Things to Consider This Week (A-E)

It’s a fact of fundraising that some donors only give once and never again. Others give multiple times but then stop giving. But just because that’s reality, fundraisers should never calmly accept it. Instead, we need to fight to the death to keep our donors, using the weapons of creative strategies that are designed to retain or re-acquire our donors.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be wandering through the alphabet, giving you a few ideas to consider as you strategize to combat donor loss. So, let’s get started!

A is for attrition
Attrition, or donor churn, is alive and well at every nonprofit. Donors are dying, moving away, transferring their support to other causes or just plain losing interest. Knowing what your rate of attrition is for the past three to five years, and if it’s going up, down or staying the same, is the first step to managing this inevitable problem.

Once you know your attrition rate, another “A” kicks in — acquisition. How are you going to replace those donors that you simply can’t salvage, no matter how hard you try? (And you are trying, right? You do have a strategy for lapsed recovery, don’t you?)

In my experience, the best way to convince a board and senior management that you need to invest in acquisition is to show them a worsening trend in your attrition rate. So this week, if you don’t know your attrition rate, take steps to calculate this critical statistic.

B is for boredom
I have long contended that some donors stop giving (causing growing attrition) because we bore them to death. Decide if your organization is guilty by first laying out the last year’s worth of newsletters, direct-mail packages and other mailings on the table. Surround them with printouts of your e-communications.

Then step back a few feet and take a bird’s-eye view of what your donors see month after month. Is it exciting? Or is it predictable enough to become “white noise” in the lives of your donors? Change for change’s sake isn’t the goal here, but consider if your communications are varied enough to keep your donors engaged.

C is for convenience
Now, take a look at your online donation page, your printed reply cards and any other method you provide for a donor to make a gift. Are you inadvertently hurting response by sacrificing convenience for your donors for easier processing or a savings of a few cents by using smaller paper?

When the ask on the reply form is so small a donor can’t read it without a magnifying glass, it’s time to free up space for a larger font by moving some of the corporate copy to the back or even using a larger form. And if making a donation online requires going through multiple pages and entering more details than are required to get a mortgage, you need to come up with a streamlined system. (Wonder how you stack up? Go online and give small donations to a few nonprofits you admire or who are your competitors. How’s the experience?)

Don’t drive away potential donors by making it too inconvenient to donate to you. Some will give up and never come back.

D is for dollars
Are you telling your donor what a gift of $25 or $100 can do? Have you worked with your program staff and accounting team to figure this out? Many donors don’t want to give donations that (in their minds) go into a black hole; they want to support something tangible and know what it is they are making possible.

It’s a constant struggle to provide this level of detail, and “undesignated dollars” are the desire of almost every nonprofit. But many donors want specificity. So do you need to forge a compromise that everyone in your office can live with and give your donors a clear offer?

E is for enough
Are you giving your donors enough opportunities to become loyal donors? My experience is that a first-time donor who doesn’t give a second gift in 90 days will never give again. Your experience may be different, but the important thing is — do you know your organization’s “point of no return”? If it’s 60 or 90 days, you can’t wait months to build the relationship and make another ask.

We also can forget that donors are not waking up thinking about our nonprofit and going to bed with our logo dancing in their minds. We need to thank them, tell them about a need and ask them to help meet it. Are you communicating enough to your donors so they know your needs and how they can help?

While every idea I list won’t apply to your nonprofit, think about A, B, C, D and E this week. Are any of these ideas worth putting some strategic thought into? Donors are the lifeblood of our organization. Let’s never give them up without a fight.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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