Anatomy of a Committed Donor
But if commitment to an organization is created, not born, and if commitment — how the donor feels and thinks about you — causes the key behaviors we covet, doesn't it stand to reason we can impact those behaviors? That we can turn an otherwise "bad" donor into a good one and perhaps more importantly stave off defection of the "good" donor?
When it comes to retention, it is essential for every nonprofit to understand it is in the "creation business." That is, it needs to create more good, committed donors by focusing on the donor experiences delivered by the organization — the experiences that truly impact commitment. This is a "build it and they will come" process. Measure and manage the pieces you actually control — those that affect donor commitment — and the donor behavior you only indirectly impacted by your actions will follow.
This is not to suggest you can convert everybody. The majority of your donors are not committed to your organization, and while in theory many could be, in practice you have to make choices based on limited resources and the likely return. Therefore, pick a relatively small handful to target. There are "good" donors going off your file every single day. They, by definition, are either highly committed to your organization, uncommitted or somewhere in between. The good behavior/high commitment segment is an obvious place to start.
A few key takeaways
- Commitment can be found in every demographic, old or young, male or female.
- Committed donors see competitor solicitations and find reasons to dislike them. The uncommitted look for points of comparison to foster switching.
- Never mistake correlation for causation. There is a correlation between time spent online and commitment. But these are both outcomes — one does not cause the other. This is similar to the correlation between number of gifts and likelihood of making a planned gift — both outcomes. The name of the game is to understand what caused the frequency of giving and planned-gift intent. The answer is donor commitment. Understand what drives the relationship, and navigate the levers under your control to impact it. The rest will follow.
(To end on a fun note, we created an Infographic of the Committed Donor. You can see it at fundraisingsuccessmag.com/committed_donor_infographic. For an Executive Summary of the study on which this article is based, click here.) FS