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Introducing "ENGAGEMENT FUNDRAISING"— the Future of Nonprofit Marketing

Increase your revenue with engagement fundraisingMy mission is simple:  I want to exponentially increase revenues for nonprofits while dramatically reducing costs.

How?

With “engagement fundraising”— a phrase I coined about a year ago.

What the heck is engagement fundraising and why am I introducing it as a “new” concept today?

First, engagement with donors is nothing new for nonprofits. Engagement is the act of engaging or the state of being engaged. It also represents having an appointment, a pledge, or a commitment. Words related to “engagement” include:

  • Involvement
  • Immersion
  • Engrossment
  • Captivation
  • Commitment
  • Appointment
  • Arrangement
  • Obligation
  • Pact
  • Contract
  • Oath
  • Promise
  • Vow
  • Assurance
  • Bond
  • Compact
  • Pact

Second, I think fundraising is broken. There, I said it!

I think it’s broken because charitable giving has been stuck at around 2% of GDP for four decades.

I think it’s broken because there’s a tremendous amount of momentum behind outdated strategies that aren’t good enough to break past the 2% rut.

Note:  You may wonder why some industries (including printers, software firms, CRM companies, data providers and even consultants) are propagating these decaying philosophies. Two reasons:

1. Because their very survival depends on that propagation.

2. Because they have not yet learned that there is a smarter way.

I think fundraising is broken because people keep doing things the same way over and over without enjoying any improved results. Face it, a fundraiser that might either be new to his or her position or might be leaving his or her position soon will find it easier to sign a requisition order to print and mail 100,000 letters that worked reasonably well rather than dig deep to find an imaginative way to raise more money at a lower cost.

I think fundraising is broken because a lot of the leadership still wonders if baby boomers are using the Internet despite all the evidence that they definitely are. Folks… I still get scowls at events from some attendees when I present my concepts. Fundraisers still disapprovingly admonish me saying, “Our donors don’t go online.” Good grief!

I think fundraising is broken because the younger staff members who know that baby boomers are going online have failed to embrace the power of the Internet’s efficiency and economy of scale to raise major gifts and legacy gifts. Instead they run around like ants only focusing their efforts and technologies on generating lots and lots of $20 donations. Oh what a better world we’d all live in if they would only stop for a moment to ponder the 80/20 rule and how its power can be harnessed to raise more money with less effort at reduced cost.

Need more convincing?

Consider this: Giving is stuck at 2% of GDP right? And almost every organization’s rate of retention is in the toilet, right? Then, since donation levels are constant… where are all the donors going if they aren’t being retained by your organization?

They’re hopping from one charity to another!

Why?

Because they want to give! They need to give! They are required to give! Or they love to give! But they aren’t getting any love back from the charitable sector. And that’s why they hop around giving money to one charity this year and another the next. They are hopping and hoping.

Hoping that they’ll finally find a home.

Hoping they’ll finally find a charity that loves them back.

Hoping they’ll finally find a charity that thanks them with genuine sincerity.

Hoping they’ll finally find a charity that welcomes them to their “family”.

Hoping they’ll finally find a charity that reports what they did with the money.

Hoping they’ll finally find a charity that doesn’t treat them like ATM machines.

I know we can do better.

Some fundraisers are already “getting it”. I’ve met them and they are amazing. They are doing it right with or without my help. They encourage me. They help me believe that the future is bright, that we can do better, and that we can drive down costs while increasing revenues efficiently.

I take my own medicine. 

I am not afraid to “put my money where my mouth is.” I am not afraid to engage. The blog post you are reading right now is part of my engagement strategy with you. I’m committed to engagement marketing for myself and my business as much as I am committed to engagement fundraising for you. In fact, a few years ago, in the face of tremendous consternation, I completely revamped my marketing agency serving for-profits (including Fortune 500 companies) to become the game-changing software and fundraising firm we are today.

You aren’t afraid either.

How do I know? Because you have already read 757 words about engagement fundraising and you haven’t bounced! You know that it feels right. Deep in your heart you know that something has to change.

You know that we can do better.

You know that we can’t keep doing the same things while expecting better results.

You know that the Internet is powerful.

You know that the 80/20 rule works.

You know that there are major gifts to be attained and legacy gifts to be found.

You know that your mission is awesome and your supporters should be comfortable in your organization’s “home”.

You know that your organization can and should love its donors as much as the donors love your organization and its mission.

You know that your organization can and should thank its donors with genuine sincerity that brings the donors even closer to the dreams you both share.

You know that your organization can and should engage with donors in a way that welcomes them to the “family”.

You know that your organization can and should use the Internet along with traditional channels to report how the donor’s money was spent.

You know that your organization can and should provide true engagement that will help donors feel empowered and involved when it is convenient for them.

You know that engagement fundraising is the future of nonprofit marketing.

There is work to be done!

Charitable giving is not going to budge from 2% of GDP unless we do something new.

Donor acquisition costs are not going to decrease — unless we do something new.

The holes in your “leaky buckets” (exemplified by absolutely dismal retention rates) are not going to get plugged— unless we do something new.

Donors want to be engaged!

They want to be involved.

They want to be captivated.

They want to be engrossed— in your mission.

And the best way to do all of that is with engagement fundraising that harnesses the power of technology to provide scale and efficiency that simply was not available until now.

The world has changed.

Don’t fight it.

Go with it.

Put fear aside.

Exponentially increase revenues while drastically driving down costs.

Remember Newton’s laws.

An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it.
An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an external force acts upon it.

Together we can be the force that acts upon the unyielding 2% dilemma.  Join me to change the world— with “engagement fundraising.”

 

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40 Comments

  1. Gary Pratt March 25, 2014 Reply

    I personally am excited to see someone doing this. I’ve been in non-profit fundraising for eight years now while the internet and social media have grown and matured exponentially. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and numerous other companies have learned how to monitor user activity, not to exploit their users, but to better engage them with relevant content. The user experiences an eerie sensation that the site is reading their thoughts and predicting what they will be interested in next… because it is, with predictive modeling code. Very exciting! The smart companies are already doing this. The impact on charities of engaging their donor base in this dynamic fashion can only be positive for both the charity and the people interesting in engaging in the charities mission.

  2. Gary Pratt March 25, 2014 Reply

    I personally am excited to see someone doing this. I’ve been in non-profit fundraising for eight years now while the internet and social media have grown and matured exponentially. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and numerous other companies have learned how to monitor user activity, not to exploit their users, but to better engage them with relevant content. The user experiences an eerie sensation that the site is reading their thoughts and predicting what they will be interested in next… because it is, with predictive modeling code. Very exciting! The smart companies are already doing this. The impact on charities of engaging their donor base in this dynamic fashion can only be positive for both the charity and the people interesting in engaging in the charities mission.

  3. Greg Lassonde March 25, 2014 Reply

    Greg W.,

    Yours are salient and timely comments. I agree with your approach. Still, many (most?) organizations need to recruit that base of $20 donors from which to mine, identify, cultivate, solicit and steward major donors. And for legacy donors, those who are long term are usually the deepest vein for legacy giving prospects.

    As you point out, if a development officer is not concurrently taking the approach you suggest above, vast quantities of money are going to be left on the table. It’s a strategic juggling act. It’s easy to sign contracts. It’s a challenge, and smarter, to pick up the phone and get out of the office.

  4. Author
    Greg Warner March 25, 2014 Reply

    I agree Greg. And I don’t think organizations should ever stop filling up their bucket with $20 gifts. But they do need to plug the holes that cause leaks. Also, they need to focus on the 80/20 rule so they spend more time and energy on the donors that have the passion to leave legacy gifts or make current major gifts.

  5. Author
    Greg Warner March 25, 2014 Reply

    I agree Greg. And I don’t think organizations should ever stop filling up their bucket with $20 gifts. But they do need to plug the holes that cause leaks. Also, they need to focus on the 80/20 rule so they spend more time and energy on the donors that have the passion to leave legacy gifts or make current major gifts.

  6. Author
    Greg Warner March 25, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the kind words Gary.

  7. Heidi March 25, 2014 Reply

    I’ve never bumped into a nonprofit that doesn’t want to better engage its donors, large and small. Most neglect to do it or do it well because they’re so up to their eyeballs they can’t assimilate new information. Greg, how about one of those ubiquitous numbered lists? 10 Ways You Can Start Engagement Fundraising Today?

  8. Author
    Greg Warner March 25, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Heidi. That’s coming… next week. 🙂

  9. Author
    Greg Warner March 25, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Heidi. That’s coming… next week. 🙂

  10. Doug March 26, 2014 Reply

    Right on. Even the old strategies can be improved if you think about your goal as engaging the enthusiasm of the person you are reaching out to instead of just thinking about opening up their wallets.

  11. Doug March 26, 2014 Reply

    Just as examples, communication can now and should now be a dialogue. If engagement is our currency then the messages should be concise and inspired and not merely persuasive. It needs to leave room for our contributors’ thoughts, especially if we are cultivating partners more than donors.

  12. Doug March 26, 2014 Reply

    Just as examples, communication can now and should now be a dialogue. If engagement is our currency then the messages should be concise and inspired and not merely persuasive. It needs to leave room for our contributors’ thoughts, especially if we are cultivating partners more than donors.

  13. Author
    Greg Warner March 26, 2014 Reply

    Indeed Doug! We recommend putting “Comments” boxes online everywhere so donors can tell us what they think.

    • Doug March 26, 2014 Reply

      That’s a solid recommendation.

  14. Author
    Greg Warner March 26, 2014 Reply

    Indeed Doug! We recommend putting “Comments” boxes online everywhere so donors can tell us what they think.

    • Doug March 26, 2014 Reply

      That’s a solid recommendation.

  15. Sharna Rozin March 26, 2014 Reply

    We at the Worthy Cause Store have embraced this way of thinking and are harnessing the power of the internet to engage current and new donors while not taxing the nonprofit financially or work wise. We have an online retail site where 100% of the profit margin of consumer purchases of new, competitively priced products goes to the charity of their choice. The consumer gets a tax deduction for that portion of their purchase that goes directly to the nonprofit, they pay no sales tax or shipping. It’s not dollars on top of dollars its dollars people are already spending on everyday purchases. Check us out at http://www.worthycausestore.com

  16. Claire Meyerhoff March 26, 2014 Reply

    Where’s the “like” button?! Well said, Greg.

  17. Author
    Greg Warner March 26, 2014 Reply

    Ha! Thanksk Claire. Scroll up and you can share it. Use the widget social media logos just above the picture of me! 🙂

  18. Beth Hershenhart March 28, 2014 Reply

    Fundraising is indeed broken Greg and I am grateful for your posting. Nonprofits have become scarily dependent on special events and impersonal direct mail or even worse—e blasts. I would add a couple of thoughts to your observations. Engagement sometimes has to leave the confines of the virtual world and come into the real world. Real conversations about nonprofit impact —and volunteer involvement and leadership . Virtual connection can build engagement but there is no replacing one-to-one actual conversation. And if your readers have not seen the results of volunteers and donors engaging–and only rely on staff for this—I highly recommend they try supporting and engaging volunteers to build relationship with donors.

  19. Author
    Greg Warner March 28, 2014 Reply

    Beth- I agree 10,000%. I only think virtual engagement should be used in order to help determine who is truly ready for one-to-one engagement. By tracking online engagements, fundraisers can now zero-in on the best, most passionate prospects rather than wasting both the donor’s and the organization’s time going on fishing expeditions.

  20. Author
    Greg Warner March 28, 2014 Reply

    Beth- I agree 10,000%. I only think virtual engagement should be used in order to help determine who is truly ready for one-to-one engagement. By tracking online engagements, fundraisers can now zero-in on the best, most passionate prospects rather than wasting both the donor’s and the organization’s time going on fishing expeditions.

  21. John B. May 15, 2014 Reply

    I think that people in your business should consider offering their new approaches for nonprofit marketing/fundraising pro bono on a trial basis with, perhaps, a commitment that if certain tangible benchmarks are achieved after a particular time period, it turns into a business relationship. That would be a game changer for many potential nonprofit clients with ever shrinking budgets who, otherwise, will revert to the tried and true rather than risk an investment in something unproven.

    I have worked with many nonprofit marketing firms by this point, both those more traditional FR consulting firms and those promoting new ways of doing things, as is being discussed in this thread. And, while I have tried everything offered from standard print marketing to a highly engineered, cutting edge web interface with interactivity etc, I haven’t seen a material difference in either the response rates, engagement rates, visit getting rates, or, perhaps more importantly, a new donor demographic.

    In my experience, we are still very much talking about Baby Boomers, albeit Baby Boomers we now often work with via email, text message etc. So, rather than platforms that help charities engage with and get support from a younger demographic, which many charities crave, perhaps we are merely seeing an evolution in the way we communicate with Baby Boomers to a largely electronic format but one that simply generates the standard response rates.

    • Author
      Greg Warner May 15, 2014 Reply

      Hi John-
      Thank you for your comments.

      I will be glad to discuss the possibility of offering our services to you and your organization 100% free of charge according to some very mutually beneficial parameters. Please contact me because I KNOW that our systems work better and would be glad to prove it so you will submit an update to this post praising our approach and technologies.

      There’s absolutely no risk for you.

      Looking forward to our call.

      Greg Warner
      CEO & Founder
      info@imarketsmart.com

  22. John B. May 15, 2014 Reply

    I think that people in your business should consider offering their new approaches for nonprofit marketing/fundraising pro bono on a trial basis with, perhaps, a commitment that if certain tangible benchmarks are achieved after a particular time period, it turns into a business relationship. That would be a game changer for many potential nonprofit clients with ever shrinking budgets who, otherwise, will revert to the tried and true rather than risk an investment in something unproven.

    I have worked with many nonprofit marketing firms by this point, both those more traditional FR consulting firms and those promoting new ways of doing things, as is being discussed in this thread. And, while I have tried everything offered from standard print marketing to a highly engineered, cutting edge web interface with interactivity etc, I haven’t seen a material difference in either the response rates, engagement rates, visit getting rates, or, perhaps more importantly, a new donor demographic.

    In my experience, we are still very much talking about Baby Boomers, albeit Baby Boomers we now often work with via email, text message etc. So, rather than platforms that help charities engage with and get support from a younger demographic, which many charities crave, perhaps we are merely seeing an evolution in the way we communicate with Baby Boomers to a largely electronic format but one that simply generates the standard response rates.

  23. Theresa Nagle April 1, 2015 Reply

    Great thoughts and even better suggestions for all of us out here in legacy giving land! Thanks for the positive and upbeat words and ideas. Looking forward to your next post!!

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