Perception and Reality

Nonprofits constantly face a challenge of perception versus reality.  This challenge makes it hard for nonprofits to innovate or change because they get caught up in doing what they think is the right thing to do.  I saw this chart and it really got me thinking; is our perception actually our reality?

Perception Versus Reality

Perception Versus Reality

In this chart, consumers rated receiving a discount as the #1 reason they visit companies via social media.  Companies rated discounts as the last reason why consumers visited their social properties.  Pretty compelling!

So, what do we do with that information?  We test!  We make it a part of what we do every day, and we work to actually determine what our donors/constituents/customers need vs. what we think they need.

Lets get tactical:

  1. Survey: Launch a survey in Survey Monkey, Constant Contact, or whatever you are currently using to communicate.  Ask: How can we improve?  How can we better serve you?
  2. Listen:  Really take time to understand what your audience is saying in the survey.  What are they asking for?
  3. Take Action: Make a change (or three) based on the results of the survey.

Take-away: Start testing perception vs. reality in your nonprofit.

Lapsed Donors: How do we get them back?

Last week Sage Nonprofit Solution released their first donor loyalty study of which I had an opportunity to participate in.

First things first: One of my most shocking revelations from the study was that only 29% of nonprofits have a lapsed donor program.  That mistake presents a huge opportunity for others.

If you are one of those organizations that does not want someone to come in and take your lapsed donors, here are a few ideas.


Plan: It is important that the efforts expended on your donor recapture program result in revenue for the program.  Make sure you have a clear goal for the program and identify exactly how much is needed to create a positive ROI for the program.  If your program isn’t producing revenue then invest your time in something else.

Identify: Who should you target? Past donors that were true givers (above $20-more than one gift), strong volunteers, or well-known supporters are great targets.  Don’t leave anyone out of your email ask, but make sure you select the most likely candidates for recapture for any direct mail programs.

What: Communicate your message with your lapsed donors clearly and specifically.  Share with them:

  • what you have been doing.
  • the impact your programs are having on the community.
  • the results of your program.
  • what is going to happen if your program goes away.
DON’T call lapsed donors LAPSED or ask them to come back…DO give them a reason to come back!!!

How: After assessing whom you will contact and what you will say, you will need to determine how you plan to communicate with him/her.   Set up a monthly program that includes email, direct mail, and phone calls.  You never know what the trigger for giving again will be or when it will come.  In the early stages of the program, it is critical that you test. Test which variable has the strongest response, test the message that you are sending, and test the frequency of the messages themselves.  Make adjustments often and continue to evaluate the program.

Success: When you successfully recapture a donor, be sure to send a hand-written thank-you note.  I also recommend that following the first gift, you send a very short survey asking how you can improve.  It might reveal why he/she left in the first place.  It will allow you to improve for others and avoid the same mistakes of the past.

Take-away:  Recapturing a donor is time-consuming and difficult.  Invest in a strong program that makes your recapture program less critical, but keep in mind that saving a donor is less expensive than recruiting a new one.

Good Luck with your lapsed donor program!

10 Things Every Organization Should Do to Enhance Donor Loyalty

As published in:

Developing a solid donor base is not something that happens overnight. It takes time to cultivate a database of constituents who support your mission time and time again, and recommend your organization to others. Many factors are at play in the development of true loyalty, engagement and trust. How your organization utilizes its resources, the impact of your programs and your ability to communicate effectively with donors all factor into the equation and can significantly impact your organization’s ability to earn lasting loyalty.

With the goal of providing you proven, effective methods of increasing donor loyalty, I asked a sample of development professionals for their ideas on this topic. I received dozens of great responses, so thank you to those who provided feedback.

Building an effective program takes time and effort. Here are a few ideas to help you foster the one thing we all desire most, retention.

1. Listen to your donors
Find out what will compel them to further help you achieve your mission. Ask for their advice, and put it to practice.

2. Share your good news
Communication is key to building any relationship, and nonprofit relationships are no different. Think about newsletters, e-mails and face-to-face visits to keep the flow of information open.

3. Measure your success
“In general, donors like to receive regular, measurable and concrete feedback about how their money makes a difference,” says Ursula Pfahl, vice president of business development at Bigham JewelersOpens in a new window, who worked with CMON — The Golisano Children’s Museum of NaplesOpens in a new window. By sharing the impact in real measures, you solidify the good work you are doing.

4. Survey your donors
When Courtney Polster, fund development manager at Agrace HospiceCareOpens in a new window, started surveying her donors, she discovered that a high percentage were utilizing planned-giving vehicles to support a charity — but she was surprised to see how few said hers was their charity of choice for this option. This revelation led to further research. “Quality initiatives like these are helping build a stewardship and recognition program as well as a planned-giving program,” Polster says. “It has been most beneficial!”

5. Leverage donor loyalty

Use your board members to make calls and write thank-you notes. The power of appreciation from a strong board member can go a long way in building loyalty.

6. Involve donor in the cause
By regularly inviting donors to come and see their donations in action, Keith Greer, fundraising and membership coordinator at Popejoy Hall,Opens in a new window has changed the way donors view his organization and increased retention rates by 14 percent and the average donation size by $500. According to Greer, many of Popejoy Hall’s donors always shared the great work of the organization, but with stronger collaboration he has seen a shift in the way donors began talking to their friends after participating in the mission. Now it’s, “Look at what I’m doing to help.” In addition, today he has excited donors asking how they can do more. Greer says that the firsthand experience has “been more powerful for loyalty, engagement and increasing giving than any communication piece we have ever done.”

7. Get social
Create connections in the social networks where your donors spend their time. Connecting socially is very powerful.

According to the 2012 Sage Nonprofit Insights studyOpens in a new window, 84 percent of nonprofits are in social networks, with FacebookOpens in a new window topping the charts. Surprisingly, 69 percent of participants say their organizations are not blogging. Blogging is a great way to keep donors up to date on the status of the organization. Additionally, through social sharing in tools like Facebook and TwitterOpens in a new window, nonprofits can further engage donors and volunteers with those same updates.

8. Customize your approach
“Bottom line: Loyalty comes when we show folks we know them. This means we have to really listen to them. There’s no cookie-cutter approach, as donor preferences vary. We have to be sensitive to our donors’ particular styles, then give them what they want,” says marketing and fundraising consultant Claire AxelradOpens in a new window.

9. Recognize repeat donors
“Whether your organization is new or has been around for years, you can recognize continuous yearly donors in your annual report. Give recognition to donors who have supported you (at a set level) for three years, five years, 10 years — break it down however it works for you — but with recognition, if they have to drop a nonprofit one year, hopefully it won’t be yours!” says CFRE Debbie Joyner.

10. Say thank you
“One easy element is thanking donors for every gift either with a phone call or personalized e-mail. When dealing with loyal donors, I am always sure to mention how long they have been giving and let them know how much their continued support is appreciated. Most donors haven’t thought about how long they have been giving, and I think these small gestures have deepened donor relations with a pretty small investment of my time and our long-distance bill,” says Daniel Blakemore, assistant director for individual giving at International House, New YorkOpens in a new window.

Take-away: Loyalty, retention and engagement seem to be harder to come by these days — probably because we all seem to be running the race faster and faster. True loyalty takes time, effort and commitment to yield fundraising success, but the return is happier donors with a strong commitment to your organization.

Things I have learned from our nonprofit customers that you can use!

We just hosted our first Customer Success Tour.  The idea, which seems like a no brainer now, had never been done before.   We wanted to bring our customers together.  Share where we are going and see where they are and want us to be.  Simple!

The event was an amazing success.  Here are a few of the top lessons I learned from our customers that you can use for your donors:

1. Communicate- Your donors want to know more.  Email is not enough.   We need to share what we are doing multiple times, and we need to share it in multiple channels.

2. Share- Your donors want to know how the organization is impacting others and what others are doing in the organization.   One of the primary benefits of the success tour was being able to share the success The Jazz Foundation is having with Sage Fundraising Online.   It was a win/win for everyone in the room.  We were able to share the success of  great product, and our customers were able to learn a great deal about online fundraising.  You can do that in your organizations too.(Thanks Petr!)

3. Give them what they want– I have said this a million times and heard it a billion, but it bears repeating.  If you are sharing information about dog rescue with a cat person the message will not be heard.  Target your audience based on what they want to hear and what they care about.

4. Timing- New York in December is beautiful, but it is also hard to navigate and a very busy.   Sadly we inconvenienced our customers by bringing them into the city during the Holidays.   A great lesson for us and you.   Is the timing of your events suited for your schedule or the schedule of your donors?   Make sure they both jive.

5. Answer the questions– A great learning for me was that we need to have a more succinct resource for supporting our customers, so we put together  a customer resources page to help answer their questions.  Time and again, I stumble upon nonprofit pages that don’t answer the basic questions of donors.

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why should I give you my money?
  3. Are you accountable for the money you have gotten before?

These are must have’s for all nonprofit websites, and it was a great reminder for me.

Take-away:  All in all, I learned more from those four short hours than I have in my five years with Sage.  When was the last time you got your donors together and asked them how you were doing?  Maybe it’s time!!!