Is It Time to Pivot?
If you asked me how many times I’ve seen the word “pivot” in an email, a webinar or a virtual conference, I simply couldn’t tell you.
I know this word from ballroom dancing classes. I know it as part of my excel sheets. But I had never heard it used in conjunction with fundraising.
As you may know, I’m Dutch. And even though I’ve lived in the U.S. for 27 years, I occasionally have to look up the meaning of a word, so here’s what I found:
- n. the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.
- v. (piv·ot·ed , piv·ot·ing ) [intr.] turn on or as if on a pivot: the sail pivots around the axis of a virtually static mast he swung around, pivoting on his heel.”
And when I looked up what it means in business:
“A pivot usually occurs when a company makes a fundamental change to their business after determining (usually through market research) that their product isn't meeting the needs of their intended market... Companies will continue to pivot as these needs change or the company discovers new opportunities for the business.” — (Quora)
So this is what I struggle with. If you ask me, before you start “pivoting” in who knows what direction or embark on a new plan, let me recommend to you that the only real direction to pivot in right now is to go back to what most fundraising organizations should have been focusing on all along: the basics!
But what does that mean?
Build a connection with the donor. Provide good donor service. Be willing to take care of the donor and ensure that there is someone available to answer questions. Know how to look up a phone number, then pick up the phone and say “thank you.” Do not be afraid to talk to donors. Send thank-you letters in a timely fashion. Send handwritten thank-you notes. Don’t take your donors for granted, and show donor love. Listen. Learn. It’s not about you. It’s about the donor.
Segment your email list, so you know the difference between someone who signed up for your email newsletter (e.g. special donors and monthly donors). Write personal emails written in words people can understand — personally written by someone from your organization and written to one specific donor.
Segment your mailing list, and spend time evaluating your direct mail appeal results with the right metrics! (Spoiler alert: Straight cost alone is NOT the right metric.) Write letters your mom or grandmother would love to read.
Reach the donor in the way they want to be reached, and make sure you know how they prefer to be communicated with. Ask questions. What does the donor like? What does the donor not like? Why does the donor give?
Hold the door for someone. Say “thank you!” Be human. Be a neighbor. Be a friend.
Note: Social media, texting and events are not necessarily part of the above, but they can be as long as they accomplish the connection with the donor, as long as the donor has indicated that is how they like to communicate with you and as long as they’ve given you permission to do so.
But don’t spend a lot of time on it if you haven’t paid attention to the basics first.
Then, (and you probably knew this was coming) if you already have some monthly donors, great! You are probably breathing a little easier than others.
If you haven’t focused on a monthly giving program, now is a really great time to start. Donors still want to help. Making a monthly gift is a very donor-centric way for them to do so.
So, first pivot back to the basics. Then set up your plan to generate as many monthly donors as possible, so you can be prepared for the next crisis. We don’t know when it will come next, but we know it eventually will, and your organization will be ready.
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.