Cover Story: Lives in the Balance
One of the first things a new donor receives after his thank-you/ tax-information note, Hicks says, is a donor-preference card that allows him to choose his preferred frequency and method of contact (direct mail, e-mail, phone, etc.).
“And we’re going to honor that,” he says. “We increasingly try to get more focused on the donor and what the donor wants and how the donor wants to deal with our organization … to treat donors less according to how much they give, and more according to how they want to be treated.”
Supporting this donor-centric approach is CARE’s effort to break down walls between communication channels (for example, prefacing the drop of a direct-mail campaign with a pre-recorded 20-second phone message from CARE President Peter Bell) and also to integrate the organization’s planned and major-gifts programs to create a seamless long-term experience for donors.
“In the past, for probably good reasons, to build up the programs, planned giving and major gifts were built in parallel silos,” Neuman says. “We’re at that point where we feel we’ve built up the expertise and have relatively healthy programs in both those areas, and we’re integrating that at the field level.”
To keep donors moving seamlessly up the giving pyramid to the major- and planned-gifts levels, CARE starts tending the flock early, analyzing its files of smaller donors (up to $1,000) to see who’s on their way to moving up to mid-level status ($1,000-$5,000). The mid-level-gifts manager works closely with the major-gifts fieldfundraisers to understand not only donors’ giving patterns, but also their capacity to give at a higher level.
In a time when major organizations are struggling to find creative ways to cultivate their mid-level donors, CARE has added an interest-based component to its mid-level strategy that allows it to offer highly personalized communications and appeals based on the programmatic area that the donor has the most affinity for, whether it’s women’s empowerment, clean water or a host of other issues.