What’s Love Got to Do With Fundraising?
Turns out love has everything to do with fundraising. Relationship Fundraising 3.0 from the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy proves it.
I had the pleasure of meeting Adrian Sargeant, co-director and co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, many years ago, when he was still working in the U.S. He was one of the foremost researchers on customer and donor retention at the time. Just a few points in retention make a huge difference in your nonprofit’s sustainability (hence my focus on monthly giving, which does exactly that).
Adrian has since been back in the U.K. and he, his wife, Jen Shang, and their team have done and continue to do lots of tremendous research on donor retention and relationship fundraising.
Much of their findings are based upon years of study and Relationship Fundraising 3.0 is no exception. It’s based upon examples from organizations who have changed their fundraising communications over a period of four years.
Here’s the definition of Relationship Fundraising 3.0, according to the authors of the study, which was published in June:
“The purpose of fundraising is seen as stewarding the human capacity to love. It requires a detailed understanding of the psychological needs of the individual, their sense of self (i.e., who they are), their wellbeing (how they feel about being that “self) and how they might best experience the giving and receiving of their love.”
The study describes different surveys done amongst substantial numbers of donors to come up with the words to describe “self-identity” and “supporter identity.” Now it gets interesting — they tested whether using the most powerful self-words or supporter words would increase giving or response rates more than the control without those words.
Both the self-words (7.18%) and the supporter words (6.83%) increased response rate considerably (6% control response), with 11,168 donations received in total.
I was, of course, especially interested in the impact of self and supporter words on the likelihood to start a monthly gift. The Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy also did a study with a Canadian animal welfare organization.
The first survey set out to identify donor disposition, donor identity, donor loyalty, emotions, connectedness and trust in others. The research team then identified the communal relationships where one party cares genuinely for the needs of the other, even if there were no reciprocation.
This is where being part of a community comes into play. “Companionate love is the love we have for others whom we perceive to be in-group members,” according to the study. The team then went on to predict supporters’ intention to:
- Donate to the organization in the next 12 months
- Increase the level of their donation to the organization in the next 12 months
- Leave a legacy to the organization in their will
- Become/remain a monthly donor to the organization
- Fundraise for the organization by obtaining gift pledges from friends and family
Recurring gifts and creating sustainers are clearly crucial in improving relationships with donors and thus improve donor retention further. The significant predictor of intention to give across all donation actions measured is communal strength.
Here’s my take on this: Knowing that the donor wants that communal strength means that it is important to have a name for your recurring giving donors, but more importantly try to build that recurring giving community with engagement. This leads to donor loyalty, trust and connectedness. And guess what: The more connected donors are, the longer they stay and the more they give.
“Relationship Fundraising 3.0 focuses on developing a detailed understanding of the psychological needs of the donor,” Sergeant said in the report. “Identity, well-being and love are at the core of the approach. … It focuses on the impact of giving on the individual supporter.”
It means that our role as fundraisers evolves.
“People who feel good about who they are when they [make] giving decisions are significantly more likely to give, give more in the future and give for longer,” Sergeant continued. “... Rather than seeing ourselves as raising money for a good cause, we may instead see our role as stewarding the human capacity to love, taking gentle steps to develop and nurture that capacity over time.”
Sending surveys to your donors to try to find out why they give and what words matter most to them help. Then changing some words in your communication can make all the difference in the long run.
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.