3 Crucial Steps to Converting Rage Donors to Long-Term Supporters (and 3 Bonus Steps)
You’ve probably heard about the latest trend in donors, called rage donors. In a way, these have been around for years, but they used to be called “disaster donors.”
Donors were often called “episodic” donors. Donors who only give at the moment of disaster, at the moment of “rage,” when something is really “hot” in the media, and people feel totally compelled to do something about it.
And if there’s an organization, a group of individuals or one individual who inspires to take action, others quickly flock to join in. You’ve seen it with the Ice Bucket Challenge. You’ve seen it with the recent immigration problems at the borders—to dispel the outrage of separating parents and their families.
Social media play a major role in generating the push for donations. Whether it’s done through crowdfunding platforms—like GoFundMe, Change.org—through social media channels—like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube—or through mobile giving campaigns, the overall goal is the same: get people outraged enough about something that absolutely compels them to help. Emotions run high and clicking through to make a donation will help the donor feel better almost instantaneously.
But, what’s an organization to do next? How do you now turn these “rage or episodic” donors into ongoing donors?
The good news is that you already have the tools; you just have to start applying them.
Step 1. Rather than having donors go to some third-party site and provide their information there, create a simple donation page within your own system, create a short easy-to-remember-and-use URL and start sharing that particular link. This will ensure that you get all your donor’s information, and that it all feeds into your own system. You’ll keep more of the funds and you can immediately go to step two.
Step 2: Create a powerful thank-you message the donor receives as soon as he or she clicks the “submit” button. Be extremely grateful. If possible, show a little video about the impact their gift is already making. Or if the situation is too volatile or too fresh and raw still, include a message from someone in the field or on the scene who expresses how grateful they are. Demonstrate how much the donor’s gift means to you.
But then, because you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain, in the P.S. in that message, add in the ask to give monthly. It could be something like:
“Thank you again, but to make sure that we can continue to be on the scene (help xxx), a monthly gift would make a tremendous difference. Click here (and then click through to the monthly only page).”
Step 3: Stand out from the crowd. Pick up the phone and call the donor to thank him/her, no matter what size gift. The average “rage” donation appears to be around $40—nothing to sneeze at. And when you call the donor, find out what motivated him or her to give. And if they use the magical words, “I wish I could do more.” That’s your opening to have the monthly giving discussion. You could turn that donor into a $15 a monthly donor. Not only did you just increase retention to some 90 percent, but you also generate $180 a year!
Bonus Step 4: Send a hard copy thank-you letter, even if they gave online. Again, another way to stand out from the crowd. I realize that if you’re inundated, thank-you letters may be slightly delayed, but get them out as soon as you possibly can. Perhaps even consider some temp workers if needed. Include a wallet flap remit envelope or a soft ask to give another gift and to consider a monthly gift and see what happens.
If you’re gracious and timely about thanking for the first gift, the donor will be very much inclined to consider a second gift right away. The sooner you can get that second gift, the more loyal the donor becomes. And that’s an absolute key with these rage donors.
Bonus Step 5: Start a special series of welcome emails, in which you keep donors updated on the situation, to ensure that the donor feels good about this “impulse” donation. Do include another gift opportunity in every email.
Bonus Step 6: Now, not every organization will get rage or episodic donors, but if your mission is in a space where outrage might happen, or your mission is already advocacy focused, be prepared. Have things ready to go.
When I worked for a local Red Cross Chapter, the fastest we got an appeal out the door after a disaster was 38 hours, because we had the envelopes and reply envelopes already on the shelf; we just had to print the letters.
So, consider having a special emergency donation page ready, where you just have to add a picture and a short message. Consider having a special thank you and emergency monthly donor follow up message in place.
Consider contracting with a telefundraising agency that can get used to making your thank-you calls on an ongoing basis, so that all you have to do in the case of a “situation” is provide them with more names to call.
The more you can prepare, the sooner you can act.
Does this sound more aggressive than you’d typically do for other donors? Absolutely! YES, it does, but time is of the essence. You have to strike the iron while it’s hot, and if you thank donors right away and in ways that stand out, you’ll grow your monthly donors and improve retention of these rage/episodic donors. Isn’t that what counts?
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.