Get Your House in Order: Spring Cleaning Your Fundraising Program
Meagan Downey, CFRE
April 1, 2016
Spring is finally here. Abundant sunshine brings the promise of good things budding and blooming outdoors, but it also brightens up all those areas of the house that need more than a little freshening up. Now is the time to harness that spring cleaning energy and renew your nonprofit’s fundraising program.
Donor retention is something we all know is important, but retention efforts are too often neglected for newer, more exciting projects. Who wants to rewrite all of the acknowledgement letters when there are rumors of an upcoming capital campaign?
Just as a natural focus on a new purchase at home can make us lose sight of the basic housekeeping projects that are in desperate need of attention, our ever-shortening attention spans at work can cause us to keep flitting to the next novel thing and this can create serious deterioration of core organizational touch points.
Imagine for a moment that your nonprofit is a house. Even better, that house is located in a community of caring people (donors) who frequently come bearing gifts to support your work. They might enter through your website, by making a phone call or by dropping a check in the mail. How would you like to be treated when bringing a gift to someone’s home? How does that compare with a donor’s experience in bringing their gift to you?
Sure. Every donor of your nonprofit gets an acknowledgement letter in 48 hours and a tax receipt at the end of the year. That’s nice. But if you were bringing a gift to someone’s home and it was treated as a business transaction, how likely would you be to go out of your way to bring a gift to their home again?
And what if directions to the house weren’t available on your mobile device and the street number was missing? What if, when you rang the doorbell, an error message was passed under the door – or just as bad, a PayPal receipt – and nothing more?
As a consultant, I am often hired to do full assessments of fund development programs. One of the first things I do when I have a signed contract in hand is make a donation. Too often the donation experience doesn’t feel like delivering a gift to a friend at all, even with some of the most amazing nonprofits with incredibly smart, dedicated staff heading up the development function. In some cases, making a donation feels more like getting a root canal.
So if you haven’t made a donation to your nonprofit in a while, renew your support. Make gifts in as many different ways as possible – online, offline, at events. Disguise your voice and make a donation by phone. What was your experience? Did you get the same letter you received last year or a fresh letter with a new story you hadn’t heard before? Were the experiences consistent online and offline or is the side door filled with clutter and barriers while the front door is clear and clean?
Even if your nonprofit follows all of the best practices when it comes to tax receipts and tracks all the right metrics, donor retention is about more than numbers and going through the motions. Retention is about connecting with your donors and treating them as people visiting your house bearing gifts instead of as dollar signs on a balance sheet.
Meagan Downey, CFRE, is Principal of Praximity Consulting Group, helping nonprofit organizations in the U.S. to improve performance, raise capital, fuel growth, chart new directions and manage change. To get in touch with Meagan, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (312)278-3097.