R.I.P. Donor Pyramid?
3. Make harnessing the power of potential influencers a primary goal. Continue to ask for gifts, of course. Simply also ask supporters to share your email appeals with their personal networks and post information about your organization’s efforts on social media. These tasks require minimal effort on the part of your supporter but can reap tremendous benefits by (1) introducing you to a broader constituency and (2) making your supporter feel she’s having added impact. It’s a win-win.
When you rank the potential forces on a donor’s decision to give, family, friends and peers rank higher than anything else. According to a survey by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication, 39 percent of Americans get involved with causes because they’ve affected someone they know; 36 percent are motivated when it’s an important cause to family and friends. These reasons for involvement far outweigh having time or money, or feeling an urgency to help people in need.
4. Stop treating your supporters — any of them — like bottom feeders. No one is at the bottom of anything if they support your cause. They’re the “tops” in my book! Stop forcing them to build your pyramid. Stop forcing folks to go where you think they should be. People who make repeated small gifts are just as likely to leave bequests as those you force up to the top of your pyramid. Ditto those who engage with you actively online.
The pathway into the digital future is not going to be a linear journey up a pyramid. Make your circle a strong, compelling magnet. Clarify your mission. Simplify your case for support. Stop trying so hard to explain what you do. Show people. Use images. Tell your best emotional stories. This will invigorate your circle.
The best way to work the donor vortex is actively. Keep compelling content flowing. Build yourself a content calendar, and put someone in charge of donor-centered communications. Watch the circle begin to spin and build momentum. The energy will do the work for you. Just concentrate on being the magnet — and rotating.
Note: This post was inspired by the brilliant work of Julie Dixon and Denise Keyes, whose winter 2013 article “The Permanent Disruption of Social Media” in Stanford Social Innovation Review nicely sums up the benefits of the vortex model. I encourage you to read it.