The 8 Components of Engagement Fundraising

There are eight components of my innovative fundraising methodology:

1. Accepting the Pareto principle

We’ve called it the 80/20 rule, but it’s more like the 90/10 rule when applied to fundraising. The Pareto principle recognizes that 90 percent of your dollars will come from 10 percent of your donors. It applies to planned gifts, too: 80 – 90 percent of your planned gift dollars will come from 10–20 percent of your planned gift donors.

2. Understanding why people really give

People give because it makes them feel good. It’s simple but knowing that doesn’t make it easier to raise money. It just puts you on the right footing. It steers you toward an attitude of customer service, empathy, facilitation, and concern. Your fundraising efforts, now aimed at those with tremendous capacity thanks to the acceptance of the Pareto principle, will become customer service oriented. People become partners, not targets. They become human beings with feelings, stories, and passions, not ATM machines.

3. Employing a feedback loop

Most nonprofits don’t listen to their supporters because it’s challenging to listen to so many voices. Instead, they just spray messages at them. It’s mostly one way. But listening is an essential part of any dialogue. You simply can’t build trusting, committed relationships without genuine dialogue. You can’t raise money without trusting, committed relationships. Therefore, listening must become an enormous part of your communication strategy.

How can you listen to hundreds, thousands, or millions of supporter voices? It’s only possible if you employ technologies to capture your supporters’ “verbatims” (self-reported information) and digital body language (online engagement including clicks, views, downloads, time online, recency of online visits, how frequently they engage online, how much time they spend on your site, and so on). These tools help fundraisers cut costs, optimize what they do, and raise gifts efficiently.

4. Making valuable engagement offers

Once you accept the Pareto principle, understand why people give, and begin to employ a feedback loop, you’ll need to draw people into your marketing funnel. This is where it gets fun and interesting because the employment of valuable engagement offers frees you from interruptive, off-putting, spray-and-pray fundraising outreach efforts. Instead, offers provide an opportunity for you to give to your donors – rather than asking them to give to you.

The law of reciprocity states that you’re more likely to receive if you give first. It’s been proven that the person who gives first usually receives a gift in return from the original recipient that far exceeds the value of the first person’s gift (by exponential measures).

Providing valuable engagement offers shows your supporters you care about them. In fact, you can tie together the first three components above with this one to provide your high-capacity supporters an opportunity to fill out a donor survey so they can express why they care, how they want to give, and when. Doing so will make them feel good. MarketSmart has sent out millions of donor surveys on behalf of our clients, and their supporters show their appreciation by giving more. A lot more!

Interestingly, in donor surveys, we even ask our clients’ supporters if they have donor-advised funds and if they’d consider making (“recommending”) a donation with theirs. On the thank you page after the survey, only the respondents who said “yes” to that question get an opportunity to do just that. And they do, with an average donation of over $4,000!

There are other kinds of engagement offers that’ll draw your supporters closer to your mission. For some charities, the best ones might be webinars, free content, checklists, and so on. The bottom line is that your offers shouldn’t always involve an ask for your supporters and prospects to give you money. That drives them crazy. Mostly, your offers should engage your major and planned gift donors and supporters in ways that make them feel good. Thanks to the law of reciprocity, they’ll return the favor by exponential amounts.

5. Focusing on lead generation

Once you’ve developed your offers aimed at high-capacity donors and buttressed them with a feedback loop that makes the donors feel good, you’ll want to generate leads. In other words, you’ll want to present the offers to your list in a way that helps you qualify people who are likely to make major and/or planned gifts and want to build a relationship and involve themselves more deeply with you and your organization’s mission.

At this stage, it’s important to recognize that the most vital part of any lead generation effort is your approach. Your outreach must be polite and considerate. Always ask for permission to communicate with your constituents. Ask them to opt in and make it easy for them to opt out. Make sure your efforts are highly contextual, highly personalized, and highly relevant.

Stop spraying and praying. It’s disrespectful. Gaining permission is fair; it invites collaboration and builds trust. You should only want people in your funnel because they want to be there. Forcing them to be there will never result in more donations. You can’t wash money out of your supporters’ bank accounts with a hose! Again, stop spraying and praying!

Present your valuable engagement offers to the right people at the right times. Let them lean in. Make it easy for them to accept your offers and raise their hands, showing interest. Then capture the information they provide about their wants, needs, and desires using landing pages (online forms) and tracking tools that gather their verbatims and digital body language.

6. Following through with cultivation

Generating leads is almost a complete waste of time and resources if you don’t have a plan to cultivate them. Most leads won’t want to take action right away. Proper cultivation encourages people (at this point, your qualified leads) to engage further. Cultivation gives you a chance to “show ’em that you know ’em,” that you listened, that you care about their needs, and that they’re important to you. Everyone on earth wants to feel important and feel good. Deliberate, meaningful cultivation “drips” are where the magic really happens – as long as they’re persistent yet polite, personalized, and relevant.

The problem for most fundraisers is that cultivation is overwhelming, tedious, and time-consuming. You and your staff are already overworked, your data warehouses are a mess, and your staff keeps leaving or changing positions. You know this step is essential, but how on earth can you get it done and get it done right?

Mechanized automation is the most cost-efficient way to provide proper cultivation that builds trust and earns respect. And, thanks to technology, now you can “drip” the right messages to the right people at the right times. If you’re not employing these technologies (especially with email drips), you’re missing the “yeast that will make the bread rise.”

7. Using a dashboard

You may be wondering how you can possibly capture all this data and prioritize whom to call (and when). You’ll need a dashboard that helps you see your funnel so you can take action. A well-designed dashboard is the glue that ties it all together. It provides clarity, it serves up leads, and it helps you see who’s ready for personal outreach. Plus, if it’s built right, it should show your leadership and board what kind of revenue could be expected, from whom, and when.

8. Creating conversions

Most of your supporters care and want to give. They usually aren’t ready to make a decision when you want them to do so, however, because too often you might be guessing when to make your ask.

Conversion efforts are really facilitation efforts. They are the asks. Engagement fundraisers know that if a supporter has qualified herself, informed herself, and involved herself, she’ll probably be ready to solicit herself, too. Or, she might be ready for your outreach and even your solicitation.

With these eight core components in place, the guesswork is gone. You’ll finally know when to reach out, when to ask, and why. Marrying crucial pieces of information with your supporters’ sense of trust and desire for reciprocation (that each donor will have if they’re cultivated properly) makes serious magic happen. All of the pieces come together almost effortlessly, and you’ll be there to answer their questions and facilitate the closing of the gifts.

The world needs fundraisers like you to enable giving. Your efforts seal the deal. You are the tip of the spear, the boots on the ground. Whiz-bang, strategic, innovative technologies can’t work without you.

Learn more about how Engagement Fundraising can work for your organization with the right software and a team to deploy it for you — a team that makes it EASY.

Talk to one of our Solutionists today (with no sales pressure whatsoever). Arrange a purely educational demonstration today to see how so many other fundraisers like you have already achieved massive success.


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