In recent weeks we've been discussing how fundraising strategies differ between closed loop and open loop organizations. Today we're diving into three strategies for organizations whose beneficiaries will one day be its donors.
1. Think transformational, not transactional.
Nonprofits make a big mistake when they treat their donors as “walking wallets” instead of human beings, with desires, needs, frustrations, expectations…hearts and souls. This transactional mindset comes out in the way we communicate.
A lot has been written on relationship fundraising, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say, some organizations need to adjust their mindset if they hope to change their acquisition experience, especially with younger donors. Pursuant’s work with clients who take this approach has resulted in average donor retention rates of 75 percent and more from their longer-term donors.
Adjust your approach to thinking of a donor as not just a donation, but a lifetime relationship, and not one and done.
2. Provide value-rich content.
The acquisition process involves a chain of activities that will help determine whether the prospective donor continues the process or not. Many websites, for example, fail to offer a prominent place where users are invited to provide their contact information. Those that do, often fail to offer an incentive for that exchange of personal data. News flash: no one wants to join your mailing list! You have to provide a valuable incentive, connected to your organization, to encourage people give you something of value in return: their name.
For closed loop organizations, you have content your beneficiaries value. Make some of it available to anyone who visits your website as a demonstration that you have something valuable to offer. Withhold the rest of your content for people who have subscribed, who have joined the tribe. You have to ask prospects to trust you with their name and contact, or you will never move the relationship beyond the initial stage.
So what do your beneficiaries value? What information do you have that will educate them? Encourage them? Help them? Support them? That’s the valuable experience you are offering them if they are willing to trust you and take the next step to initiate a relationship.
3. Improve new donor retention with reminder cards.
Pursuant has had great success using response cards that are attached to a laminated, colorful, well-designed pocket-sized “reminder” card that prospective donors want to take home with them. The value-added card is easily detached from the response device, and its content should be written from the donor’s perspective, providing information they want to keep and/or share.
Many organizations fail to address the chain of activities involved in converting an impression or an experience into an exchange of contact information or requesting a gift. Reminder cards are the offline equivalent of the website subscription process. Don’t hand out “mailing list” signup cards at your next event. Don’t tell prospects to go home and register. Don’t invite donors to respond at the start of an event before the impression has been made. Instead, distribute a response device towards the end and give people time to fill it out. Incentivize them to hand it in before they leave. Connect the sign-up device to a well-designed card prospective donors will want to detach and keep.
Content on these cards should be a demonstration of the value represented in having an ongoing relationship with your organization. “If this is an example of the kind of personal value that will be available to me by having a relationship with you, I’ll definitely sign up.” Sure, they are more expensive to produce. But I’ve seen responses increase response rates from 1% to 5-10% literally overnight by deploying a more robust response device like this.
Think about the nature of your organization. What would you like the donor to do over the next 30 days? What questions do you want them to think about? What story or facts do you want them to share with a friend? How might you summarize the impression or experience a prospect has just had in the form of a card? How might the card be written such that the donor wants to hold onto it, leaving them with the response device to fill out? These reminder cards essentially bridge the impression from an episodic event to a longer term relationship. This kind of “long game” mentality is critical in fundraising.
When you approach your relationship with your constituents not as “how can I get them to fund our mission” but rather “how can I best serve them so they are moved to give” you will begin to see the tide turn and a culture of philanthropy begin to form.
Be sure to download the free 7 Fundamentals of Relationship Fundraising infographic as an aid as you consider how you can grow to cultivate a culture of generosity.