I don't know about you, but my colleague Emily Goodstein mentioned that one thing she wishes was that organizations asked her more often about why and how she decided to get involved. Emily is my bellwether for how millennials think and behave. Me, I'm GenX, which might make you think I'm a slacker, but in fact I'm more likely to make a monthly gift to your organization than any other demographic segment. As GenX and millennials increase their giving over time, knowing more about us and better personalizing communication to us will be paramount.
There’s a lot out there about how to convert prospects to donors. Direct mail has it down to a science. Email used to be the wild west, but over the last decade has generated its own list of best practices and golden rules, which are in turn enthusiastically broken by lead-edge innovators. The question is – how can you do it better and more efficiently?
The answer may lie in data. When I speak of data, in my mind I divide it up into two parts. The first is demographic and psychographic data, which is the kind of data you can buy. Think about things like age, sex, income, political affiliation, interests, the type of car you drive. In the long run, if you have good tools and good methodology, you can test different messaging on different segments and find pockets of profitability. Maybe people who drive a Prius who were born prior to 1985 are more likely to become a monthly sustainer, for example.
But that won’t tell you WHY a donor decided to give to your organization. To find out what motivated the donor (or better yet, what will motivate similar prospects), you usually will have to ask. Thanks to online systems and social media, it’s easier than ever to ask questions and collect responses online. Maybe even too easy – as anyone who has collected a lot of data and then had to cull through the results can tell you.
So it’s best to begin at the end. Before you jump in to write the questions and answers and set up the survey, think about how you will use the answers that you collect. Every single question should have an application that will help you better communicate with this potential donor. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and theirs. Don’t collect data that you’re not going to use.
Where can you collect this data? One of the easiest places is via your website in the place where people can join the email list. Best practices recommend that you keep the email signup form brief – if it’s too hard or seems like it will take too long to fill out the form, people might abandon it. But I think that it’s worth testing out including one very simple question. For-profit websites often ask “How did you hear about us?” They’re trying to gauge the effectiveness of their advertising spend. For a mission-driven nonprofit organization who wants to ask this potential supporter to make a gift, the question is a little different, and there are plenty of ways to ask it.
The format of the answer could vary – multiple choice, with “Other” if the person’s reason doesn’t fit one of your pre-written answers. Or just a text box, so they can state the reason in their own words. Or anything else you can dream up. Make sure you actually read the answers, or scan them for keywords, and make a meaningful attempt to understand what the person means. In fact, for essay questions I'd argue that it's worth the time to have a real live human person read every single answer and categorize or tag the person somehow in your CRM system so you can use their answers for segmenting.
Wondering where I got my information about generational giving patterns? You don't have to take my word for it - you can download our study about generational giving. It's a fascinating read, and important to boot, because it's where the future of giving is headed.
Ask any nonprofit what the lifeblood of their organization is and most will tell you it’s the donor. Cultivating an ongoing relationship with the donor is of extreme importance, but it also raises a burning question: Who, exactly, owns the donor? Traditionally, it has been the development staff – or, in some instances, a senior fundraiser.
Talk to development staff at nearly any nonprofit organization and this is what you’ll likely hear: “It’s my job to develop and maintain the key connections that drive gifts. I need to control the interactions. Stay away from my contacts and let me do this my way.”
This “fundraiser owns the donor” model often works for a while, especially when programs are first introduced, but it can also be a double-edged sword. Here’s why.
The issue of who owns donors is really a question of who and what the sources of organizational value are in a given donor’s mind. Nonprofits can better position themselves for long-term success by adapting their community engagement strategy to create layered sources of value in donors’ minds. Some ways to do this include:
When you create multiple sources of value, donors will rely more on the organization rather than any one individual within the organization.
Making the transition to an organization that provides multiple touch points to a donor isn’t easy. Organizations are more likely to succeed when they use events that create an expectation of change (new year, new leadership, missed financial goal, etc) as catalysts for enabling the transformation.
By and large, long-term donors engage with a nonprofit because they believe in the mission, are passionate about what the organization is doing and communicate with the nonprofit via various channels. Nonprofits should structure the organization to embrace the donor in a multifaceted way. Ultimately, the results will be a fully engaged donor that is "owned" by the nonprofit versus a moderately engaged donor that is "owned" by one individual.
[Read the Harvard Business Review? If all but the last couple paragraphs sound familiar, it’s because this entire post was inspired by the corporate-focused “Who Owns Your Customer Relationships: Your Salespeople or Your Company?” as posted by Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, and Sally E. Lorimer.]
I wear my Millennial identity on my sleeve.
I’m a proud member of the American generation born between 1980 and 2000, and thus am slightly fascinated by research done on my peers.
The latest chapter in my Millennial research reading spree came in the form of the third annual Millennial Impact Report. In addition to having a very well formatted website and some catchy social media content, the study itself is useful to nonprofits looking to engage those in their 20s and 30s in advocacy and fundraising.
Here’s a few of the stats from the 2012 report and my take on how they’ll impact your online strategy:
I know, I know…I’m like those annoying retailers putting out stockings when you haven’t even finished carving your pumpkin but considering that most organizations receive nearly half of their annual online donations in the last two months of the year, I’m totally going there.
That’s right – it is officially momentum-building time! End of year is a busy time for everyone but you can watch those fundraising dollars go up at the end of the year if you get your supporters enthusiastic about your organization over the next few months. Here are a few tips to get you started:
View the full guide with 10 simple steps to set your organization up for a prosperous year-end.
People are motivated to participate in peer-to-peer fundraising events for many reasons. As an event fundraiser, your mission should be to figure what is motivating your most valuable participants (Top Fundraisers & Team Captains) so that you can recognize their fundraising efforts in ways that deepen their relationship to your event and more importantly the mission of your organization. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Early Registration Opportunities – Perfect for events that sell out
2. Work Appropriate Logoed Apparel – Golf Shirts – Great for the guys!
3. Enamel Pins
4. Logoed Water Bottles
5. Top Fundraiser Ball Caps – People love their team t-shirts on event day, compliment that shirt with a cap!
6. Top Fundraiser Socks – Don’t compete with the team t-shirt, compliment it!
7. Top Fundraiser Cycling Jerseys
8. Top Fundraiser T-shirts
9. Top Fundraiser Running singlets
10. Feature their personal stories on your webpage
11. Feature their fundraising tips on your blog, eNewsletter, print materials
12. Access to media opportunities – Going to the radio/TV station? Bring them along with you!
13. Feature them in your Social Media
14. Invite them to blog, tweet or socialize on your channels
15. Special reserved spot at the front of the Starting Line
16. Access to the VIP tent
17. Special Race Numbers or Bibs - Give your #1 Fundraiser a brightly colored #1 Race Bib
18. reserved port-a-potties at start line, route and finish line
19. Reserved showers – Great for multi-day events
20. Exclusive lines - Allow them to skip to the front of the long lines
21. Access to premium food & drinks on Event Day
22. Print their names on a prominently displayed banner
23. Handwritten Thank You Notes from your Board President or Executive Director
24. Top Fundraising Trip or Prizes
25. Access to VIP area at other fundraising events, let your top fundraiser from your cycling event hang out at your Walk VIP tent
26. Access to Exclusive Volunteer Opportunities outside the event
27. Invites to an Awards Dinner
28. Invites to other organizational events throughout the year
29. Going to Lobby your legislators? Take them along!
30. Discounts or Free Tickets to other events hosted by your org
31. List out your top fundraisers on your website
32. List out your top fundraisers in your eNewsletter
33. List out your top fundraisers in your Print Newsletter
34. List out your top fundraisers in your Annual Report
35. List out your top fundraisers in a print ad
Subscribe to receive posts via email:
Get answers to product questions, join "Birds of a Feather" discussions and more. Join the Online Community
Alltop - Nonprofit
A Small Change
Bob Ottenhoff's Blog
Donor Power Blog
Future Leaders in Philanthropy
Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog
Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog
Nonprofit Law Prof
Pamela’s Grant Blog
Sea Change Strategies
Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology