Fundraisers: Loyalty is What Really Matters
Measure what matters. Start reporting—just to yourself, if no one else wants to listen—your retention rate, your average number of gifts per donor in a year (you can break this down into segments, like core donors, middle donors, major donors, etc., to avoid skewing), and your annual donor value—and how those compare to one, two and three years ago. Then start strategizing on ways to improve those telltale metrics.
Look for “rising stars” in your donor file and cultivate them. For example, study after study has shown that donors who give to more than one channel (i.e., direct mail and online) are more “sticky.” We often segment our files by recency, frequency and/or largest (or last or average) gift. What about testing a special communication to a segment of those who give via multiple channels? What about honoring longevity with a special letter that simply says, “thank you”? What about a call to thank a donor when he or she hits a milestone (i.e., giving five years or giving a cumulative of $1,000)?
Find out why your loyal donors are loyal—and try to replicate that. When you’re thanking a loyal donor, ask them what really excites them about your organization. What offers do they remember? Are there any communications they read without fail? Are there areas where they would like more information? Obviously, talking to a handful of people is hardly a scientific survey, but if you make it a point to always ask a few questions, you may start noticing patterns—good and bad. We can easily “fall in love” with our work because we invest so much of ourselves in each letter we write, every eNews we send out, each Facebook post we share. Getting a more unbiased view from loyal donors can help us prioritize and refine.
A more recent philosopher, Grant Fairley, wrote, “If you want loyalty—get a dog.” This old dog (and dog-lover) can attest to the loyalty of my dog (and office-mate), but also to the loyalty of some donors who truly care about the mission we work so hard to advance. Paying attention to these superstars is time well spent because, in the end, it’s true: Friends and followers don’t pay for overhead and mission-fulfilling projects. Only donors do that.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.