Fundraising’s Wellness Check
I read recently that some physicians are now suggesting patients come in for an annual “wellness check,” rather than a yearly physical. The focus of these exams is on staying healthy and may include screening tests that can resolve a problem before it becomes insurmountable.
With just four months remaining in the year, it’s a good time to do a wellness check on our direct-response fundraising. After all, if there are problems that we continue to ignore, we could find our year-end fundraising efforts plagued by problems that could have been avoided (or at least minimized) if we had caught them sooner.
So, instead of a stethoscope, grab the latest reports on your fundraising program and take a hard look at these 15 vital signs that point to a healthy direct-response fundraising program.
- Are you adding new donors? Have you gained more donors than have lapsed in the last 12 months?
- Are your new donors giving again within a reasonable amount of time? (This can vary by organization, but unless you focus mainly on one annual campaign, you probably have 90 to 180 days maximum to get a second gift.)
- Are the sources of new donors sustainable? While we won’t turn down new donors who come in serendipitously or from an occurrence that can’t be replicated, we need to have programs that bring in new donors and can be replicated time and time again.
Core (multi-year repeat) donors
- How many gifts have they given (on average) in last 12 months? Is this improving year-over-year, or are you receiving fewer gifts per donor?
- Along with the number of gifts, what is the average gift size? Again, how does that compare year-over-year? If both the number of gifts and the average gift size are declining, that’s a warning sign of a potentially serious “illness,” and you need to take action now.
- What are they responding to? Are there offers that are resonating better? If so, those may be what you should focus on for the last quarter of the year. It’s all about “putting your best foot forward.” In a critical donor season, be sure to position yourself in the most favorable way to your donors.
- What is your year-to-date renewal rate? How does that compare to a year ago? What can you do in the next four months to stimulate more donor renewal?
- Are renewed donors giving again? After all, it’s not helpful if we renew them so they can immediately lapse again. It’s more than just having an aggressive plan to renew lapsed donors; do you have an aggressive plan to retain them once they are renewed?
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.