Focus On: Upgrading Donors: Be Persistent, Not Pushy
There’s a reason many charities are reluctant to engage in techniques to upgrade their donors — or fail to do so altogether. Call it the “fear factor.”
They’re afraid donors will get irritated and stop sending gifts. They’re afraid a donor will give the upgrade letter to a board member and complain about the “pressure.”
Be not afraid. I bring you tidings of great joy. Fact: It has never been proven by any reliable statistical measurement that reasonable upgrading techniques will result in a substantial attrition of the donor file.
On the other hand, it has been proven, over and over again, by extremely dependable statistical measurements, that creative and methodical upgrading techniques almost always result in substantial increases in net income.
So, relax. Get into group therapy, if necessary. Stop letting the fear factor make your decisions.
Upgrading is a significant “must.” Especially during this long donor bear market. How long will the decline last? Several more years? When will the pool of available donor names stop shrinking?
I remember back in the 1970s — don’t you just hate it when an old fart starts out like that? — when there were so many good donor names available that many charities simply didn’t have the money to mail to all of them. Donor attrition was not a problem, and we were prospecting at a comfortable profit.
Ah, but today? I can certainly understand why some charities are afraid to do anything that might drive a donor away. But I’ve mounted this pulpit to tell you that it’s better to take the risk of pushing your donors too far, too fast than to stagnate. Easy for me to say, of course.
Consider this statistical reality: If you can’t afford to recruit a new donor, and your current donors give at the same level as before, and the inevitability of attrition continues to work its damage, then how will you increase your income? You won’t. You’ll just hope that you can hang on long enough to take early retirement and let the next unfortunate executive fret with it all.
- Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co.
- Arlington, Va.