Thursday, May 28, 2015

Is your organization numb or nimble?

One of the things I find interesting is how unable many nonprofits are to adapt to immediate needs and change. Is your organization nimble enough to be sensitive?
I'll give you a recent example. Lately the weather in Texas has been awful and the loss of life and property tragic. As you begin to prepare your end of fiscal year appeals, are you still soliciting folks in the Area affected? Or is it "too late" to stop the presses? Imagine receiving a solicitation when cleaning the muck out of your home.

Being sensitive to your donors is not just smart, it's a necessity. I remember twice in my life being directly affected by natural disasters, in 2004 with Hurricane Charlie and then again in 2011 with Superstorm Sandy. Both times I distinctly remember receiving phone call solicitations and mail in my mailbox asking me for money. I was offended and hurt. How could they not be aware? Was CNN not on their cable packages?

I also remember both times my alma mater, South Carolina reaching out to me to ask if I was ok and if there was any way they could help. Classy move that bolstered my loyalty.
I often say when talking to nonprofit fundraising professionals that it's not about what you say but what you do. How do you rise to the occasion? How does your organization show that it isn't numb to those in need?

What keeps us as organizations from being nimble? One of the factors definitely relates to protecting the "brand" and receiving approvals or decisions by committee for everything we do. I'm a leader in the beg forgiveness not ask permission movement, as I have found that to truly affect change you have to at times make mistakes and also make people uncomfortable in order to advance the cause. When is the right thing to do in direct conflict with the politically correct thing to do? Are they one in the same? I don't always believe so. The lack of adaptation causes us to build on aged practices and to live in a world of having always done it that way. This explains why in 2015 there are organizations that still haven't sent a fundraising email to date. Sigh.

The same holds true in the other circumstance. How are you demonstrating that your organization is nimble and able to rise to the occasion of unusual need? Do you have to jump through 84 hoops and receive sign offs from multiple sources in order to produce a last minute appeal? This could be holding you back from seizing an opportune moment. While you are seeking approval and permissions, others are capitalizing on your missed opportunity.

This is something to think about at all times. Do you have a plan in place for these situations? Planning is essential for your success.

Tell me in the comments how you remain nimble and not numb.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Your Ask to Thank Ratio

So I'm an admitted fundraising nerd. That's ok, I tell myself all the time. I base many of my findings on data, I love data. Data doesn't lie and is difficult to dispute. I've been tracking some interesting data for the past 6 months and I have some findings to share with you. It involved donor retention and the fact that our first time donors are leaving us in alarming amounts. Remember, according to the wonderful people at Bloomerang, first time donor retention hovers at 23%. When we ask donors why they don't give again, over-solicitation is the #1 reason.

Well, I now have living proof of that. I constantly ask non-profits what their ask to thank ratio is. Folks, it's really outta whack. Not just hard asks, but those supposed "soft" asks too. Remember, there is NO such thing as a "soft" ask to a donor, that's like being "partially" pregnant. An ASK is an ASK. I gave numerous gifts online on Giving Tuesday, you can see the information here and here is my experience with a few nonprofits from the list.


Since December, I've received 2 thank yous, and one receipt.  So I'll count that at 3. Since December I've received 19 solicitations. 3 in the postal mail, and 16 emails. 8 emails in December alone.


Khan Academy:

Since December I've received 3 thank yous and one receipt. That's 4. I've also received one solicitation.


Heifer International:

Since December I've received a WHOPPING 44 solicitations. And 2 thank yous including the receipt. 40 emails, 4 in the postal mail. In December, after I made my gift on the 3rd, I received 23 ASKS IN DECEMBER ALONE.


The opposite is also true. I haven't heard from some of the organizations I gave to in December at all since the day I gave.

Charity Newsies, American Pit Bull Foundation and Caromont Health:

All sent thank yous the day I gave and have never re-solicited me.


Many of you are probably asking, what is the correct ask to thank ratio? I don't have a magic answer for you. I think it honestly depends on your donor base. But I can tell you the following: You can't ask again until you've properly thanked the donor and explained the impact of THEIR gift. (See Charity Water for an example of this done correctly. Their ratio is 5 ASKS  to 8 THANKS so far). The first step is identifying your ask to thank ratio, not hard asks or soft ones but asks, period. In thanks you can count a receipt, an acknowledgment and any impact or gratitude piece, I'm generous here.

I would love to hear your thoughts and you can post anonymously the results of your test, ratios abound!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Aligning Strategy with Donor Preferences

I'm a big fan of changing the way we work. I think that far too often we build programs for donors without obtaining their feedback about the work we do. It's all very obtuse. Recently, Abila released a study on donor engagement. You can find the complete results here. Some of the observations are really astute and I think directly apply to our work in donor relations. 

Here are some of the most interesting data points I thought I would share with you:

Donors feel most engaged when they give and volunteer, kind of seems like a no-brainer, right? But look at the yellow- Thank you notes and personal stories are right up there! Woo hoo! Can you imagine what would happen if we told a story in a thank you note? Also look at how low of a score events are receiving. This underlines my point that most events we hold are not donor focused. 

Here's a chart broken out by generation and how they feel most involved and what kinds of organizations they're supporting.

This is a great graphic that shows by generation what is most important about the organizations they give to. Again, there's donor relations right at the center when we talk about using money wisely, and support making a difference, in other words: impact.


How are you listening to your donors to determine their preferences? Is their behavior driving your strategy? I'll give you a tangible example of us missing the mark. Last year the ice bucket challenge was a social media phenomenon. We gave online, we challenged via facebook and video, we communicated digitally. Yet two weeks ago I received a direct mail piece from the ALS foundation asking me for a donation to help recreate the ice bucket challenge through my gift in the enclosed envelope. Wait, seriously? Yup. 

Missing the mark is easy to do. How are you avoiding turning your donors away in droves? Are you listening? I look forward to your comments.