Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Words Matter, Especially to Your Donors

I hope everyone is well and for those of you in New England, safe and sound. 

Recently, I received two communications that are so stunningly perverse I had to bring them to you. As you know, I love my profession, I love fundraising and non profits, but every once in a while, I just have to throw up my hands and scream.

I received an email the other day, here's the first line:
Seriously folks? That is supposed to inspire me? Should I feel gratitude and well thanked? Nope, I actually feel like the PHA doesn't know me at all. The great irony, is that I didn't even make a gift to their "year end appeal", I gave as a result of Giving Tuesday, not as a result of their solicitations. I would laugh, but instead I'm sad. My good friend Mark, who writes on leadership and training for fundraisers here, said this on my Facebook: "Reminds me of story of the disappointed president when he found out an alumnus had given $40 million to a research institute instead of the $20 million gift he had solicited from the same donor for his alma mater. Said the donor: "You asked me to help finish your campaign. They asked me to help cure cancer and save lives."

I was so hoping this was an anomaly, but sadly, I know it's not. Two days later, I received this in the mail from an organization I've never supported before and who clearly bought my contact information from one I have. Le Sigh. 

"My annual fund enclosed" is so inspiring. And having a president of a national organization address me as "friend" in a bad hand written mocking font moves my philanthropic heart more than you know. 

But here's the kicker- I was told to detach the next bit of the mailing and place it in my wallet with pride...

 Speechless. I'll put it right next to my health insurance? Or my Delta Sky Miles Card?

Yes, fundraising is a business, but we need to leave our business jargon out of it and instead tell our story and inspire our donors with that story. Folks, it's not about us, it's about them. The more we make the donor the hero, the better we all are. Words matter. Choose them carefully and let them inspire those that inspire us so much to continue our craft. Not only can we do better we must do better. Because it matters, not just to us, but to them and the future of our causes.

What are your thoughts? Am I being to harsh or are these examples as tragic as I believe? How do you combat jargon and junk to your donors? 
Have any great examples? Share them here:


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Radically Transforming Donor Retention

Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Texas with an amazing organization. One of the key changes of culture that evolved out of our work together was that the amount of the gift the donor gave was the LEAST important part of their story, that we needed to look at their behavior first.

Here's why: In the latest fundraising effectiveness project report from Bloomerang which you can find here, the numbers are scary:


This is NOT sustainable for our industry. Donor retention is more than just a buzzword, it's a lifestyle. If we move the needle on donor retention, then the rest of our culture of philanthropy changes. And revenue changes along with it, and this makes fundraisers happy. 
What is our role in this? Our role is to radically transform the way we perform donor relations. It's no longer ok to focus our efforts at the top of the pyramid, regardless of the fact that over 80% of our revenue comes from the top. If we don't split our time equally, yup 50/50, then those entry level donors will NEVER grow to be major donors if they don't make a second gift. So it's our job, our pleasure,  to examine their behavior and what it tells us. Look at the following behaviors and make sure you have a corresponding donor relations touch for each one:
  • First Time Donors
  • Loyal Donors of more than 5 years
  • Donors who upgrade their gift by 25% or more
  • Donors who have lapsed and then returned
  • Monthly or sustaining donors who make more than 4 gifts a year
  • Online only/digital donors
There are samples of many of these on my site, I'd love to see yours. What I'd also like to see disappear is charts of what we do for donors based on their amount, that can be a factor later, after we've looked at their behavior FIRST. We need to show them we notice them and that they are unique and they will come back, and so will their gifts...

Time for a radical shift in the way we behave, and the donors will follow.
What are your thoughts?