On June 8, Curt Swindoll hosted a webinar on the five pillars of fundraising strategy. He talked about a new perspective on strategy that can help you learn more about your donors, drive them up the pyramid, and engage them across all channels. Click here to view part one of the webinar synopsis, click here to view part two, click here to view part three, click here to view part four, or click here to view part five.
Participants were encouraged to ask questions throughout the webinar. Here are the answers to some of the questions he received:
Q: How can we recognize donors who want to remain anonymous?
A: Most donors that wish to remain anonymous do not want their generosity acknowledged publicly. However, you can still privately recognize and thank them just as you would any other donor, whether it be with a special letter, a phone call or even a personal visit. One of the most effective ways to engage any donor is with a thank you or a visit that comes directly from someone their gift(s) have helped. A student writing a letter to the anonymous donor is a powerful connection to why they gave and reinforces the emotional return on their investment (eROI) in your work. It is also important to clarify the donors’ expectations in asking that their gift remain anonymous. Is it that they do not want any contact? Or limited contact? Or just that they don’t want their gift to be publicly recognized?
Q: At what size is an organization too small for these fundraising strategies to be relevant?
A: Fundamentally, fundraising is about relationships and emotional connection developed through engaging narrative. This is true if you are the American Red Cross or a local all-volunteer food pantry. However, while the Red Cross has a whole team of full-time employees who work on social media, a local food pantry (or a community organization like a church) may need to prioritize their tactics differently. The strategies are consistent, but the tactics (i.e. the different ways you share your story and case for support) can vary significantly. Remember, it is about your story and vision, not about “being on” Facebook or Twitter or having an iPhone application.
Q: Can you give me a more specific definition of “opinion leader”?
A: An “opinion leader” is anyone who influences the thinking and behaviors of those within their community and social network. They can be “trend setters” that are often early adopters bringing new things to their sphere of influence. They are also respected and followed in their choices and therefore become message and action multipliers when they advocate on your behalf. Trying to make a campaign or message “go viral” has become cliched. However, it is immensely powerful when it happens and one of the key drivers is often opinion leaders.
Q: How long is a typical campaign?
A: That really depends on the type of organization and the type of campaign. Capital campaigns for a church or a university usually span numerous years. A special year-end campaign may only span a few months. Regardless, the key to any successful campaign is planning: Who are we going to reach out to? What are our goals? Why should the donor support this effort? How will we communicate the need and request support? Before any campaign is launched, it is essential to clearly outline the strategy and garner key commitments from vital stakeholders like board members, seed donors, and community leaders. Those commitments can then be used to gain additional commitments from other donors and engaged constituents.
Q: How do you engage staff and board members to help with fundraising when no one is stepping up?
A: The short and impolitic answer is that you mandate it, especially at the board level. I firmly believe that every board member should be a “give or get” member that commits to individually donating or personally raising a specified amount for the organization each year. At the end of the day, it is very difficult to engage donors with your vision if there is not concrete financial leadership from your board. It is extremely valuable to be able to say “100% of our board sufficient believes in our mission to be a donor-of-record each year.” In fact, more and more organizations are making it a requirement for board service.
Q: Have you found good websites to obtain information on donors (wealth, job, interests, etc.)?
A: There are a variety of services that provide wealth screening and/or lifestyle overlays based on public information and purchasing history. This information is usually overlaid on your entire file, though you can usually also login to their websites to do one-off searches. Naturally, these are all paid services. One of the most popular for wealth screening and job information is Wealth Engine (http://www.wealthengine.com/).
Q: I am the only development officer in my organization. Any ideas for helping all staff and board to understand they are fundraisers/development officers?
A: Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet here. Communication and education are the only routes to success. Remind and continually encourage board and staff to fundraise. Many staff are willing to participate, but they don’t know how. Have you communicated more than your expectations? Have you trained them in what to say? How to say it? Have you made it easy for them to engage potential donors? I also find it helpful to remind colleagues and leadership that fundraising is not a dirty word. In fact, it is a profound opportunity for individuals to participate in your vision and daily work even though they may not be able to volunteer or engage in that work full-time. Fundraising is the fuel that allows you to fulfill your mission and connects you to the wider community by offering donors a venue for meaningful participation. And excitement about your mission is the oil that makes it easy for people to talk about what your organization is doing. Everyone should resonate with that vision and eagerly support it. If they don’t, carefully engage them in a discussion to find out what is keeping them from telling friends and family about your organization.
On June 8, Curt Swindoll hosted a webinar on the five pillars of fundraising strategy. He talked about a new perspective on strategy that can help you learn more about your donors, drive them up the pyramid, and engage them across all channels. Click here to view part one of the webinar synopsis, click here to view part two, click here to view part three, or click here to view part four.
Donor development initiatives need to be supported through cross-channel communication
We have all these different channels of communication. What’s become clear in the last few years is that all these channels need to reflect a consistent message. What you’re saying in your email sends needs to be consistent with the message in your direct mail, what you’re communicating at an event, and what you say in face-to-face meetings. But consistency is not enough–it needs to encompass a thoughtful and strategically developed plan with how we communicate with people. The plan needs to integrate and anticipate that people are going to interact with us in different channels.
What action do you want people to take when they come home from one of your organization’s events? Hopefully they go to your website to learn more. Perhaps the same thing happens when someone goes to your website–they learn about one of your events and decide to attend to find out what your organization is all about. They shouldn’t be hearing different messages, because we should anticipate that people are going to use multiple channels to learn more about us and engage in our work. We should also play to the strengths of each channel and work within them for congruency in our message. Most importantly, all communications should be intentional, driving people towards specific goals by using cross-channel engagement.
Often times organizations communicate to donors through a single channel. If the communication starts online, it stays online. Or, if they start in the mail, then never leave the mail. So it’s either all online, or all offline.
We need to not only make sure that messages are consistent across all channels, but that we use different channels of communication. We need to be thinking beyond just having an online stream and offline stream. We need to think in terms about how we might use different channels of engagement to engage donors and their connection with us more deeply. This can help accomplish multiple initiatives:
- Behavioral invitations that encourage people to show a behavior in an area of interest to them
- Engagement efforts that garner either an initial gift or an upgrade to the donor’s previous gift
- Follow-up strategies that encourage continued interest in the organization after a gift is made
- Reactivation programs that re-engage lapsed donors and renew their interest in supporting the organization
On June 8, Curt Swindoll hosted a webinar on the five pillars of fundraising strategy. He talked about a new perspective on strategy that can help you learn more about your donors, drive them up the pyramid, and engage them across all channels. Click here to view part one of the webinar synopsis, click here to view part two, or click here to view part three.
Data drives strategy
Typically, strategy is driven by what’s familiar. We do what is inexpensive, what is easy, what has worked in the past, what has worked for someone else. We do things that are based on our current capabilities and stay away from growing our capabilities, or we focus on “shiny” new things that hold the promise of quick fixes to our giving problems. But different ideas are not necessarily good ideas.
Strategy needs to be driven from a solid base of data and information. That data and information needs to be filtered through your organization’s philosophy of fundraising. This enables you to develop a strategy that is in direct response to that data. The strategy then drives the creative process, which produces a result.
A critical point of data we often don’t think about is our own assessment of the fundraising work we’re doing. We look at these categories of evaluation covering fundraising strategy and fundraising execution:
|Fundraising Assessment Areas|
|Constituent Messaging||1.1 Core Messaging1.2 Brand Promise
1.3 Case for Support
1.4 Impact Measurement
|Donor Intelligence||2.1 System Support2.2 Tracking and Testing
2.3 Analytic Dashboards
2.4 Accessible Information
2.5 Actionable Reporting
|Integrated Communication||3.1 Lifetime Value3.2 Communication Planning
3.3 Cross-Channel Engagement
3.4 Donor Stewardship
3.5 Attract and Join
3.6 Build and Multiply
|Fundraising Capacity||4.1 Development Structure4.2 Staff Expertise
4.3 Fundraising Leadership
4.4 Strategic Leadership
4.5 Catalytic Engagement
This assessment grid gives you categories you can use to evaluate your fundraising practices and systems. This is important as you develop solid fundraising practices as an organization.
On June 8, Curt Swindoll hosted a webinar on the five pillars of fundraising strategy. He talked about a new perspective on strategy that can help you learn more about your donors, drive them up the pyramid, and engage them across all channels. Click here to view part one of the webinar synopsis, or click here to view part two.
Donor behavior is driven through catalytic interactions
Are we even aware of what motivates people to take action? Do we know what causes someone to change their behavior? How can we influence people’s behavior? There are two questions they must answer: is it worth it to change my behavior, and if not, why should I try?
To overcome this kind of resistance, we often use verbal persuasion. Another approach involves using personal experiences give people an opportunity to see what your organization is doing first-hand. This helps people connect with the mission and vision of the organization and helps overcome resistance to giving.
You can also persuade behavior through vicarious experiences that come when we tell stories about what is happening through an organization. This is why storytelling is so important to nonprofits.
Many times persuasion stops here. If motivation AND ability are attended to on three levels (personal, social and structural), behavior can be successfully influenced. If we don’t attend to these two questions at a personal level, people are not motivated to give or don’t know how to give. On a social level, peer pressure and team support can help address the motivation and ability to give. At the structural level, we need to consider incentives and the environment as way to motivate behavior. We want to motivate giving behavior. By bringing additional levels of motivation–over and above persuasion–donors will naturally be driven deeper in their relationship with us.
|Level||Motivation(Is it worth it?)||Ability(Can it be done?)|
• Impact communicated in terms people care about
• Pictures and people impacted are used to tell the story – “humanize” the data
• Donors know what is expected and how they can support the effort successfully
• Complex challenges are broken into smaller, achievable, understandable tasks
• Formal leadership has communicated support and are involved
• Opinion leaders are identified; trust is built, and they are engaged in the project
• Leadership, experts, communication and fundraising – Team-based strategies
• Information is complete (collateral, results, etc.)
• Giving is recognized and appreciated in advance outcomes
• Officers are incented to do the right things
• Create proximity between the donor, the organization/leadership, and constituents
• Environment reflects project priorities – you “see it” and “feel it” when you walk around
A catalytic interaction is what is really important to move relationships forward. One person who attended the webinar wanted to know more about what a catalytic interaction looked like. A catalyst, strictly seeking, is a substance that changes the rate of a chemical reaction and is not consumed in that reaction itself. A catalytic interaction is one that speeds and deepens your relationship with a donor. In addition, it serves and sustains the long-term nature of the reaction, instead of getting consumed in the process of getting just a one-time gift.
The interaction itself is often a well-timed phone call or meeting, but it could also be an engaging video or compelling blog post. What usually makes it catalytic is that the timing is perfect, the communication is tailored, and the request for support is personalized. That is why integrated strategies are so important. A phone call following up on an important appeal letter, with messaging that built on last week’s email newsletter, is just the type of catalytic interaction that leads a donor up the pyramid.
Ongoing, two-way communication that supports the donor relationship is important, but catalytic contacts and interactions are tools that drive relationships forward far more quickly than more passive forms of interaction.
On June 8, Curt Swindoll hosted a webinar on the five pillars of fundraising strategy. He talked about a new perspective on strategy that can help you learn more about your donors, drive them up the pyramid, and engage them across all channels. Click here to view part one of the webinar synopsis.
Behavioral data is integrated into donor profiles and contact strategies
We view the relationship we have with donors with a lifecycle mindset, something we call the Pursuant Paradigm. We are actively working to attract new donors to an organization, then to encourage people to join or engage in the organization’s cause, then building donor relationships and multiplying them over time.
The center of the lifecycle circles around donor interests. They are at the core of our communication and relationship development process. We must connect the things the donor is interested in to the things we’re doing if we want that relationship to mature, develop, and grow over time.
At Pursuant we focus on donor intelligence to truly understand what donors want. We capture donor interests through behavioral data; when we send out a survey, we’re not just capturing responses. We capture information on what someone viewed or did not view, for how long, where they clicked, what part of a site they visited. We combine that knowledge with someone’s past giving habits, past involvement with an organization, and wealth or lifestyle data to truly get the bigger picture on their interests. This allows us to target specific areas of giving interest through the tracking of engagement and behavioral indicators.
Donor intelligence can also help drive people through the pyramid. It can enable organizations to predict which donors might be receptive to a commitment at a mid-tier level before they’ve ever made a gift. Or, we can use donor intelligence to proactively identify potential donors at all levels.
What drives your approach to fundraising, your strategy for connecting with and developing significant donor relationships? Most organizations admit that they just do what has worked in the past. On June 8, Curt Swindoll hosted a webinar on the five pillars of fundraising strategy. He talked about a new perspective on strategy that can help you learn more about your donors, drive them up the pyramid, and engage them across all channels.
The five pillars of fundraising strategy are:
- Structure and systems support a “whole pyramid” strategic focus
- Behavioral data is integrated into donor profiles and contact strategies
- Donor behavior is driven through catalytic interactions
- Data drives strategy
- Donor development initiatives are supported through cross-channel communication
Structure and systems support a “whole pyramid” strategic focus
The way an organization engages its donors typically depends on the level at which the donor is being engaged. Annual fund officers generally engage donors using a direct response strategy, whereas officers at the major gifts level are usually engaging prospects and donors face-to-face. These differences cause organizations to operate in silos, which can cause donors to get stuck at a particular giving level. When the organization is not working as a whole towards the ultimate goal of continually cultivating donors and moving them up the pyramid, they could be losing donor support. Organizations need to take a look at how well they are serving all levels of the donor relationship and thinking about how they are moving people up the pyramid, especially from one level to the next.
Typically, strategy is based solely on the structure of the organization. Organizations are not strategies that look at the entire pyramid and encouraging donors to advance to the next level. That is the key to encouraging donor movement. Organizations need the kind of strategy that deepens and enriches the donor relationship and moves them forward. Incentives should reward donor growth and not the hoarding of donors at any particular level.
An important element of overall strategy is how the organization communicates to its various donor audiences. All departments that affect fundraising need to be involved, collaborating together and giving input on a communication calendar and plan–including direct response, online, and social media–that speak to all donors at all levels.