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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.