Fundraising Lessons Learned From Haiti
FS: How can fundraisers keep new or first-time disaster-relief donors, who might not have donated normally, engaged?
SM: One of the things that we've looked at in the past — even prior to the Haiti earthquake — is what we term "episodic giving," where it's an emergency, a disaster and you bring in a tremendous amount of new donors because of the attention, people wanting to help out, but maybe they weren't a traditional donor to any of these organizations. What we've found with episodic donors is typically some of these organizations are able to retain them for two to three years following one of these major events, but a lot of nonprofits struggle with retaining that episodic donor long term for a variety of reasons.
One of the things we constantly stress is the importance of follow-up, especially to people who are new donors to an organization. To do that, after the Haiti earthquake some organizations have taken their traditional monthly e-newsletter, where it would have information and news about the organization, they've been leading with more, "Hey, here are things we're doing in Haiti post-earthquake," and follow-up information. Following up with those new donors and using some different communication strategies, different messages with those episodic donors as opposed to what you would send to traditional donors, is important. It kind of goes without saying that if you're sending the same message to every single donor whether they're an existing donor or new donor, that's bad; you're doing it wrong if that's your approach.
FS: What about mobile giving?
SM: There's a lot of benefits to mobile giving — probably bring in a whole lot of new donors, it's very easy to do. But there's also some potential downsides to mobile giving. The giving amounts in themselves are limited by the carriers, so you're talking about $5 and $10 donations versus in 2009 the average gift that we saw was a little over $140 — much lower giving amount. And then the other potential downside to mobile giving is unless I as a donor opt in to receive additional information, the charities never know who I am. The dollars end up being deposited back to them, but one concern we have and something that we remind nonprofits looking at mobile is how does that fit in with the other channels that you're using and does mobile giving encourage more anonymous giving? The more anonymous donors you have, where you don't really know anything about them other than the dollars transferring hands, you can't follow up with them, you don't know who they are, you can't contact them. That makes it very difficult down the road to build a relationship with them. So there are some pros and cons people need to think about. FS