Final tips on building your agency’s individual giving fish tank

Welcome to Friday of individual giving week where we take a step back and try to put everything in perspective. We’re using characters from the movie “Finding Nemo” to look at various individual giving strategies.

“Crush the Turtle” helped us look at special event fundraising on Monday. Tuesday’s post focused on “Marlin” and direct mail.  Dory helped us on Wednesday peek at some of the considerations around ePhilanthropy. Yesterday we looked at annual campaigns that have a personal solicitation approach at their core.

So, let’s turn to the dentist character from “Finding Nemo” because I think he wraps-up individual giving week nicely with this movie quote:

“I can’t understand it! Here this thing says it’s got a lifetime guarantee and it breaks! I had to take all the fish out, put ’em in bags, and . . .  where’d the fish go?”

We need to always keep in mind the following immutable facts about individual giving strategies:

  • It isn’t about finding one individual giving tool and using it over and over again. We need to fill our resource development toolbox with a number of different individual giving strategies and use them together.
  • Once we build a comprehensive strategy that works with our unique set of donors, we need to understand that unlike the dentist’s fish tank there is no lifetime warranty. We need to be vigilant and continue evaluating and tweaking our approach. (e.g. mail lists need to be culled, online strategies are constantly evolving, etc.)
  • If we don’t couple our individual giving solicitation strategies very closely with a serious stewardship strategy focused on acknowledgement, appreciation, and demonstrating program outcomes/community impact/return on investment, then we’ll find ourselves in the same situation as the dentist with no more fish in the fish tank.
  • Human being are naturally inclined to want to belong to something and the best individual giving programs focus on that instinct in the following ways:

* evolving their solicitation strategies into a “membership campaign”
*tightly weaving their solicitation strategies together with stewardship activities resulting in “donor recognition societies”.
* developing a case for support that focuses on joining a “winning non-profit team” rather than using dire messages about impending financial crisis and tough economic times.

Being committed to constant evaluation involves developing relationships with our donors, asking for their feedback, and taking the time to engage smart volunteers to help pour over data and figure out what it is telling us. Here are some metrics we need to keep an eye on:

  • response rates
  • turnover/loyalty rates
  • click-through rates from email or social media message to webpage
  • number of gifts that increased vs. decreased vs. stayed the same
  • tracking crossover participation between fundraising vehicles
  • tracking donors and whether or not they are moving up the giving pyramid

The bottom line is this . . . it isn’t good enough to just build a world-class individual giving program that employs multiple strategies and tactics. While these efforts will net fundraising success, you will find your newly built fish tank that is full of pretty donors suddenly empty just a few years later. Remember, individual giving is all about individuals who filter their decisions through an emotional filter and they are always evolving. We need to evolve with those donors and meet them where they are at by committing to a donor-centered approach to resource development.

Finding time to 1) evaluate the data in a collaborative way with volunteers and donors, 2) figure out what it is telling us, and 3) make appropriate adjustments will help guarantee that our fish tank is never empty.

What does your individual giving program look like? How do you monitor your “donor fish tank” to make sure it is clean and not too dirty? What data and metrics do you look at? What tools do you use to gather data (e.g. donor database, donor surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc)? How do you involve fundraising volunteers?

Please take a minute this morning to weigh-in using the comment box below because we can all learn from each other. We have all become the professionals we are today because others took the time to invest in our development and help us grow. Please “pay it forward” with a comment today.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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