I had the opportunity to read Greg Warner’s book, Engagement Fundraising, a few weeks ago. The book is pitched toward those cultivating major gift and legacy donors. And its promise is “How to raise more money for less in the 21st century.”
So what’s it about?
The Pareto principle tells us most of the money we’ll raise will come from the top 20% or thereabouts) of our donors. So it makes sense to focus our attention to this segment of our list.
I found Greg’s approach interesting. Because he advocates both genuine, human-level engagement with donors. But also the use of artificial intelligence to boost the possibilities of the work.
When I talked to him about his book, Greg told me, “There’s so much data noodling in our profession.” In other words, we can spend lots of time researching donors and gathering information. But that’s time not spent actually engaging the donors.
The process Greg outlines starts with the data. To decide which donors to focus on, he uses a survey. The survey asks about why donors care, what inspired them to give, what programs they care most about… and how likely they are to give.
This is the information he calls “verbatims” – what donors tell you in their own words. But he also suggests collecting information based on donors’ actions. For instance, using technology to track donors’ clicks when they interact with your website or email.
The key, to me, is that this allows an organization to be more useful to donors. We can tailor communications to a donor’s particular interests instead of broadcasting. And you know I’m all in for more personal communications. Or at least, communications that feel personal.
For those working with major gift donors, this also allows you to really spend time with the donors most eager for that kind of relationship. No more asking and asking until someone has had enough.
Of course, all this is possible with software that Greg and his company have developed. But there are principles and ideas here every organization can use.
Seek feedback – then use it
So often, we put all our effort into one-way communications. But how eager would you be for a relationship if the other person did all the talking? How needed would you feel?
Roger Craver, author of Retention Fundraising, says “… put a feedback mechanism on your website, put a simple set of questions in your email, in your acknowledgements. There are all kinds of ways to get feedback.”
Ask for permission – and respect the answer
Pamela Grow says, “Generally speaking, nonprofits don’t understand the concept of permission-based marketing.” Are you asking for permission to communicate? Are you asking donors for permission every step along the way? Be respectful; listen to donors and abide by their requests.
Spend more time focused on donors – especially the donors who raise their hand and are eager for attention.
This makes sense, right? Every donor deserves to feel needed and appreciated and special. But you do need to prioritize. And focusing more attention on the donors who raise their hand is smart fundraising.
Be smart about your data – and about the system you use to work with it
We’ve grown so far from the days of index cards! But too often, we’re not using the tools we have fully. Don’t buy a donor database that isn’t easy to use. Don’t buy one that doesn’t provide you the metrics you need to make strategic decisions.
Then use it. Personalize. Capture preferences. Use every tool you have to treat each donor as an individual. Donors should feel they matter in their own right, not as a drop in your bucket.
Good communication is personal communication
You don’t need to hand-write every donors individually every time. But the more you know, the more you can use solid tools to make communications feel personal. Then, as you learn more, you’ll know who to move up to truly personal relationship-building.
Engagement Fundraising will give you new insights about structuring your fundraising program. Give it a read!