Reactive or Proactive

June 30, 2010

There are numerous different strategies for raising money. Some organizations are long-term planners and set-up a development plan that they use as a road map throughout the year. Other organizations watch and wait for the right time to send out that perfect appeal. Following a plan and rapidly responding to changing community needs are both valuable and important fundraising skills. Often organizations fall on one side or the other of that line with a perspective that is either proactive or reactive when it comes to donor management.

Reactive and proactive donor management really are opposites. Reactive donor management provides you an opportunity to approach individual donors in a very focused and personal way. Often you can provide very custom thank you materials and have the flexibility to respond to urgent and last minute requests and opportunities. Proactive donor management involves the creation and adherence to a development plan. Those who excel at being proactive will plan out all of their campaigns for the year and the time line it will take to make those campaigns a success. Proactive management usually allows a development program to accomplish more in a given year, but it may not allow for as much last minute polishing of a project or solicitation plan.

It surprises me how little these two style of donor management are blended together. What kind of donor management style has your organization adopted? Any tips on how to be both proactive and reactive at your organization?


Matching Gifts

June 28, 2010

I’ve spoken about matching gifts before, but I recently saw the power of matching and thought I’d share. I’ve often been skeptical about matching gifts because many nonprofits often have the funding already wrapped up by the time the match starts. I often wonder how much of my gift is really going to make a difference with matching, so it has not been a motivator for me personally.

We recently ran an employee campaign with a match from a community member and I was shocked at how well it worked. Everyone loved the idea that their gift would be matched dollar for dollar and that they could double their impact. One of our contributing factors to success was that we set a deadline with the match. We ran an event and told everyone that if they made a pledge that day it would be matched. As a result we were flooded with gifts. Everyone wanted to get their gift in before the timeline was up, and everyone wanted to double their support.

We asked employees who were not a part of the development team to make announcements about the match and the status of everyone’s giving. The response was overwhelming. In fact we had staff coming up to us just so they could make announcements of how much money we had raised without us even asking.

Have you used a matching gifts challenge? How successful was it? The challenge above went out to the employee community where I work but I have also run challenges with other stakeholder groups with less success. Have you found some groups to be more motivated by a match than others?


To Be or Not To Be- Donor Loyalty

June 23, 2010

Is donor loyalty changing? It would appear to me that older generations were more consistent about their giving. An organization could count on a monthly gift from their regular supporters and these individuals would give for years and years. Is that different today? Younger generations seem to respond more to a one-time appeal than give to an organization for several years. I think of Haiti as a perfect example. It is great to see how much people are giving to Haiti, but they are mainly one-time gifts. Almost all of the individuals who are giving to Haiti will not continue an ongoing investment in rebuilding and changing the lives of people in Haiti. They are giving in response to an appeal, to a horrible disaster that happened.

When I look at Haiti as an example of the new kind of donor loyalty I’m not sure if I should be encouraged or discouraged. On the one hand it seems that people today are more aware of what is happening in the world and want to help to make a difference. However, sometimes it appears that people give according to the biggest giving fad. Whether it’s Save Darfur, the (RED) Campaign, LIVESTRONG, or many other names, donations seem to go in phases to these groups. How should we respond to this developing trend? Does the decline in donor loyalty impact they way that we thank one-time annual fund donors? Should we invest less in cultivating repeat donor gifts? It sometimes feels like every campaign appeal I send out is written to sound more and more urgent. Does there come a time when we will need to differentiate between urgent needs and operational needs?

I’d love to hear back from you as to whether you have observed this as a trend or if it is just me. Is your organization experiencing a decline in donor loyalty? Do you have a hard time holding onto your monthly or regular donors?


Question: How Much is Too Much Board Prep?

June 21, 2010

Every organization is different and every board is different. Some boards have major players who play a key role in raising money for an organization, whereas others have a working board that is more involved in the strategy of the organization (as we’ve talked about in another post, Who Talks to Your Donors). Some boards meet monthly, others quarterly.

There have been times when I have spent multiple hours preparing for a meeting and had to put revenue generating projects on hold. Have you had this experience where you have spent significant time preparing for a meeting: preparing agendas, talking points, monitoring attendance, copying handouts, etc.? Sometimes I’ve wondered if there might be a better way, so I thought I’d bring this question to you.

How do you work with your board? How much staff time do you allocate to board preparation? Do you assign different staff to each board committee? Do you write talking points for your board members at all of your meetings?


What Do You Track?

June 16, 2010

In an earlier post, Tracking is More Than a Name, I mentioned the importance of tracking donor information. That’s just a quick snapshot of some of the key areas we are keeping track. I’d love to hear your feedback regarding what your organization tracks.

There is some information that is important for every organization to track. Below are some of these key pieces of data.

  • Name
  • Email/Phone Number
  • Partner/Spouse (relationship with spouse – divorced, married, etc.)
  • Alive or deceased
  • Mailing Address
  • Giving History

The larger your database, the harder it becomes to keep information relevant and accurate. Be diligent about fixing return mail. I know of some organizations where they have a staff member who regularly reads the obituaries.

Other tremendously helpful data that we are keeping include the following:

  • Donor Rating: This is often created by the organization based on conversations that you’ve had with that donor and individuals who know them. This helps segment and keep track of donors in your database.
  • Last/Next Action: Having the ability to track an action plan with a donor is invaluable and extremely helpful to keep everyone on the same page and to keep track of your cultivation plans from year to year. As you begin to do more 1-to-1 cultivations and solicitations, it is helpful to use your database to help you track your upcoming engagements.

Are Fan Bases Major Donors?

June 14, 2010

With the emergence of so many social media tools, there are fan bases developing all around you. I’ve seen websites that will tell give you a financial value of your network. I’m not sure how accurate they can really be, but the reality is that these kinds of groups are starting to hold more and more value beyond simply marketing.

Organizations can raise thousands–sometimes tens of thousands–of dollars through their blogs. These gifts will most often come at the micro level in amounts of $10 and $20. But when they are added together, they are significant. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a fan base in many ways starts to act more like a single person than you would think. Should we start treating our online fan bases as major donors?

In order to cultivate your fan base, you will use many of the traditional relationship management techniques you would use in traditional moves management or major gifts fundraising. You will go into your online community and find leaders that you can use to encourage other readers to comment or give, in much the same way that you would in a fundraising campaign. Based on past experience and what you hear from your readers, you will tailor future messages to topics that interest them but are strategic to your organization. If you take too long in responding to a comment or are irregular about posting, you lose the loyalty of your readers. You need to stay in touch with your fan base in much the same way that you need to stay in regular touch with your donors.

What do you think? It is kind of a crazy idea to say that you can treat a group of people in a similar way that you would one person. And it is a little bit of a crazy idea to start thinking of that group in major gifts terms. If you are a fellow blogger, I’d love your thoughts regarding if this is something that you have observed as well.


What is a Fan Base?

June 9, 2010

I’ve been writing for A Small Change for more than 2 years now. I am always trying to keep track of what you, my readers, are reading, what your expectations are when you come to my site, and what content you’d like me to create in the future. It has been interesting to start watching online group dynamics, and where my readers visit and comment. For example I know that the vast majority of people who read this post will never comment, send it off to a friend, or tweet about it. In fact, a large number of readers will not even spend enough time on this page to finish reading this sentence.

Over the last couple of years, I have started to think of my readers as a uniform group or fan base (I don’t like the word fan base as it sounds so egotistical, especially in my context, but the trends describing a fan base illustrate my point really well). Although I have not had the opportunity to meet each one of my readers, there are specific trends that are consistent. Within that group, there are smaller sub-groups that follow behavioral and/or viewing patterns even more closely. For example readers in New York read my posts earlier in the day than readers in Seattle or California so I try and make sure my posts are live by 5 or 6 a.m. Pacific time so that people on the east coast can sit at their desks to read my blog first thing in the morning. Another example would be that a number of my readers write blogs of their own, these individuals have a higher propensity to leave a comment or share my posts with others.

For your nonprofit organization, it is valuable to know this kind of information about your donors. What cities and neighborhoods do they live in, what kinds of homes do they own? From that information alone you can make some general assumptions that will better resonate with your donors in your annual appeal or at events. As you track this information, you can use it to create a stronger relationship with your donors. As they become more responsive, you can ask them to do more, to come to another event or give an additional gift.