Tag Archives: fundraising

Predictive Analytics: a nice overview infographic

How nonprofits use analytics for fundraising.  An infographic on Twitpic
Thanks to the fine folks at Bentz Whaley Flessner (@BFW_Social) for this great infographic. Yay Donorcast!

I want my two dollars!*

My friend Jonathan put this question up for discussion: “As a ‘development’ ploy, a charity sends a two dollar check, asking that the recipient not cash it and donate instead. Cash it or not?” 

One friend said, “I cash it and donate double.” 

Another said, “Stupid fundraising method. If I am the charity, I 1099 the people who cash the checks.”  

Yet another wrote, “I think that the fact that a charity is using any of their assets to send out checks to anyone other than the stated benefactor of the charity, calls into question their management practices and their ability to responsibly manage donated funds. Think twice before donating to them; find another charity to donate to & I wouldn’t cash the check.” 

My first answer?   I said cash it, keep the money, and make the gift that the direct mail piece was too silly to ask for outright. Send a note with the gift to comment on the concern he felt about this appeal type and ask that they exclude him from this type of scheme in the future.  All fundraising techniques work for somebody sometime, and my guess is that Jonathan had been micro-segmented based on prior giving or some other variable. (Or maybe they thought he’s a little old lady with church-based guilt issues. If he was a knitter or crochet-er or quilter, maybe the charity bought a stitch craft magazine mailing list, or maybe it’s just a big ol’ zip code drop…). 

The charity’s appeal might work.  The yield for investment might actually be pretty good, and they may end up putting more money into their programming to benefit their mission.  However, I doubt it is a well-thought-out endeavor since Jonathan received and questioned it. My suggestion that Jonathan give is based on a presumption that he cares about the mission of that particular charity, not because the solicitation warranted a response. 

I have never recommended this appeal technique.  My understanding of  the logic behind this type of appeal is that the check amount (or a $1.00 bill — I’ve received that appeal before) is of a size  that the donor will write a bigger check back — $2 barely pays for postage and printing from the charity and the effort of cutting a check and postage from the donor.  Regrettably, this sets the scale of the ask too low too.  But my main problem with this appeal is not that it doesn’t work — it does — or that the gift size is likely to be quite small, but guilt and trick giving is no way to build a relationship with a donor. For every $6 raised in a given year, non-profits typically retain only $5 the following year due to donor attrition.  Why create extra tension for the donor about deciding to give if there is likely already a problem with keeping donors engaged? Why lead the donor to wonder at all about the motive of the solicitation?

Regarding the comment about management practices and the charity’s ability to responsibly manage donated funds,  I am generally critical of the arbitrary measurement of 10-20% of budget maximum as an indicator of successful nonprofit fiscal management. Although it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should, a critical look at a 990 is a better way to gauge the charity’s fiscal health against one’s own values. Tell a for-profit company that, in any given year, they shouldn’t invest more in sales if it’s warranted, and they’d likely consider the request to be uninformed and insulting. 

* quote from the 1985 movie “Better Off Dead,” one of my least favorite movies of all time and one with seemingly inexplicable cult appeal.

Why not hire a university development officer?

An advancement VP at a college asked an interesting question:   “Why are nonprofits reluctant to hire experienced development officers from higher education for mid-level, senior, and executive positions?”

I don’t think he was fishing for help with a job search!  I had a ‘Johnny-Depp-as-Willy-Wonka’ flashback to the time when I was leaving university fundraising and was dealing with this question up close.  I asked some friends and clients about their answer to the question and got these replies (with a qualification that the candidate described has worked only in higher education fundraising):

1.  The candidate is too skill- or task-specialized and doesn’t have experience with the wider range of responsibilities that he would need in a smaller npo or an npo with a different structure.  OR, the candidate does not have a realistic understanding about the amount of time or resources needed to complete tasks because there were support staff and units in place to complete project components at the university.  For example, there may have been another office that created publications or processed gifts or managed all the data, or completed some other critical task, and the candidate has not actually had to understand those processes.  So, in a smaller organization, or one run in a more vertical non-hierarchical style, these understandings are more important.

2.  The candidate will need more support to develop prospect and donor constituencies that are not automatically generated, unlike alumni or parents.  Or, the candidate will need more time and training to develop case-making statements and content promotion that aren’t education-specific.

I can see the truth and error in both of these rationales. It all comes down to individual competencies and fit.  I’d hate to think a good higher ed fundraiser wasn’t considered based on these assumptions.  I can attest that a competent someone who loves to raise money, instead of running program, and understands the role of fundraising within the mission is a valuable person and can be taught technical steps.  But I think higher education fundraisers who consider working outside the university should be mindful to understand the breadth of their experience with attention to the context outside of the university — it wouldn’t hurt anyone to develop professional curiosity about the functions and administration of other advancement departments and units.

Buried in the VP’s question was a funny subcontext — is money a factor for the smaller organization, or is agism?  No one I spoke to even mentioned the possible income drop and related retention fear. No one flinched at hiring an older staffer either.

Hey, Brother! Can I borrow your ‘Hey, Soul Classics?’ Oh, no, my brother, you have to buy your own…

No, I’m not a big freakin’ slacker.  I’m actually ahead on my hundred posts in a hundred days challenge.  The blog is actually running on the NTEN NTC site during the NTC conference.  I’ll do some cut-n-paste for individual sessions, ultimately, but I’m going to borrow from that blog today so it looks like I’m a functional human blogger:  here’s a link to my messy/grammatically-challenged live NTC  blog.

I got a call!

I got a call fundraising call yesterday.  Because I am a freak, this was an exciting moment for me, to chance to listen to someone solicit a gift from me!  How is the script constructed?  What are the rapport-building points and the objection statement responses?  What  primary ask amount did they establish, and how do they work a sliding scale?  What a buzz — Wheeeee!

The young woman asked for me by my maiden name, then said that she wanted the other adult in the home. My husband’s name is more commonly given to females in the US, so the caller said, ‘oh, she’s a man?’

I stopped the caller and said that she clearly did not know who we are, so who is she?  Darned if she wasn’t from an organization for which I’d played a leadership role nationally and to which I am an annual donor.   She pitch was to ask me to send solicitation letters to my rolodex to solicit gifts.  It was not a smooth call.  She fumbled around, tripped up with the name problems.

I told her that I was sorry that she was inadequately prepped for the call, and I asked that she relay my surprise to the call center and organization coordinators: they don’t know our salutations and whether my husband is a male?  Also, I should not be in the call segment because I’ve already asked that I be excluded from the program. I wished her luck and said goodbye.  And then I fumed.

The woman on the phone was set up to fail, and that is unkind. Prepping for phone calling involves one critical step: know who you are calling.  Whomever gave the call list to this woman did her an disservice by not confirming that our volunteer past, our giving history and our requested exclusions were factored into the list generation.  Moreover, when it’s all said and done, all we have are our names. A name may be mis-pronounced, but it should not be wrong.

Knowing that mistakes happen, I was sad — did the organization realize that it was sloppy in its treatment of a volunteer and a donor?  Because of my passion for improving donor retention, I am sensitive to the kinds of messages fundraisers give to their current donors, messages that reinforce the value of donors’ support and messages that devalue the donors’ engagement.  So often it is the poorly-trained or ill-prepared front line employee that gives a donor the organization’s perception of the donor’s value.  There is no bad intent by the organization, clearly, but a lack of attention to the interfaces that donors will encounter proactively and passively.

What do I recommend, besides the obvious database and segmentation clean-up?  Ask staffers to keep short-n-simple lists of their calls and e-mails in and out, with reasons for contact (a pre-printed checklist would suffice), for a selected period of time.  Ask the social media coordinator to generate a report on hit rates and click throughs.  Look over the compiled data — when and why do donors and prospects connect with your staff?  Who calls more constituents and who uses e-mail more frequently? Can you spot trends and patterns?  Do some staffers default to a certain type of communication when another method might be more appropriate?  Is someone picking up the phone more than you’d known?  Further questions and audits might include questions about how staffers record bio and volunteer data, and how data makes its way into and out of your CRM.

Data gives you an opportunity to review and adjust for better performance.  Whether it’s a phonathon caller or a student intern, an audit of interaction can identify the type of resources and support your staff needs to give your constituents the sense that they are valued and appreciated.

Why didn’t he give this year?

In response to a question posed about best practices for donor reclamation, I did not address appeal methodologies.  Instead, I addressed a common fundraiser response I see all the time. Sometimes fundraisers hesitate to contact a lybunt/sybunt personally to ask for a gift renewal — we wonder if the past donor is no longer interested in our mission, or is not satisfied with something, or doesn’t want to be contacted.  We use appeal methods that do not best match our intention, like direct mail or e-mail, methods that make it harder for donors to engage in an active dialogue about reasons for giving, or for not giving again.

It’s a big step to approach a lapsed donor with a clear perspective; it is very easy and natural to apply our own values to others’ actions. Is he not renewing his support because we addressed his envelope incorrectly, didn’t plan to include more racquetball courts in the new athletic facility, doesn’t like the organization’s alignment with a political initiative, etc., etc.? My advice is: Do not presume that the donor lapsed because of something your organization did or didn’t do. When it’s all said and done, very few of us have the psychic abilities needed to guess why he didn’t give.  Many donors lapse for reasons we might never know, like big purchases, lifestyle and work changes, and new priorities in their giving plans.

In my experience, nothing beats an in-person meeting for re-engaging a lapsed donor and further understanding donor motivation. My advice is to revel in the opportunity to ask ‘will you renew? why or why not?’  It is a chance to ask direct questions and get answers you can use to create the case statement that will help the donor, and other lapsed donors by extension, make a renewed commitment. If you can’t meet in person, try personal phone and personal mail — your response should reflect your ability to handle the scale and cost of the recapture program.

Crikey! Help us help ourselves!

Short rant-y bit.

Some of the methods we fundraisers use to get information out to our audiences are developed to showcase what we want the audiences to know.  Blergh.  We have to develop pathways that provide what the audience wants to know.  Big difference.

H-to-the-r is working on a project.  She’s on-line, looking for contacts and contacts’ names at a bunch of universities.  The contacts work in areas related to alumni activities.  H has worked in university environments for years.  She knows how to look for people on pages and directories.  H has a wonderful new computer.  H is way smart.

It’s bad enough that some of the universities’ pages won’t load quickly (do they think home and international computer users have the same university-speed load times?).  Some won’t load at all (ack!).  But if she gets on a site, and if she finds that the department site she needs exists, she is finding it a very difficult task to find Phone Numbers on these sites.  Phone Numbers.  Come on.

It’s fairly easy to find links to click or ‘contact us’ forms.  It’s harder to find actual names of individuals with certain responsibilities.  H can’t find basic phone numbers, or department phone numbers even!!

So props to the streamliner universities who don’t infest their pages with long download time gadgets, sound files (Peaches & Herb, really?), flashkibbles and moviebits.  Props to those that list alumni and development staff, that add photos of staff members, that have phone numbers and e-mail addresses for actual staff members.  Props to those who let the audience ask the questions it wants to ask, and ask directly.

Isn’t the point of relationship-building  to help prospects and donors know who we are, what we do and why we’re there?  Shouldn’t we be prepared to deliver the information the audience is going to need?  Aren’t we suppose to help them help us raise the ducats? 

So I am wondering if the distance that a poorly-messaged (is that phrase way wack?) website creates between the audience and the fundraiser is an institutionally acceptable way of telling the audience what we want them to know.  The acceptance of this delivery method gives us the freedom and distance to decide when we will talk to someone who needs an answer, or gives us the excuse of an increased response time to an e-mail message to a general mailbox.

You know I loves me some social technologies, even basic ones like a website.  I just don’t like them to serve as a barrier to real talkings.  Real talkings is the only time we get to provide an immediate answer to the questions the donor wants to ask, provide what the donor wants to know.

<<shaking it off>>