Non-profit donors: “Should I stay or should I go?”

A few years ago I discovered two fundraising bloggers from “across the pond” who collaborate on a daily blog called “The Agitator“. I fell in love and told all of my friends to subscribe if they knew what was good for them. A few weeks ago, The Agitator published a post titled “Flat Earth Fundraising: Ignoring The Leaky Bucket” that was so outstanding that I fell in love all over again.

While Roger hits a lot of hot buttons for me in this post about donor retention, one point struck me particularly hard when he said:

“This means half of your retention battle has nothing to do with your mission features and organizational benefits. A large part of the reason a donor will stay or go is not mission or message or premium offer, it is how she/he is treated when encountering donor services. The opportunity here is not avoiding bad experiences (that is obvious), the real opportunity is recognizing that service can actually improve the relationship and is a critical touchpoint, one that can help to further monetize the relationship with cross-sell and upsell.”

There are big non-profit organizations out there that are well-oiled machines. These types of organizations have fundraising departments and use complicated direct response strategies that would make many for-profit organizations proud. They employ fundraising professionals responsible for managing a caseload of donors and use Moves Management strategies. I suspect “donor services” look very different at a large non-profit agency than it does at a small organization. I’m not saying that it should (maybe it should and maybe it shouldn’t) . . . I’m just saying that it does.

After reading Roger’s thoughts about “donor services” and the role it plays in donor retention, I started thinking about what this means for small non-profit organizations that focus more on in-person, face-to-face fundraising and less on targeted and direct mail.

What does it mean?

It means that the volunteer solicitors your agency recruits to work pledge cards becomes one very important touchpoint for the donor.

Duh . . . right?

As I think back upon my days on the frontline of a small non-profit agency working with volunteer solicitors on annual campaign implementation, I am embarrassed to admit that the thought farthest from my mind was “how enjoyable and fulfilling will that solicitation meeting be” for the donor. In fact, I was more focused on tactical issues such as:

  • do I have enough volunteers?
  • where can I host a good kickoff meeting?
  • how can I inject accountability and urgency into the campaign so that we can finish “on time” and run along to the next fundraising event?

Sure, I provided volunteer solicitors with “training” at the kickoff meeting, but it sometimes felt like an after-thought. As I look back over some of the campaigns I’ve run in the last decade and think about some of the volunteers I recruited, I now wonder how well some of those solicitation meetings went.

Ugh! I would describe some of my favorite volunteers as “major closers”. They are task oriented and would “hunt down” their assigned donors like a dog hunts down their favorite bone. While that approach might have been good for me, I am now worry about how the bone . . .errrr . . . donor felt.

I would also describe some of my other fundraising volunteers as “highly reluctant” and only agreed to participate because I was charming and persuaded them to do so. In spite of all the training, I can imagine that their solicitation calls felt uncomfortable for everyone involved.

I suspect that prospects/donors have the classic song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by The Clash running through their heads every time they are sitting down with a volunteer solicitor. This encounter needs to be good. In fact, it needs to be great!

The following are just a few thoughts running through my head this morning on how to get a little closer to achieving this objective:

  • put lots of time and thought into recruiting “the right” volunteer solicitors who are comfortable and excited about asking other people to consider making a pledge to your annual campaign;
  • be thoughtful and engage your volunteers during the prospect assignment phase of your campaign and focus on matching people based on good solid relationships;
  • go beyond the typical training focused on how to make the ask and use the case statement by including tips on how to improve the quality of the meeting itself; and
  • ask the volunteer solicitor to engage their prospects/donors in a conversation around what their preferences are for post-solicitation communication by the agency.

What is your agency doing to improve the quality of interaction between solicitor-donor and agency-donor? How are you evaluating and assessing the effectiveness of those encounters? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health! (If you want to be “agitated,” go check-out Tom & Roger’s blog posts over at The Agitator. You won’t be disappointed!)

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

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.