Wednesday, June 10, 2009

6 step plan to 'lead' your fundraising right now

You'll notice the subject didn't include the 'R' word. Remmber, I banned it.

Alas I thought I'd revisit some stuff I've been talking to lots of people about recently. Some fundamental lessons to remember right now. I was reminded about this after reading yesterday that charitable giving in the US fell $2b last year according to Giving USA. Frightening upon first glance, but in context fell less than 1%. (In Canada, we know giving rose in 2007 to $10b, but don't have sector wide data for 2008 as yet).

So, what do we do to not only manage, but lead fundraising in tough times?

1 Make sure you rock at supporter relationship management/caring for your donors.

That includes: genuine thanking, genuine feedback, genuine two way engagement (getting people to take action, fill in surveys etc).

That excludes: ignoring donors, tardy follow up, getting distracted by cool and funky things in favor of the downright dull but important (I.e. thanking).

2 DON'T sacrifice long term for short term

I recently spoke to someone from a large national organization who told me they were forced to cut $40k from their planned giving budget. For no reason other than they felt it was the right thing to do.


You never make up ground with this type of thinking. Successful, growing organization's lift their head above the water and see that it takes commitment now to reap returns later.

This relates to acquiring donors also. Refer my post earlier in the year about smarter, not less acquisition.

3 Avoid distraction and focus on those things that will have the biggest impact

Follow the Pareto principle, the 80:20 rule. Focus your energies where they reap the greatest returns.

Don't mess about with marginal activities. Get your house in order: get your donor care right, spend more on high value appeals that bring in large chunks of net income, ensure your monthly giving welcome process is working.

This doesn't mean don't be innovative. But remember, innovation isn't necessarily doing new things, it's doing things you're not currently doing.

4 Get the balance right between cost and value

Let's say you normally spend $50k to develop an appeal that raises $300k.

You then realize if you spend $100k you can raise $500k.

Your ROI has dropped but your net return has increased. Think about which one provides the best value and helps have a bigger impact on your beneficiaries.

5 Use data to make informed and strategic decision

Not the time to make decisions based on 'gut' feelings or intuition (or if you do, test these feelings).

To use a really tactical example, if you recruit monthly donors using street recruitment. Find out what is actually the biggest driver on attrition (hint: normally it's age: younger donors more likely to attrite).

Run your data through some statistical modeling package and determine what the key driver is and then do something about it. If you find that younger donors are more likely to stop giving, don't force your agency to recruit younger donors (the agencies will go bust and that's not good for anyone).

Treat these younger donors differently, work out what they respond to, use different mediums to cultivate and ultimately retain them.

Bottom line is the data above doesn't alone allow you to raise more money by keeping more donors, but the insights gleaned from it will.

6 Look around and see what others are doing

Take your blinkers off. What are other organization's doing that's working (and that's not)?

Don't be confined to looking just within your own country, look abroad.

Mystery shop other charities and see what you can learn from good and bad donor care/fundraising practices.

Consider benchmarking yourself against others and see what's happening outside the four walls of your organization.

The world isn't going to spontaneously combust. It isn't all doom and gloom. Whatever you do, don't retreat like a frightened turtle. Follow the steps above and you'll come out of these times better, stronger and able to help more beneficiaries.

And isn't that what it's all about?


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