, and accept that our partner is not currently in a strong position – even though we really need their support.

Are you being a support for your donor? Are you helping, not selling all the time? Are you being patient, yet persistently showing you care?

We’re in turbulent times.. Giving has surged overall during the pandemic, but there are fewer individual givers.  Some industries, like education, are losing support. As are many smaller charities not involved in addressing hot-button topics. And prior to the pandemic studies showed giving to be sluggish. Donors are less loyal. Donors may be distracted by emergencies. Or so-called rage giving. Or simply uncertainty about what lies ahead. So they’re giving less consistently. As a result, donor centered fundraising has never been as important as it is now.

People are feeling a need to be nurtured. In other words: Ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors. Recognize they don’t serve you; you serve them. They don’t owe you; you owe them.  Your job is to help them experience the joy of giving. It is through you they will achieve their most meaningful work.

Embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind.  Remember your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy.  Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.

So… what can you do to embrace the love and thereby keep your donors close?

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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.

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Collage of nopnprofit heart logos

Survival of the Most Loving – and Loved (aka, Why do so many charities have ♥♥♥ in their logos?)

Collage of nopnprofit heart logosWhy do people – with plenty of worries and expenses — give hard-earned money that could otherwise be spent on their own families, taxes and bills to complete strangers via philanthropy?

It’s not a rational thing to do.

This is a question that puzzled Charles Darwin.

While known for the theory of “survival of the fittest” (which actually was coined by the philospher, Herber Spencer), Darwin posited the notion of “survival of the kindest,” finding sympathy to be the strongest human instinct. You see, survival doesn’t necessarily mean the strongest or most aggressive. It depends, as much if not more, on cooperation and empathy.

Which would mean people give to be helpful because they’re biologically wired that way.

It simply pays off to come from the heart and be generous.

Humans are wired to be selfless.

Recent research in psychology agrees with Darwin,

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Me wearing a mask

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

There’s a pandemic out there killing people.

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 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 — to create happier supporters.

Notice a lot of folks saying “2020 is 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 (not random) 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 a Pandemic, and Beyond

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4 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020

4 Types of ‘PERSONAL’ Your Nonprofit Must Adopt Today

4 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020Early in my career I received a piece of fundraising advice that has stuck with me to this day:

People are all people.

And what do you do with people if you want to build a relationship?

You get PERSONAL!

In fact, if I had to tell you how to win over donors with just one word, “personal” is the word I’d choose.

This word should become your mantra and underscore everything you do. Your annual appeal writing. Your special events. Your newsletters. Your blog posts. Your proposals. Your reports. Your social media.

If you take just this one word to heart — PERSONAL — you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

This is the one word that can set you apart.

That can help you build relationships like nothing else.

Though we talk a lot about empathy and donor-centricity, truly valuable tools in building donor relationships, these terms are subsumed by the umbrella of the ‘person’ to whom they apply.

Make sense?

Today I’d like to flesh out the multiple meanings of this word, and discuss how getting personal can help you achieve your nonprofit fundraising and marketing goals.

This is something that has always mattered. Today, in an era of social distancing and striving for greater diversity, equity and inclusion, how we get personal and how we define people are more important than ever.

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