How can we stop the leaking in our proverbial “buckets”? 6 Ideas to consider


  • Stop recruiting and start inspiring potential donors – inspiration draws people towards a charity’s brand
  • Using facts leads to conclusions; using emotions leads to action – tell stories about the impact of your work that connects to donor’s emotions
  • Giving is about people and their needs, not the charities’ needs – we provide opportunity for people to express their values so prospects will shop around seeking a charitable match to their needs and style


  • Technology is changing our landscape – it will enable us to engage donors face to face and at every giving level.  Stop using face-to-face interactions strictly for major gift development
  • To justify the cost of doing more, not-for-profits will increasingly use new technology to identify prospects for giving before donors make mid-level and major gifts, and then use that data to drive face-to-face visits and upgrade solicitations.
  • The University of Louisiana Lafayette is already leveraging technology to engage general fund donors who have the potential to upgrade to middle and major levels; so far, it has raised more than $650,000 in revenue that it otherwise may not have tapped.

Quality:  Donor Intelligence:

  • Focus on quality not the quantity of donors – in order to do so, the way we attract donors must change
  • It’s vital to actively engage donors to maximise their lifetime value, RFM plus channels, i.e. recency, frequency, size of gift and which channel(s) they use. 
  • Segment, segment, segment – while the concept of segmenting donors may not be new, the advent of analytics tools is making segmentation an increasingly powerful strategy. By providing the ability to analyze large numbers of donors and slice and dice them in a variety of ways, analytics is enabling organizations to be more and more targeted in their communication and solicitations.
  • Ideally, external data combined with existing internal databases will assist in developing strategies on how to acquire, engage, cultivate, and upgrade donor relationships.


  • Mid-level Giving Donors
    • Many organizations are looking to develop formal mid-donor programs that target and create giving opportunities for donors that fall between those who give a small annual gift and those with major gift potential.
    • A mid-donor program segments this pool from the standard annualized programs and affords them more personal cultivation
    • There’s an opportunity to move to cultivate these donors and develop migrations strategies.
  • Monthly Giving
    • Monthly giving should not be an afterthought, but a solid objective
    • Monthly giving strategies focus on asking for a smaller initial gift commitment and then growing the relationship
    • Be sure to communicate regularly to demonstrate the ongoing impact of their support. As well, charities need to develop strategies to increase monthly asks.
  • Special Events
    • The types of events that are attracting support are changing and many organizations are saying that events that enable participation and peer to peer fundraising are the most successful.
  • Volunteers
    • If they aren’t already donors, have you developed a conversion strategy to test and determine the ROI for this group?
    • If constituents are committed to volunteer to your cause and understand your mission, it’s an easier and less costly acquisition effort to convert them to a donor.


  • First year engagement is key: 
    • Donors should feel appreciated and experience your brand consistently across all touchpoints. 
    • In addition to acknowledging and thanking them for their gift, try and find an opportunity to engage with them at 30/60/90 days – critical timing in the first year to build a relationship with your donor
  • Humans need stories to make sense of the world and to feel that their actions really can make a difference – ensure donors know that their gift is having an impact and making a difference, regardless of the amount of the gift.
  • Donors want communications on their own terms not the charities:  ensure the content you’re delivering is relevant to them, through their preferred channel and frequency.
  • Use a monthly giving program to create communities for donors – whether geographical, physical or virtual.

Organizational Culture Shift – Eliminate Siloes:

  • Not-for-profits need to breakdown siloes within their organization and recognize that strategy, analysis and communication channels are key to acquisition and long-term retention. 
  • Marketing, fundraising, IT, finance and operations all have to work together towards the same business goals.
  • If analytics aren’t currently within your organization, consider how best to access the resource, e.g. outsourcing.  Test and build the business case for additional resources.
  • Donors can’t be looked at in isolation; map your donor journey from a communications perspective and have clear strategies for migration.
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