Fundraisers: Loyalty is What Really Matters
Since ancient times, we have been reminded that a true friend is loyal to us. Aristotle wrote, “A friend to all is a friend to none,” and Euripides said, “One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.” Or, in the terms of today’s fundraisers, “One loyal donor is worth 10,000 fans, likes or followers whose engagement never goes further than that."
As any fundraiser who reads an online post or a magazine about fundraising knows, donor retention is abysmal. We’re all plagued with “drive-up donors”—they pull up, make a gift and take off into the night, never to be seen again. Yet, measuring success by the number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers has become epidemic, and we glom onto the stat that shows how many new “likes” we have this week or our total number of followers.
Maybe I am missing the point here, but if I were to read all the Facebook posts that come to me from my friends and organizations I’ve liked, plus the tweets from all the people and companies I follow, that would be my full-time job. We learn to flag those people or groups we consider most important, and much of the rest only gets our attention when we’re stuck in a long line with noting to amuse us but our smartphones.
Add to that that we get excited when we get a 5 or 6 percent response to our direct mail—but we seldom mention that this means 94 or 95 percent were not interested. The 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study reports that nonprofit email open rates in 2014 were about 14 percent, meaning 86 percent didn’t even bother glancing at our communication beyond the preview window.
I’m not a gloom-and-doom person. I do celebrate results, even when the percentages are in the single digits. But I am concerned when I hear a nonprofit talking about all of its fans and friends instead of about its loyal donors. I cringe when the focus is on how much money was saved by changing a fundraising strategy that generates followers instead of how much more money was raised by a strategy that generates donations.
Bottom line: Friends and followers don’t pay for overhead and mission-fulfilling projects. Only donors do that.
Today is a great day to turn your focus to the loyalty of your donors instead of the volume of your followers.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.