Some rules are meant to be bren. These three aren’t. Never. That is, unless you want to continue to lose donors hand over fist. If you’re the average nonprofit you’re retaining only 19% of first-time donors and 44% of all supporters. The Fundraising Effectiveness Report reveals the depressing data. It shows a pattern of donor…Details
What 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.
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.”
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.
… every time a nonprofit board or staff member told you “We’re the best kept secret in town; if people knew what we do, they’d give to support us.”
Nonprofits tell me this all the time! If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause. And I would, if…
- You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
- You engaged me personally,
- You discovered my values match yours,
- You offered me opportunities to connect with your mission and supporters that involved something other than money,
- You showed me you knew what most engaged my passions, and
- Then you asked me for a gift!
You see, merely “building awareness” will not ipso facto raise more money for your cause.
Just because I care about something, and somehow learn you are involved in doing something about that thing, doesn’t mean I’m going to support you financially.
Why should I? There are a lot of good causes out there, and making a decision to invest in you is something I need to act on.
I’m busy. I’m overloaded with information. And inertia is just too powerful a force.
You’ve got to do better than just hope I’ll stumble upon your website, see your social media post, hear about you on the news, or even open your direct email if you want me to really sit up, pay attention, and actively engage.
Especially if you want me to engage as a philanthropist.Details
The key to successful fundraising is knowing your donors.
If you don’t know them, you can’t nurture them.
If you don’t nurture them, they won’t grow.
Simply staring at your bare patch of land waiting for flowers to sprout and blossom doesn’t work 99% of the time.
Why are you waiting to ‘get lucky’ the winds will just blow some seeds your way?
Likely, this won’t happen.
Even if it does happen, the seeds may not take root and grow.
Unless you do something to help them along.
In fundraising, the best way to nourish supporters is to know them better.
So you can give them what they explicitly need, not what you think they need.
You need to engage in “getting to know you” activities so you’re basing your work on knowledge, not just opinion.
Why Don’t Fundraisers Reach Out to Get to Know Donors Better?
There are all sorts of excuses.
Many come from a sense of ‘donors’ being primarily identified that way, rather than as the complex people they truly are. Staff are often afraid of, or at least uncomfortable with, ‘donors.’ Even many volunteers, who aren’t major philanthropists themselves, feel this way.
Have you ever heard (or felt):Details
Are you in the right pond?
Alas, nonprofits spend too much time thinking about the right way to ask people for donations, yet not enough time thinking about who the right people are to ask.
It’s like buying a perfect fishing rod and reel, learning how to cast, and then casting off into empty waters.
Folks, success — in fishing and fundraising — takes more than toiling, tackle, and time.
If you are fishing in the wrong place, nothing else matters.
When You Need to BAIL on a Donor ‘Prospect’
Determining who to include in your major donor prospect portfolio takes work. It’s not something to be done on a whim (or on the whim of a board member who throws out the name of a celebrity who resides locally or a nearby venture capitalist or tech CEO.) That’s why I put “Prospect” in quotes, because So-and-So is not a viable prospect for you in any of the following circumstances.Details
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.Details
When you’re not aware you’re making a mistake, it’s hard to avoid it.
So let’s get curious. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a minute to imagine a donor you’ve been wanting to ask for a major gift. I’m going to ask you to visualize a space where you’re meeting. Put them in your office, their home, a café or even a Zoom screen. Choose what’s comfortable, and where you think you’d be most likely to meet with this donor within the next month or so.
Okay… do you have your donor and your meeting space in mind? Excellent!
Now, before closing your eyes, commit to visualizing these four things:
- You’re in the room together.
- You smile. They smile back.
- Someone else is in the room with both of you. . Imagine you brought them with you. Who are they, and how does it feel having them there to support you?
- Bolstered by the smiles and good company, what do you say to open the conversation?
SELF-EXERCISE: Okay, are you ready to close your eyes? Even if this feels a little weird, why not give it a try? (1) Pick your donor… (2) your meeting space… (3) your additional person supporting you in the room… and (4) open the conversation. What are you saying to them? What are they saying back? Play this scenario out just a bit, until you get to a place of comfort or discomfort. Then open your eyes.
What did that feel like?
What felt comfortable to you? Uncomfortable? Did it feel more comfortable and pleasant than you may have imagined? Smiling people, committed to the same cause, hanging out in a comfortable space together…. from such a space can come many good things. What did you say to open the conversation? How did that feel?
If it felt good, why? If it didn’t feel good, why?
Take a few minutes to journal some answers to those questions. I guarantee this will help you shift the energy for the next time you move into this space – in real time – with a donor.
A Mistake is Just a Misjudgment
It’s not fatal; you can correct it. But first you have to recognize it happened!Details
I recently wrote about 4 Strategies to Listen so Others Will Talk, noting the secret to building authentic relationships is to use your two ears and one mouth in that proportion.
It’s a good start, but there’s more.
You can’t just listen passively.
Active listening, supported by powerful, succinct, to-the-point generative questions – that’s what will draw you and your donor (or anyone with whom you’re in relationship) closer together.
But not all active listening is created equal. And you may think you’re actively listening, when really you’ve listened for a hot minute; then gone down your own rabbit hole of reality. In that rabbit hole, you become the narrator. It thus becomes your story, not the donor’s.
Today we’ll explore how to draw your donor out so you truly hear their voice and sense their emotions, not your own.
1. Economy of language.
This is something I value, as an outsider looking in.
I’m not good at it.Details
Text messaging is becoming an increasingly important fundraising tool. Why? One of the reasons is U.S. adults now spend 10.5 hours/day consuming media. With all the competition for your donors’ attention, there’s a need to cut through the clutter.
Texting can do that! In fact, it offers a wonderful way to strengthen and build authentic relationships with your donors because it’s so intimate and immediate. Done well, it can create a potent way for people to connect with your cause.
The key is to choose the texting tools that will work best for you, given your resources and constituency, and to wield those tools with wisdom and responsibility. While I’m not recommending any particular products, much of what I’m reporting in this article I’ve learned from experts at Rally Corp and Qgiv. You can find additional platforms here; there are others as well.
Why text messaging is so powerful for fundraising
- Over 90% of Americans own a smartphone. And they look at it at least 80 times/day, on average.
- 98% of texts are read within the first five minutes – which is way better than the 20 – 30% open rates for emails.
- 39% of people have more than 100 unread emails in their inbox, with 20% saying they have over 1,000
- 10 – 15 minutes is the average adult attention span; short term it can be as short as 8 seconds.
- 90% of texts get opened and read.
- 45% of people reply to branded text message blasts; 5%x the average reply rate of emails. The most immediate information – where folks go if they really want to reach us – is found on smart phones.
- Almost 40% of Americans use cell phones to pay at least one bill. So your constituents are already accustomed to processing financial transactions via mobile.
- Studies suggest text messages generate average gifts of $112 per Rally Corp. Even major gifts are given this way today.
- Adding a text to donate as a giving option resulted in a 32% increase in giving over a 12-month period per a study by PushPay.
- A study by Qgiv learned 10% of donors, overall, prefer to give by phone. And it’s a higher percentage for certain demographics. While not as attractive to Boomers (who still represent the majority of giving), it’s true for more than 30% of GenX and Millennials.