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?
Mix of postal mail and online giving
- Are you regularly, both offline and online, communicating need and providing opportunities to donate?
- Is your website donation form functional and logical? Is it easy to make a gift online, and is it clearly (and actually) secure?
- Are your mailings offering both an easy way to give via the mail and a simple way to respond online? Can you track online gifts back to the source (i.e., are you using unique URLs for each mailing?).
- Do you have a good balance of reporting on success and asking for gifts? Do people know that you are using donations wisely to accomplish results—but that the job is not done and you (and, therefore, they) need to do more?
- Are you paying attention to complaints and rethinking areas that are generating the most complaints? Do you have procedures in place to handle complaints quickly and professionally? Are you keeping complaints in perspective?
- Are requests to “take me off your mailing list” increasing? If so, is there something you can point to that has led to that? Do you offer options for receiving mail other than “everything” and “nothing”? For example, can you mail only quarterly?
- Are your receipts being received by the donor in a timely fashion? Are they accurate, both in terms of the amount and the designation (if any) requested by the donor? Do they convey genuine gratitude or feel perfunctory?
Going into the last months of the year with a healthy direct response fundraising program can result in both exceptional income and stronger relationships with donors—and momentum for moving into 2016. However, this old dog knows that healthy programs are seldom by chance; they take attention to detail and constant monitoring so donors feel like a valued partner, not simply a transaction.
How healthy is your fundraising program these days?
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 email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.