Shape-Up Plan: How Regular Exercises in Monthly Giving Can Yield the Results You Seek
I was listening to “Freakonomics” on NPR. They were doing a special on productivity with Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” and the topic of the day was how we can be more productive in our personal and professional lives by setting clear goals. Duhigg advocated building S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based—goals to guide even daily activities like working out. His point was that when we keep our minds focused on the right things, we reduce the chance for meaningless distractions that keep us from attaining our most important objectives.
As I sat procrastinating (ahem, pontificating) on this article, it struck me: We are approaching fundraising exactly how Duhigg warns us not to. Are we simply letting our programs happen without a clear path to achieving our highest and most important goals? As a fundraiser, your ultimate goal should be to build sustainable funding that supports your organization’s mission. Have you instead been focusing your time and energy on the revolving door of acquiring new givers? If so, you might need to refocus on building an infrastructure that allows loyal and sustained givers a chance to thrive.
See, I suspect you already know you should be doing this—because experts in the field like Erica Waasdorp, Harvey McKinnon and other friends to the north and across the pond have been telling us so! Presumably, you’ve heard that fundraisers in other countries have been doing sustained giving for decades with success in spades. American organizations, on the other hand, have talked the talk, but haven’t truly embraced sustained giving yet, citing fears that the programs may not be profitable in the long term. In other words, we’re like that guy that buys all the great workout gear, but then never actually makes a plan to set foot into the gym.
To combat the non-plan, we at the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact have been working on research to dispel misconceptions about the value of sustained giving programs. In our first installment of the series, we showed that the ROI of these programs is considerably greater than that of single gift programs. Now, in our second installment, we’re tackling the fundamental best practices you need to know to streamline your efforts for the greatest impact.
Key practices in “Sustainers in Focus: Proven Practices for Success” include converting repeat donors into sustainers, making monthly giving the default on donation forms and methods you can use to steward, steward, steward your sustainers once you have them!
“Until now, the sector has only had anecdotal evidence about what might work to make a program successful, but this study explores variances in sustainer program returns across different organizations in different subsectors to determine the true research-backed best practices that have worked for real organizations. These are proven practices, not just advice that might work, that are shared in a clear, concise way to provide an easy-to-follow roadmap to success. They can be broadly applied and repeated to increase sustainer program performance across the entire sector.” — Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud’s chief scientist and author of the report
So, are you going to build a plan with smart goals that drive true value and long-term success, or will you continue to allow a non-plan undermine your results? I hope you choose the first option. Like a good cardio routine, a true sustainable funding stream that will yield amazing value requires you have to have a plan in place and commit to it.
… And if you’re ready to get smart with your goals, stay tuned for my next article where I’ll dive into these best practices you should be employing.
Ashley Thompson is the managing director for the Blackbaud Institute. She is responsible for driving Blackbaud’s extensive research, thought leadership, and best practice content.
Through this role, she builds thoughtful strategies and solutions for the philanthropic sector utilizing the most comprehensive data set in the social good community. She also manages internal and external relationships for the Institute, including the convening of the Blackbaud Institute Advisory Board.
Ashley is active in the Austin community and participates in numerous groups as a volunteer, active board member, and collaborative partner.
She is a regular contributor to sgENGAGE, serves on the Giving USA Editorial Review Board, and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.
Follow Ashley on Twitter at @AshlyThmpsn.