Snapshot of Facts Fundraisers Should Know and Act Upon
For a recent presentation, I reviewed several sources I’ve accumulated over the last year or so to get a clearer snapshot of the state of fundraising as we head into the final weeks of 2016. We all know the bad news that manifests itself in a number of things, most notably declining loyalty that leads to dreadful retention rates. But while knowing facts is interesting, actually doing something with the knowledge can be revolutionary—or at least a start to improving our fundraising efforts.
So, as you consider the final eight weeks of 2016, here are some facts that can give you a boost as you make your final efforts to meet your goals for the year:
1. According to Blackbaud, more than one-third of overall charitable giving takes place from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, and Network for Good found that 11 percent of all online giving happens the last three days of the year. This is not the time to use up your remaining vacation days and slip into festivities mode. We have an unprecedented opportunity between today and Dec. 31 to excel as fundraisers. And, given current trends, this means making your online giving process as simple and donor-focused as possible—because more and more, offline efforts drive online giving. Make sure your online donation portal is working, up-to-date and streamlined. Can anyone go online anytime and quickly make a donation? Does your donation page briefly convey what the donor can make possible with a gift? Does your gift acknowledgement auto-response convey genuine gratitude and focus on the donor, or is it a perfunctory message written in accountant-speak?
2. Overall retention of first-time donors is just 25 percent, Association of Fundraising Professionals reported. What are you going do to improve this with the first-time donors you acquire between now and Dec. 31? How quickly do you send donors a warm, genuinely grateful thank-you letter and receipt? What kinds of information will you provide them early on in their new relationships with you? In other words, how will you court these new relationships? What we’re doing, for the most part, isn’t working. So, what are you going to do differently to increase the odds that you’ll get past the “first date” with your new donors?
3. The majority of donations—88 percent—comes from 12 percent of your donors, according to Nonprofit Tech for Good. What is your own variation of this statistic? Given that a relatively small percentage of donors contributes the bulk of your funds, what are you doing to make those donors feel like rock stars for supporting you? Can you call every one of them before Dec. 31 just to say "thank you?" Are you sending out a holiday card? A development person from a nonprofit that is making positive strides in turning around losses in their donor-base told me recently, “We send a hand-signed card for every occasion.” The impact that personal touch has on a donor is a big deal. If you can’t reach everyone, focus on that top tier. Your return on investment may astonish you.
4. Donors in the Greatest Generation (Matures) are your best prospects for non-cash gifts, such as appreciated assets, Convio found. Baby Boomers are good candidates for recurring donations, Gen X likes to volunteer their time before they give their money, and Millennials are more likely to watch a video online before giving, a MobileCause infographic showed. So, while you can’t be all things to all people, you should highlight a variety of ways a person can engage. Millennials are not anti-direct mail—in fact, some studies show they kind of like it (possibly because they don’t get much postal mail). And Greatest Generation members are not paper-only. Now is a good time to make sure that your website (at least) includes a lot of easy-to-find information about ways to engage.
5. Baby Boomers and Millennials have the most confidence in nonprofit organizations to solve the problems that concern them, according to Fidelity Charitable. When was the last time you posted a new story showing impact on your website? Are you sending your donors newsletters online and via mail? What are you including with receipts to remind donors that they did a good thing and their dollars made an impact. Increasingly, people who want to solve a problem that matters to them don’t care who solves it, as long as it gets solved. (Remember the declining state of donor loyalty?) Keep showing and telling that your organization is the best choice to solve a problem. Stand out because you are a problem-solver who gets results.
We don’t have much time left to make a difference in 2016, so make every day count. This old dog knows that you will relax and enjoy the holidays far more if you aren’t staying awake at night wondering if your fundraising efforts were enough to have strong year-end results.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.