Who’s Centre of Attention – You or Your Donor

It’s not all about you – it’s about your donor. The donor is king, without them you have a hole in your income.

How you communicate is important, they want to know that they are making a difference, that their support is what enables your organisation to do.

Tell your donors the good things their support has enabled, donors like to know the good things their support has enabled.

It could be said that boasting only about what you have achieved can make donors think “well, if you’re that good why do you need me …”

Saying things like “You have enabled us to … ” makes donors feel that their support is making a difference. Whereas, “We did blah blah …” has the potential to have the reverse effect.

The next time you plan donor communications – remember to put your donor first, tell them what they have done.

You’ll gain more if your donor is the centre of attention.

Recognise Regular Donors

Your regular donors generate your regular passive income, don’t ignore them and the contribution they are making to the success of your organisation.

Praise, praise, praise … it may sound trite but it is the best thing you can do to help retrain and recognise the importance of donors in your regular giving programme.

That’s not to say that they are better or more important the your one-off donors, it’s simply to recognise the importance they have in allowing your to manage the work you do, knowing that there is regular income that allows you to do what you do.

When communicating with regular donors; ask for feedback, feedback about who, why and how they give through the regular giving.  These can be used to help entice others to your programme.

Regular givers should be segmented in your database to allow for specific updates to be sent to this group.

Some organisations develop donor reports specifically for regular donors, and hold events for regular givers to give them the opportunity to invite others who may be interested in joining your regular giving programme (think Tupperware without the commission).

Remember that you should also bear in mind that, although any donor can be converted to a regular giving programme, you should never stop asking anyone for a one-off donations. Even though you’re receiving a regular contribution from your regular donors, this group are known to give more when asked for a one-off contribution to something specific.

Regular giving programmes can help with increasing donor contributions and can help to reactivate delinquent donors.

When talking with regular givers, make it personal, using this style of communication can help not only retain donors, but can also help reactivate those who have stopped giving.

Often the simple messages of how important regular giving is to help maintain the work carried out, who is benefiting from regular giving, and that regular giving allows work to be carried out with reduced administration and fundraising costs can too help regain donors.

Some organisations make a point of restating regular giving levels to help retain and regain donors, perhaps a donor who offered $50 per month has had a change in their personal circumstances, but by suggesting a lower level they will come back on board, what have you got to lose by asking for less when they’ve stopped giving altogether.

All donor communications are important, just because someone has said they will give on a basis doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you – perhaps they may even need to hear from you more often.  But, don’t make your communications too frequently – this could be a turn off.

How are you communicating with your regular donors?

Could you be communicating with regular donors more frequently or change your message?

Are you a regular giver through a regular giving programme – if so, what is your experience?

Can charities find a new way?

Too many requests for too many donations – it’s something that’s real and has a negative impact on charities. Not only do the constant calls and requests have a negative impact on amounts raised, but also on people’s attitude to charities.

In reality, from my experience, people have organisations that are close to their heart, organisations they can see are making a real purposeful difference in their own communities.

Charities do need to cast the net wide, they need a wide reach to raise the much needed funds they need to do their work; but in doing this they are catching people who are already feeling the financial pinch from increasing personal costs, housing costs, food etc. This can cause people to feel that they’re not doing their bit when an organisation contacts them for support, this can have a flow on effect with people rethinking their entire charity giving.

Is there a way charities can make better use of targeting for donations? Probably, but in reality there is likely to be added costs in doing this – costs, that many, probably all charities can’t justify.

So what’s the solution?

There probably isn’t a one size fits all solution, but as others have been talking targeted, stand alone websites are probably a way to go.

If people can see exactly where funds are going, that there’s no middle man taking a slice of the pie they’re more likely to want to give, and may well agree to a regular giving programme if it were done in a way that they weren’t burdened with more requests, constant newsletters and then the annual receipts needed to claim tax rebates.

If there was a way you could give differently, or your organisation could solicit differently to reduce costs what would it be – would you develop a standalone giving platform or engage with an non commission (fee charged) service?

One thing I know charities will say is that they need the contact details of donors to stay in touch – sure, this can be a real need, and can help reduced donor acquisition costs.

What other things could be looked at for donor engagement and increased support?

Your thoughts, ideas and comments would be great to hear.

See also

Is it donor fatigue or is it your ‘ask’

Appeal Fatigue

Charity Fatigue

Go Invisible to be Visible

Also, take a look at this from TVNZ Breakfast show – The New Charities  

It’s time to tune in – and listen

Its often been said we need to listen more, that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in equal proportion.

Seth Godin has even recently written How to listen, and ends it well when he says “Good listeners get what they deserve–better speakers.”

We all need to listen more, we need to hear and understand what’s being said; without this we’re on a road to nowhere.

This reminds me of when we analyse a fundraising or awareness campaign and we see that it hasn’t gone as well as we’d hoped; why we ask, we ask ourselves and perhaps a focus group and close friends. But this only perhaps gives us what we “want” to hear, a sanitized version.

It’s all good and all hearing what we want to hear, but it’s probably only ego – ours, we don’t want what we’ve worked weeks, months or maybe years getting off the ground and those closest to us don’t want to hear our feelings; tough, sometimes feelings have to be hurt.

When was the last time you listen, no not heard but listened to what others outside our normal “feedback zone” had to say about the campaign? Probably very seldom if at all. Some would say NEVER.

It’s time to change that. 

There’s so many opportunities to hear what is being said, it could be in a casual conversation that someone says something, maybe not overtly, but something is said – with some subtle probing you could find out more that will be useful for future reference. Maybe you’re in a cafe and hear something; again file it away for future reference, but firstly is what’s been said in a similar vain to what you may have heard before?

You should also be using such tool as Google Alerts to monitor what’s being said about you – but, not only YOU, but your sector as well; it’s important to have a broad picture.

When I was talking about charity collectors and there being more than one option for people to support causes, and mentioned this on Twitter I got a few responses from people who felt they only had one option to support, and others who knew that it doesn’t only take money to support a cause.

One person summed it up well in her experience with colleagues, they make it clear that money is an option, but it’s by no means the only option to supporting an organization, a cause.

If one person is saying this – how many others are?

If the people organizations are having to explain to others that there are alternative ways of supporting, are organizations forgetting to and only focused on the “cash ask”?

Are organizations forgetting that people may want to volunteer a few hours to muck in, to roll up their sleeves and help. Maybe there’s some who would like to speak about the work you do where they work, play or socialize – have you asked them, do they know you’d welcome this kind of support as much as you would hard folding notes?

Charities are already likely missing out when it comes to street collections when people walk by because they don’t have cash on them, don’t let other chances to gain other support – open your ears, and listen – don’t just hear what’s being said, but tune in and listen. You could well get support you may never have gained before.

Ask yourself these questions – would you support you?

It’s always interesting to hear people talk about community organizations and how they don’t appeal to them, it could be the cause or it could be the impression the organization gives the public; does your organization have sex appeal, the wow factor or is it simply sitting their chugging along.

Grab yourself a cuppa, pen and paper and answer these questions about your organization, based on what the public sees of you – your website, the message you give about the work you do:

  • Would you give to your organization?
  • Would you volunteer for your organization?
  • Would you want to work for your organization?
  • Is what we stand for clear, is it easy for people to see what we do?
  • Are we seen as trustful?
  • Are we committed to what we do?
  • Have we made a difference?
  • What can we do better to gain more support/awareness?
What did you come up with, are there things about your public face you will/must change, and how will you go about it, what time frame will you set yourself for any changes?

This is a good exercise to do from time to time – do it again in a few months to see if you come up with different answers to what you came up with today.

Do you know why people lose interest in your organization?

When an employee leaves a company generally an exit interview is conducted to find out why, what the employee thought of the organisation – should nonprofits be doing some ‘sample exit interviews’ when people lose interest in them and stop supporting them – would it be of benefit?

Would it be beneficial to see why people stop supporting your cause?

We all know it’s the active members of an organization that are its lifeblood. Without them, the organization could easily wither and die.

As soon as supporter or membership numbers start to decline and organization should be taking action to see what is causing the decline and take steps to reverse it. The reality though is that many organizations don’t know why people are losing interest, what’s driving them to abandon their support. Without know this the “fix” won’t be easy or perhaps even possible.

To reverse any decline organizations need to know why – with an understanding as to why people are leaving it would be possible to take steps to retain supporters and to look at ways to attract new ones with longevity.

Perhaps one of the main reasons people are not continuing to support is that they’re not being told how important their support is, that without their support they organization is unable to do its work. When was the last time your spoke to your supporters about how important they are? If you haven’t for some time, change that and start talking to them – remember it’s not all about you, it is about your supporters, so next time you pen a newsletter talk about “the supporter” more than you do about yourself.

Organizations also need to understand who their supporters are, where they come from and what attracts them to your organization; again if you don’t know this – take steps to learn what it is about you, your work that attracts supporters, this will help in attracting new supporters and retaining those you have.

Supporters want to know what other ways they can be “part” of an organization, some will be happy to send a regular financial contributions, others might want to meet with other members of the organization – do you offer opportunities for people to get together and learn first hand about the work you’re doing, and for supporters to meet other supporters?

Another thing that could be causing a decline in your supporter base could be that you’re not conveying where you’re at with your goals, if you’re working to help homeless people off the streets – are you letting your supporters how many people now have accommodation as a result of the work you’ve been doing? Also, let those you’re supporting tell their stories; hearing first hand the difference your organization is making could be all it takes to retain people who were considering moving their support to someone else.

We all know it costs more to gain new supporters than it does to retain those you already have – do you have the resources to continuously replenish your supporter base, probably not; so why are you not askign your supporters why they’re leaving? Why are you not inviting supporters to see you in action? 

If you don’t know what makes your supporters tick, what drives them to leave – it’s time to make a change, the next time someone withdraws support why not give them a call – no not a letter, a phone call to thank them for their support, to say how sorry you are to see them go and to remind them of how valuable the work you do is and that their support has enabled you to achieve xyz.

If you would be interested in a donor retention interview for your organization please get in touch, I’d happily talk you through how to tailor one for your organization. 

Remember – let your supporters know that they are important, that you wouldn’t exist without them.