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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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?

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So, Your Nonprofit Donor Wants to Give Cryptocurrency?

Donor with cell phone, crypto

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed cryptocurrency philanthropy basics.

Let’s say you’re intrigued, and want to dip your toes in the water?

How to Accept Crypto?

There is more than one way. These are listed in order of easiest to greatest need for tech and finance savvy.

  1. Donor advised funds and giving wallets. These are now being set up to accept cryptocurrency. If nothing else, you can alert supporters that if they have a DAF they can funnel crypto to you that way. Also, every.org and givewell are crypto wallets that act similarly to a DAF by accepting gifts from donors, then granting your nonprofit cash without you ever having to take custody of the asset. You never have to worry about accounting and legal concerns of accepting crypto.

 

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS solution) donor management platform. Organizations such as The Giving Block, engiven, Crypto for Charity by Freewill and Charitable Solutions, LLC are already set up to accept cryptocurrency on behalf of your organization (the list keeps growing). These dedicate crypto NGOs will sell the asset and transfer the proceeds to you. You can put a widget/button on your website to facilitate this. Crypto goes directly into exchange and is immediately traded for dollars (there is a small fee; around 1%). This is safe, secure and simple as generally the asset will be immediately liquidated (within milliseconds), which is super important with highly volatile assets like crypto. This protects you from a donor asking what you did with their $100,000, and you having to tell them you only realized $50,000 because you delayed a day to sell it.

 

  1. External custody. Behind the scenes, all platforms use a cryptocurrency brokerage or exchange. Three reputable ones are Coinbase Commerce, Kraken and Gemini. They typically charge 35 – 50 basis points per transaction. No donation processing or receipting is available. Nonprofits with expertise in asset management, trading and technology may consider building their own donation widget using these services. Be aware it can take many months to establish an account. Plus, you also need an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” [fold in crypto to your Gift Acceptance Policy; run this by your professional advisors and finance committee] to shield leadership.

 

  1. Self-custody. This is not for everyone and requires a hardware USB device that can be plugged into the computer when someone wants to make a transaction. They’re cold storage, kept off the internet, and highly secure. The downside is it requires a very savvy staff person and high security around custody. Plus it’s tricky to liquidate when you hold it in your hardware wallet. Some donors giving these digital assets like to see nonprofits holding those gifts as crypto, as part of an effort to see crypto go mainstream. If you have the ability to be strategic with investments, for example by building a reserve, you might consider holding onto crypto in its native form. UNICEF, for example, can receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency with its UNICEF CryptoFund. Again, you’ll want an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” to guide when you’ll sell.

How to Promote?

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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. 

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R.I.P. Donor Pyramid?

Swirling fractalThe modern model is more like a vortex — an energized circle where everyone is equal. People move in and out as needed, and your job is to keep the energy flowing.

NOTE: My article on the topic of moving away from the donor pyramid model for donor acquisition, cultivation and major gift solicitation recently resurfaced on social media dialogue, so I thought it was time for a reprint.

Why do we always think of donors with pyramids? The pyramids were built in Egypt. On the backs of slaves. It took a very, very long time. The cost, in human terms, was untenable and unsustainable.

That’s why you don’t see many pyramids being built these days.

Except in nonprofits, where building the donor pyramid is still the holy grail. Get ’em in. Move ’em up. Acquire through direct mail. Convert to monthly donor or sustainer. Acquire through events. Convert to mail. Up, up, up … to the pinnacle of major and planned gifts!

Except for one tiny thing.

It doesn’t work.

Pyramid building is so 2630 BCE. Nobody’s got 100,000 workers (aka direct-mail donors) building a solid pyramid anymore. Many so-called pyramids really look like hourglasses. Or upside-down pyramids. Or plateaus. Even the pyramid-shaped ones are resting on shaky foundations of donors who move in and out, in and out — eight out of 10 newly acquired bottom-of-the-pyramid donors leave — making the “foundation” more like a river than a solid, secure slab of mortar. The days of the donor pyramid model are gone!

Digital toppled the donor pyramid. Actually, it crumbled it … slowly, surely … until there was nothing left but an empty frame. A triangle on paper. The donors no longer fit inside of it.

R.I.P. donor pyramid. You had a good run.

The donor pyramid (sometimes call the donor ladder) was a great model for linear thinkers like me. It was neat and orderly. Engage folks from the bottom up, level by level, one step at a time. It was stable.

Or so we thought,

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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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Girls sharing secrets

5 Secret Nonprofit Donor Retention Action Strategies

Girls sharing secretsGiving is an emotional experience. It deserves an emotional response.

Be human.

Ever notice how sometimes when we put on our work hats we cease to be human? How we somehow morph into little robotic “professionals” and become enamored of jargon?

“Lybnts.” “Sybnts.” “Recaptures.”

Not that those things aren’t important. You need goals and objectives.

And given the dreadful state of donor retention in the U.S. today (and in the U.K and Canada as well), it’s vital you be able to measure how you’re doing. Because growth in giving is a factor not just of how many new donors and dollars you acquire, but also of how many donors and dollars you lose.

If you lose as many current donors as you gain new ones, you’re getting nowhere. Fast.

Treadmills Are Only Good in the Gym

Slow down.

Think about what you’re doing and why. You may need to change your frame of mind.

When you acquire a new donor, is it for that one-time transaction? If so, that’s not a very thoughtful strategy, because it costs more money than you make to acquire new donors. In fact, you likely won’t make back your investment for 18 months or so. You won’t make it back at all if you don’t renew that donor.

Nonprofits, sadly, have been on a non-stop treadmill. Donors in. Donors out. Donors in. Donors out. So… something about just measuring this stuff isn’t really working.

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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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Mona Lisa with face mask

How long… will this be going on?

Mona Lisa with face maskIf you’re like me, chances are every other email in your inbox has something referencing coronavirus. You can’t ignore it, avoid it or wish it away.

So… what is your organization going to do?

The inimitable thought leader, Seth Godin, recently had this to say:

React, respond or initiate?

That’s pretty much all that’s on offer.

What will you do next?

The first gives us visceral satisfaction and emotional release, and it almost always leads to bad outcomes.

Responding is smarter. It requires each of us to think hard about the action and emotion we seek to create after something is put on our desk.

And the third? Initiating is ever easier and leveraged than ever before, which, surprisingly, also makes it more difficult to move up on our agenda.

In normal times, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of simply responding. Someone else setting the agenda.

When things are uncertain, it’s easy to react.

But now, right now, is the single best time to initiate. We’re in for a slog, but there will be an end to it.

Make things better by making better things.

Taking this advice to heart, I’d like to share a couple of examples of organizations who have initiated some inventive strategies to stay connected to their supporters in these challenging times. Usually I would share these in my “Don’ts vs. Do’s” feature. But both of these are big ‘Do’s,’ so I want to highlight what’s brilliant about them. You can ‘sincerely flatter’ them through imitation — and a bit of your own innovation.

Ready to be inspired?

OMG, What Will We Do About Our Upcoming Event?

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