Recently I was asked to attend a nonprofit’s Board of Directors meeting. My client wanted me to present some data about the results we’ve been attaining together.
The data pointed to the usual obvious truths that I try to point out to just about anyone who will listen. Less is more. The Pareto Principle. The 80/20 rule. Focus on large gifts from passionate supporters. Stop spending so much time and money trying to acquire new donors (especially since most nonprofits do not have an effective plan for retaining those new donors). Stop the revolving door and plug holes in the leaky bucket.
My recommendations to the Board were as follows:
At the end of my presentation, predictably, the same question came up that I’ve heard over and over at these kinds of meetings. One of the board members said, “But we really just need more new donors.”
So today’s blog post is meant to implore you to consider a strategy that focuses on acquiring new-major donors instead of only new low-level donors. Here it is:
1. Move the middle– Your organization’s low dollar donors are probably getting pelted with your spam and direct mail… offers to go on Walks, Rides, etc. They may also be getting interrupted at dinner time by your telemarketing vendor. Meanwhile, your current major donors are probably getting first class treatment from your organization. But what about your mid-level donors? Often they get ignored. Too big to get the regular annual fund letters. Too small to get first class special treatment. They need to be engaged properly so they will move up the pyramid. But how? Nonprofit budgets are too small. How?!? With technology!!
2. Friend to friend– Also known as peer to peer fundraising, this method has been wildly successful for walks, runs, and other kinds of fundraising. The recent success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a perfect example. So why not use a similar strategy focused solely on getting major donors to connect other major donors to the mission. People with capacity hang out with other people with capacity right? On average, people know about 600 people (but only really trust about 25). The idea is to get major donors to inspire their friends to “engage” with the charity. It’s not about making the major donors’ friends become major donors— NOT AT FIRST. This kind of relationship simply can’t be rushed. Rather, it’s about getting major donor to get their friends to engage with the charity (go to an event, watch a video, learn about the problem, view a Webinar, etc.). Get them to sign-up or opt-in. Then move the relationship forward from there. But the key is to get major donors to recommend other potential major donors.
Both of these strategies require technology to help a nonprofit efficiently build scale. The future is now. It IS possible to focus on the 20% that will deliver 80% of your organizations revenue. You can be smarter about how you spend your fundraising / marketing dollars. And, you can stop interrupting your supporters with spam, junk mail and telemarketing.
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