The 3 R's of the Engage Conference: Retention, Risk and Reward
Many attendees could not believe any organization would let such a large contingent of donors go, but ABS stuck by its principles and took that risk. It has led to a higher percentage of loyal donors, but it also saw 125,000 donors get phased out. Talk about taking a risk!
Of course, the HRC is known for taking risks. As an advocacy organization that focuses a lot in the political space, risk-taking is at its core, and the fundraisers are not only allowed to take risks — they're encouraged to. It's an ideal that comes from the top and trickles all the way down the organization.
The panelists shared both successes and failures of that risk-taking, whether it was going out all against the Bush campaign (and "failing" when he was re-elected) or aggressively hitting the mailstream as most organizations were cutting back on direct mail during the recession (success). The key to HRC's success is its willingness to take risks, to not be afraid to fail. It was a great lesson for any fundraiser hesitant to try something new for fear it may fail. It may … but it also may propel your fundraising and your organization forward, and without taking those risks, it's extremely difficult to get your nonprofit to the next level.
The third R that kept cropping up was the reward. Fundraising is hard. It's frustrating. And it can be deflating, hearing "no" time and time again. But the reward is when you find those donors to truly connect with so your organization can accomplish such great work. It's rewarding to the fundraisers. It's rewarding to the donors. It's rewarding to the people the organization helps. And it's rewarding to the world.
Engage was such a rewarding experience for us here at FundRaising Success, and I hope it was just as rewarding for all our wonderful attendees, gracious speakers, tremendous sponsors and the generous folks at WHYY. Can't wait to do it again next year!