That Darn Bell Curve
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Email me with your particular problem and I’ll arrange a quick consultation offering you a practical solution you can implement. I may even use your situation to share with my readers. Names are changed, of course!
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When I was speaking with Keith recently, I could feel his frustration. His angst was palpable. What was it?
Keith is the fundraiser for a nonprofit, which focuses on rescuing at-risk youth. It does great work and has an admirable track record. As an organization founded and led by Millennials, this organization is the future in many ways.
Millennials, as a rule, are an impatient lot. They want to see results. It’s no different when they’re doing good. They invest the work and they expect to get the outcome—changed lives.
Many in the nonprofit world are at once admiring and taken aback by the direct, no-nonsense attitudes of the philanthropic-minded between the ages of 25 and 35. Not a few of us are downright bewildered.
Whatever their peculiarities, they are the future.
Keith is typical of his generation. He so wants to make the world a better place. The nobility of his motives is to be admired.
Trouble is he wants everyone to share his passion and motivation.
He’s done a great job of getting his fundraising program off the ground and scaling annual operating revenue increases of 10 percent to 15 percent. Certainly nothing to yawn at!
Keith’s frustration wasn’t slow revenue growth. He’s tuned into the healthy revenue gains he’s achieving.
What’s generating his frustration is the “uneven” response he’s getting from his donors.
Keith expects his donor base to respond with equal fervor. We’re not talking about those who simply don’t give. We call those “non-donors.” Keith’s attention is on those who do give.
He’s impatient that each and every one of his donors isn't giving at a commensurate level of their abilities—and moving into higher levels of commitment.
“Ah,” I said.
Keith isn’t far out of college so I reminded him of that inconvenient fact of life, the bell curve.
Oh, you mean the thing that professors use to artificially distribute grades?
Yes, and no.
The bell curve, or what statisticians call the “normal distribution,” occurs naturally virtually everywhere.
Nothing is evenly distributed. Whether it’s individual performance or response to a marketing program.
Principle 6 of The Eight Principles™ is “Divide & Grow™.” It’s the principle of discernment. It’s the law of treating different donors differently.
Because donors’ responses to your worthy mission and goals will be uneven. Notice I said “donors.”
If you’re engaging (versus enticing) your donors, the majority of your supporters will give and grow in their giving. This is where you put your focus.
There will be the outliers, however. Outliers on the high side: asset donors—sometimes called “major” donors. Outliers on the low side: once-in-a-blue-moon small cash donors. The key to success with the outliers is to understand them, accept them and act upon their terms.
Keith’s a bright fellow. He got it. He’s back to the drawing board for his 2016 fundraising plan.
Seems he was planning homogeneous efforts. Not a good thing. We all do this, however, when we go for the silver-bullet method or tool that’s trending. Won’t that solve all our challenges?
No, it won’t.
I’m looking forward to hearing back from Keith. I’m sure he’ll do well.
Let me hear from you. Please share your situation and the challenges you face in developing sustainable revenue streams. Email me and I’ll arrange a brief consult providing you with practical guidance. I’ll choose some of these thorny obstacles to share, along with my insights, in upcoming columns.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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