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You Have $75. How Should You Spend It?

There’s no doubt — we’re living in a tough fundraising environment.
Just look at how different things are today, …

There’s no doubt — we’re living in a tough fundraising environment.

CamJust look at how different things are today, compared to 10 years ago (and I’m not just talking about what happened to my hair).

Today, nonprofits spend about $50 to $100
to get one new donor on board. That’s
one person. One gift. And no guarantee
                                      of future giving.

Ten years ago, if you spent $50 to $100 on marketing, you could bring in one new monthly donor — someone committed to long-term giving.

While I never want to think of donors in terms of numbers, the reality is that nonprofits today have to spend a lot more on marketing if they want to attract new people to their cause.

So the question I want to ask you is this:

What is the best use of your marketing budget?

Say you have $75 to spend per donor. Is it better to invest that money in bringing a new donor into your organization? Or is it better to invest in retaining your existing donors? (The retention investment would consist of relational touches like thank-you calls, welcome packages, impact reports, and so on).

I’m going to suggest that treating your donors exceptionally well — especially your new donors — makes very good business sense.

It’s a significant opportunity for most organizations to improve their fundraising.

To be clear, this isn’t a “one or the other” option. To have a healthy file, you have to work at both acquisition and retention. But if your retention numbers are low, this is definitely the place to start.

I’ll talk more about this in future posts and I’ll show you in more detail what I mean.

Until then,


Read more 06/03/2015

Meet Your Donors In Their Happy Place

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we, as fundraisers, might be making our lives more difficult …

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we, as fundraisers, might be making our lives more difficult than we have to.

That’s because we try to take donors to places where they don’t want to be.

Put yourself in a donor’s shoes for a minute.

You donated to an organization because your friend asks you to sponsor her for a fundraising bike ride. You were happy to sponsor her. She’s your friend — you want to cheer her on!

The next thing you know, you get a letter from the organization. You barely remember that they were connected to the bike race. Now they’re asking you to support a program you’ve never heard of.

That’s a big stretch!

Call it donor conversion, migration, whatever you want — it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It creates friction between a person’s natural affinity (their friend) and what the organization wants you to do (support their programs).

So how do we reduce that friction?

I was at a fundraising conference in Amsterdam, listening to a woman talk about how her non-profit raised $15 million in a bike race across the Netherlands. “Yes, but after people give, how do you convert those donors into your ongoing stream?” I asked.
She looked at me, puzzled.

“We don’t try to do that,” she said.

What do they do instead? They extend the bike race spirit throughout the year. They hold events. They send emails and letters reminding people of the fun they had. Six months before the next race, they start building momentum.

In a word, they meet donors where they’re at, and where they’re happy.

And that’s a good place to be.


Read more 05/12/2015

Not All Golfers … Or Donors … Are Alike

I’m a big golfer.
I love to get out there as the weather turns nice. There’s a golf course …

I’m a big golfer.

I love to get out there as the weather turns nice. There’s a golf course just across the road from my house, so I don’t have to go far.

My son also loves to golf. My wife can take it or leave it. My daughter would rather read.

All this is to say that when it comes to golf, people exist on a spectrum.

And that just might describe your donors and supporters too.

The fact is, they’re not all equally engaged with your organization. Each person is different. Each has a different connection with your non-profit, along these lines:

Aware: These people are aware of what you’re doing. They align with your values. But they haven’t done anything yet to signal active interest.

Advocates: They’re interested. They’ve taken some kind of action for your cause … maybe signing a petition or attending an event. You know about them.

Giver: This person has made one gift. We’re not calling them a donor yet. They might be reacting to something they’ve seen on the news, like a natural disaster. They might be responding to something you’ve sent them. But they’ve only made one gift. Typically, that’s as far as it will go.

Active Donor: These wonderful people have made multiple gifts to your organization. They’ve indicated, through their giving, that what you’re doing is really working for them.

Committed Monthly Donor: This person is really special. They’re in a committed relationship with you. They’re so aligned with what your organization is doing that they’ve promised to give every month.

As a fundraiser, your hope and dream is to move people from Aware to Committed. You especially want to bring along your Giver so he or she becomes an Active Donor.

So how will you do this?

You’re going to have to devote some concerted attention to your Givers – the ones who have made one gift so far.

You want to treat them well – welcoming them, affirming their decision to give, and extending that warm glow that they got when they wrote their cheque.

I’ll share specific tactics, and the business case for this kind of treatment, in future posts. You can also join us at the Do-Gooders Summit on May 13 (sign up here) for innovative “love your donor” approaches.

More to come. Happy golfing!


Read more 04/27/2015

Who’s the boss?

Why are people always trying to get people to do things they don’t want to do?
I remember several …

Why are people always trying to get people to do things they don’t want to do?

I remember several years ago the frenzy was around trying to ‘get people to our site’, and then the lights went on and organizations realized, no, ‘we need to get to where people are hanging out’.

It’s the same thing today. It’s amazing how many conversations I have that begin with a client trying to figure out how to migrate, or convert, donors. How do we get them from giving money to a friend who has given up her birthday for our cause to becoming our monthly donor? How do we get someone who has given at a golf tournament to give us another gift? How do we get a disaster donor to support our child soldier program in northern Uganda?

These, my friends, are precisely the wrong questions. Our supporters tell us what they care about through their giving channels, rather than trying to turn them into something they are not, we need to be giving them more opportunities to do the things we know that they love doing. If guilt-free golf is their pleasure, let’s figure out a way to keep them on the golf course while supporting our cause. If they give to disasters, how do we make them our disaster champions?

Last year I talked with a woman who organized one of Europe’s largest charity cycling events. I asked her how they convert race donors to ongoing regular supporters of the charity. She looked puzzled and said ‘why would we want to?’ She went on to say that they communicate year round and encourage supporters to organize their own team for the next the year. They keep the supporters focused on the event, and even go so far as to minimize the information about the charity being supported. Ah, now I’m learning.

As long as we try to get our supporters to do what we want them to do, life is going to be one big arm wrestle. If we give up that wrestling match and realize that they are the boss and our job is to make them (and ultimately their friends) happy, we’ll work at doing just that, and keep them right where they are – happily giving.


Read more 10/29/2014
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