Posts tagged ‘donors’

October 4, 2019

The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience

Your nonprofit organization has a serious problem. While you are expending enormous energy to attract, retain, and upgrade donors, things aren’t working out as well as they could. As a sector, charities are doing a horrible job of hanging on to supporters.

Let’s be clear. The low retention rate among donors is not their fault. Instead, the fault rests with charities that do not ensure a donor experience that inspires long-term commitment.

Fortunately, there’s something you can do about this. You can enhance the experience of your donors and thereby increase your chance of retaining them and upgrading their support. A new book by Lynne Wester, The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience, will show you the way.  Lynne is the principal and founder of Donor Relations Guru  and the DRG Group. In addition to her books and workshops, she created the Donor Relations Guru website to be used as a unique industry tool filled with resources, samples and thought leadership on donor relations and fundraising.

I first encountered Lynne several years ago at an Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference. She was leading a mini-seminar in the exhibit hall hosted by AFP. As I was walking past, her talk stopped me in my tracks. She was entertaining while talking about a subject that seldom is properly addressed at fundraising conferences. And her thoughts about donor relations resonated with me. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Lynne’s latest book, which is graphically beautiful and accessible, breaks down the philosophy of donor engagement while providing concrete strategies, tangible examples, and a whole slew of images and samples from organizations across the nation who are doing great work. The book is interspersed with offset pages that really drive home the theories outlined and provide specific examples that nonprofit professionals constantly crave and request. You’ll find key metrics, team activities, survey questions, and so much more. If you want to improve your organization’s donor retention rate, get Lynne’s book and improve the donor experience.

I thank Lynne for her willingness to share some book highlights with us:

 

When I sat down to write The 4 Pillars of the Donor Experience, I wanted it to be a continuation of our thought work in The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations. But honestly, I wanted it to be a book that was read beyond donor-relations circles and practitioners and instead shared across departments and read widely by the nonprofit community.

Why? Because we have a huge problem facing our sustainability in nonprofits and that is donor retention. With first-time donor retention rates hovering below 30 percent, and overall donor retention less than 50 percent, we are in danger of losing our donor bases. We see this in the fact that 95 percent of our gifts come from five percent of our donors and, in higher education, the alumni giving rate is falling each and every year. My belief is that most of these declines can be attributed to our behavior and our insistence on ignoring the donor experience.

The donor experience is everyone’s responsibility and it requires much more than a thank you letter and an endowment report. It is a mindset. The four pillars—knowledge, strategy, culture, and emotion—can be applied in a wide variety of areas.

Knowledge is essential because it lays the foundation for all of our actions with donors. Far too often, we make dangerous assumptions that affect the donor experience. Getting to know your donors is essential. Look beyond the basic points of information and dig into a donor’s behavior and also communication preferences. Gathering passive intelligence is inextricable from the practice of crafting the donor experience. Seeking active intelligence is essential. What information are you gathering through surveys, questions, and intelligence gathering? Intentional feedback can help you prove your case for additional human and financial resources, new programs or initiatives, and gives you new content and activity to test.

In addition, consider how you can use this information to enhance the donor experience for all donors, regardless of level. Curiosity and tenacity are encouraged in this space. Being intentional is a mindset, a new way of operating and data drives all that we do. It’s your responsibility to gather as much data as possible to help build the strategic case for your donors and their experience.

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September 17, 2019

3 Reasons Why Your Year-End Fundraising Will Fail

Most charities raise more money during the last quarter of the calendar year than any other quarter. However, your year-end fundraising effort will fail to reach its potential unless you avoid the following three mistakes:

1. Failure to Tell Supporters What Their Previous Donations Have Achieved

Donors have choices about where they can give their money. Not surprisingly, they want to know that their giving is having a positive impact. If it’s not, or if they don’t know whether it is, they’ll take their support elsewhere. Chances are that your charity’s mission is not entirely unique. In other words, donors can fulfill their philanthropic aspirations by giving to another organization.

A few years ago, the Charities Aid Foundation conducted a survey that found that 68 percent of respondents said that they feel it is important for them to have evidence about how a charity is having an impact. Crying Man by Tom Pumford via UnsplashUnfortunately, many donors still complain that the only time they hear from charities is when they want money. Make sure your charity doesn’t make that mistake.

Make sure supporters and potential supporters know how your nonprofit organization is putting donations to work. Let them know what supporters are achieving. Share impact stories in your organization’s print and electronic newsletters, annual reports, special events, website, and special gratitude mailings.

You should even highlight donor impact in your appeals. Consider this: I tested a straightforward appeal against an appeal that highlighted donor impact before asking for a gift. The impact appeal generated 68 percent more revenue! So, make sure people know that their contribution will make a difference by showing them the positive effect past donations have had and by telling them how their donation will be put to work.

 2. Failure to Ask for Planned Gifts

As the end of the year approaches, your organization is facing fierce competition for an individual’s checkbook. Over the next few months, people will be deluged with charitable-giving requests. Furthermore, people will be spending large sums on holiday gift giving, entertaining, and vacationing.

However, a donor’s checkbook is just one potential resource. Many donors can donate appreciated stock, contribute from a Donor-Advised Fund, and give from their IRA. Virtually anyone can include your charity in their Will or designate your charity as a beneficiary.

Make sure you don’t assume that supporters automatically know all of the various ways they can give. Instead, make sure they know by promoting such giving opportunities. Tell stories of other donors who have given in those ways, and not just the mega-donors. Ask prospective donors to consider such gifts. And make it easy for your donors to engage in planned giving. Provide them with clear instructions on your website and in appeals that highlight a given planned gift opportunity.

To read what the experts, including myself, say about planned giving, checkout Jeff Jowdy’s article in Nonprofit Pro magazine.

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June 7, 2016

Be Smart. Act Like a Beauty Queen!

I recorded the 2016 Miss USA Pageant. I know. I know. But, here’s why: My favorite part of beauty contests is the question-and-answer portion of the show. Sometimes it’s a dud. More often, it’s hilarious. Sometimes, on rare occasions, it provides wisdom. The latter was the case this year.

Chelsea Hardin, Miss Hawaii, was asked an inappropriate question. Her response provides a wonderful example for fundraisers facing uncomfortable questions from donors and prospective supporters.

Pageant judge Laura Brown asked Miss Hawaii:

If the election were held tomorrow, would you vote Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump for president, and why would you choose one over the other?”

It was an awkward moment. Regardless of which candidate she would choose, Hardin would alienate a massive portion of the audience and, possibly, the judges. So, instead, she answered without revealing who she would vote for. Rather than picking one, she outlined the qualities of an ideal candidate. Hardin said:

It doesn’t matter what gender, what we need in the United States is someone who represents those of us who don’t feel like we have a voice, those of us who want our voices heard. We need a president to push for what is right, and push for what America really needs.”

While the audience booed the question, it cheered the response.

When speaking with prospects and donors, they occasionally will ask awkward questions. In this highly-charged political season, uncomfortable questions are even more likely to arise. When this happens, it’s important to keep the following five points in mind:

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May 20, 2016

Donors Say: Enough about You. Let’s Talk about Me!

A recent study reveals that donors support charitable causes for “very personal reasons.” In other words, giving is about them (the donors and what motivates them) and is far less about you and your nonprofit organization.

This is not surprising news to those of us who practice donor-centered fundraising. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have additional research data that supports the idea of being donor centered.

LOVE statue by Aaron Vowels via FlickrDonor Loyalty Study: A Deep Dive into Donor Behaviors and Attitudes is the study report from Abila, a leading provider of software and services to nonprofit organizations. The researchers explored questions with a representative sample of 1,136 donors in the United States across all age segments who made at least one donation to a nonprofit organization within the previous 12 months.

The study identifies the three “main reasons for donating”:

  • I am passionate about the cause — 59 percent
  • I know that the organization I care about depends on me — 45 percent
  • I know someone affected by their cause — 33 percent

Other reasons for donating generated far lower responses, ranging from just three to 18 percent.

You’ll notice that each of the top three reasons for giving involve “I” not necessarily you or your charity. Let’s explore this a bit.

The number-one reason for giving involves the donor’s passion. You’ll also notice that the donor is passionate about and supports the “cause” though not necessarily the organization.

In other words, I may be passionate about fighting cancer. However, I might be fickle when it comes to supporting a particular cancer charity. For example, this year, I might support the American Cancer Society. However, if I’m not stewarded or asked effectively, I might shift my support to the City of Hope next year. I’ll still be a passionate supporter of the fight against cancer, but the organization I choose to support will change.

The challenge for nonprofit organizations is to embody the cause for which donors have passion. An organization needs to demonstrate to its donors that it is the worthy channel for their passion. Remember, donors have choices. You need them more than they need you.

If you do what I’ve just said, donors will understand that you need them, that you “depend” on them. And that’s the second most common reason why people give. If your organization embodies a donor’s passion and let’s that donor know how important she is, she will be far more likely to renew and upgrade her support.

The third reason for giving is really just a sub-category of the first. Again, it’s about the “cause” rather than the organization. Yes, in some cases, it might be about your specific organization. However, that won’t always be the case.

By understanding your donors, you can tailor stewardship and appeal messages to them. This will improve your effectiveness.

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December 29, 2015

Avoid Burnout in 2016 with 3 Powerful, Simple Tips

The employee turnover rate at nonprofit organizations is shamefully high. A number of factors contribute to this, including burnout. While you cannot control all of the contributing factors, you can certainly manage some of them.

With that in mind, here are three powerful, yet simple, tips to help you avoid burnout in 2016:

Tip 1: Step back. Look at your organization in action.

As fundraising professionals, we spend a great deal of time focusing on tactics and numbers. There are good reasons for that. Effective tactics are essential for achieving fundraising success. Keeping careful track of the numbers helps us to know which tactics work best and indicates whether we’re on track to achieve our goals.

Binoculars by gerlos via FlickrUnfortunately, if we overly focus on tactics and numbers, we can lose sight of what really matters. Remember, it’s not just about the money you are able to raise; it’s about what that money can accomplish.

To help avoid burnout, make sure to take the time to plug back into your organization’s mission. Remind yourself of the good you are helping your organization to achieve by helping it secure essential resources.

If you work for a university, take a walk through campus and stop to have some conversations with students. If you work for a hospital, visit the maternity ward. If you work for a homeless shelter, spend some time in the kitchen preparing meals and then have a meal with some of the recipients. If you work for a theater, attend a performance, meet some of the performers, and talk to some members of the audience.

It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not just raising money. You’re helping your organization achieve its worthy mission.

Tip 2: Talk to your donors.

A great way to re-energize yourself is to talk with your organization’s donors. I don’t mean just talk to donors about their next gift. Instead, contact donors to thank them personally and learn why they support your organization. Their passion will likely inspire you.

Not only will you benefit from talking with donors, your organization will benefit as well. First, your organization will be less likely to have a staff member (you) burnout. Second, donors will be happy to hear from you and, as a result of the call, will be more likely to continue giving to your organization and more likely to give more.

For more about this, read my post: “The Greatest Idea for Retaining and Upgrading Donors.”

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