Focus On: Upgrading Donors: Be Persistent, Not Pushy
Upgrading must become a way of life, a constant attitude, based on a consummate belief in the power of suggestion. Upgrade or die.
If you’ve been in this business for 20 years and have been participating in upgrading programs for as far back as you can remember, you can skip the next few paragraphs.
But if your forehead is not yet etched with age and experience, and you go to conventions and hear people pontificate on donor upgrading and wonder what it’s all about, then read on.
Successful direct mail fundraisers pay homage to the “Holy Triangle.” You can create your own shrine and begin worshipping right now: First, draw a triangle on a piece of paper. At the base of the triangle write “100 Annual Gifts,” and shade out the bottom two-thirds.
Next, write “10 Major Gifts,” and shade out the next nine-tenths of the triangle. Finally, write “One Planned Gift” at the very, tippy top.
That’s the way it’s supposed to work — and sometimes it actually does. But regardless, that’s your goal as you move these single-gift $10 prospects up to the top of the triangle.
You already know that 10 percent of your donors give 80 percent of your money. That makes you nervous. Are you tempted to leave that 10 percent alone and not take any risks? That might be a good idea. You really shouldn’t ask a donor who gave $10,000 to give $20,000, $40,000 or $100,000. So, at that high level, go real easy with dollar amounts, but give those donors lots of stimuli, lots of information, personalized letters and good old-fashioned stroking.
As for the rest of your donors, be proactive. You have to make it happen.
Every communication you have with a donor — whether it’s by mail or by telephone or in person — must utilize a strategy of some kind that will encourage the donor to make a larger gift than the last one.