1 Daily Habit = Everlasting Fundraising Success
Have you ever attended a conference or a course, felt so excited about the potential for your organization, but then failed to act on what you’d learned? Maybe you started your organization’s monthly giving program, and now it’s just an additional option tacked on to your year-end appeals. Or maybe you even took my “Power of Thank You” stewardship course, but never got around to actually rewriting your thank-you letters or getting your board members involved.
Hey, it happens to the best of us. It’s hard to believe that some research points to only 5 percent of conference attendees actually acting on what they’ve learned—or is it? For just about every one of us, the idea of winning a “fundraising lottery,” like your own ice-bucket challenge, is pretty appealing. Plus, it doesn’t involve the day-to-day “rinse and repeat” work necessary in building real donor relationships.
So, what’s a quick and easy shift you can you make today to ensure that you follow through on implementing those tactics you know will make your organization stronger—and keep your donors giving?
In her book, “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters and What You Can Do To Get More of It,” Kelly McGonigal said that one strategy is not to think in terms of progress, but in terms of commitment:
“When people who have taken a positive step toward meeting a goal–for example, exercising, studying or saving money–are asked, ‘How much progress do you feel you have made on your goal?’ they are more likely to then do something that conflicts with that goal, like skip the gym the next day, hang out with friends instead of studying or buy something expensive. In contrast, people who are asked, ‘How committed do you feel to your goal?’ are not tempted by the conflicting behavior. A simple shift in focus leads to a very different interpretation of their own actions—‘I did that because I wanted to,’ not ‘I did that, great, now I can do what I really want!’”
You’re committed to your mission, but are you committed to funding your mission? There’s a critical difference there, you know.
McGonigal also advises us to use a “daily rule” to help us end the debate that often talks us right out of our goals. Is there a daily rule that you can live with that will bring you closer to your fundraising goals? One rule I’ve recommended for years—to clients and Simple Development Systems members alike—is to commit to a daily “gratitude” habit. Every morning (before you check your email or voicemail—but not before you’ve had your morning coffee), make it a habit to spend 15 to 30 minutes on the phone, calling donors just to tell them, “thank you.” Trust me, it’s so much more than just a thank you to them.
You see, it isn’t just the feel-good aspect of donor thank-you calls that make them an important addition to your arsenal of tools. A study by the U.K. firm Pell & Bales found that thank-you calls reduced donor attrition by one-third. In his book, “Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life,” Roger Craver noted: “Overall, donors who have been phoned for one reason or another (it doesn’t seem to matter) show retention rates 15 percent higher than those who haven’t been contacted.” Additionally, my colleague Tammy Zonker said, “The most recent Penelope Burk survey indicates 91 percent of respondents said thank-you calls are their No. 1 preferred method of gift recognition.”
So, yes, it’s pretty clear: A thank-you call is so much more than a thank-you call—to your donors and to you. The reality is your organization needs to be covering all of its bases, and calls are one of your very important lifelines. Can you see why making it a daily habit is crucial?
Ah, habits. For years, it’s been drilled into us that all it takes is 21 days to create one. It turns out, though, that’s a bit of a myth. I’d like to pose a challenge to you—to commit to these daily calls, come hell or high water, for three months. Pencil it in on your calendar and begin tomorrow—no excuses! And then, after the experiment is done, get in touch with me. I want to hear from you and know whether you’ve decided to keep making the calls!
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.