Where have all the donors gone? – Part 2

This post is part of the CMA Not-for-Profit Council’s ongoing work on innovation in donor acquisition.  Interested in learning more? We have an upcoming session and networking lunch on October 5 in downtown Toronto – please come join the conversation!

In our first post on this topic, we identified that perhaps non-profits are not suffering from a crisis in donor acquisition but rather retention, and we left you with some thoughts around “smart acquisition.” Acquisition is an introduction to the donor experience and organizations need to be conscious of this and focus on that experience.  Additionally, “giving” is about people and their needs, not the organization’s needs. Non-profits provide an opportunity for people to express their values; but remember that people will shop around seeking the best match to their needs, giving and communication style.

So what is “smart acquisition” and how do we capitalize on it? Smart acquisition is the recognition of opportunities that currently exist to grow your donor file -- and the key is having the right information and strategy to maximize the results.   

The well-known ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raised more than $100 million in 30 days, and in some ways -- like giving and volunteerism in response to the 2012 Haiti earthquake -- defined viral fundraising. Both examples teach us that donors are willing to respond to social needs even if the non-profits that benefitted never anticipated or even solicited their support. The key to their ongoing success, however, is how the charity responds to these opportunities.

Enter the world of opportunistic fundraising. At the risk of sounding insensitive, it’s time for non-profits to leverage the incredible media awareness of the small world we live in, and develop strategies for maximizing newsworthy events that connect with their cause and mission. Be cautious not to invent news; the key is to make sure you’re ready for when news happens that you can leverage to fundraise and expand your donor base.

Effective not-profits prepare well for future crises, large or small, and approach them as catalytic moments when they can make real progress. World Vision does this extremely well; it has a plan for activating donors whenever a natural disaster occurs. Do you have a plan in place to acquire donors when a relevant media story or event occurs? Other opportunities for smart acquisition involve outreach to event participants, including participants at third-party events as well. In both cases, individuals are engaging with your cause so having well-thought out strategies for further engagement with an intent to convert is key. 

The growth in door-to-door (also known as face-to-face) acquisition is viewed by some as an extension of what is a core principle -- people respond to people -- to others, it is viewed as a sign of desperation. The question becomes whether these teams can be used as part of an interactive experience with donors/potential donors versus the traditional “street team” concept; what about the territories they are assigned to -- are you using data analytics to target the right communities or even streets?  For that matter, are you using the information locked in your donor database to attract like-mined people to your cause?

What about considering a two-step process to a gift: soliciting a small gift through one channel and then upgrading the gift or type of gift through another? The combinations are endless in today’s multi-channel environment. The key is being open to the opportunities that already exist and understanding what resonates. Engaging outside of your silos and developing strategies to take advantage of these opportunities is essential. Of course, don’t be afraid of failing either.  What works for one organization may not work for another; after all, the causes and the donor base are different.
Donors are not one homogeneous cluster. The only thing they may have in common is a belief in the importance of your cause. Their individual interests, motivations and communication preferences vary. Effective segmentation of donors and adjusting your acquisition, communication and stewardship strategies to reflect those differences are essential if we are to address the combined and distinctly related problems of donor acquisition and retention. The charitable landscape is changing; the most effective leaders will recognize this and adapt their strategies to maintain relevancy and ultimately be more successful in achieving their mission.

Liz Marshall
Tamara Pope

Sources / Additional Reading

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Tags: Donor Programs, Not for Profit, Fundraising