Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Insights on improving conversations with your charity's donors

The most common way of measuring donor response is by looking at the outcomes of fundraising appeals, online campaigns, newsletter response slips, etc. How many donors said 'Yes’ with their gifts and how many said ‘No’ by ignoring your request for support.

But, is this really all that is being said in the conversation between your charity and your donors? It seems to me that there is a lot more to be gleaned from donor’s responses to your appeals and other communications.

For example, consider these responses from your charity's donors:

·       Yes, I’ll support your cause, but not by taking on a direct debit.

·       Yes, I’ll give you more than what you are asking for by filling in the blank space you’ve provided.

·       Yes, I’ll give something even when you are not asking because I am really inspired by your newsletters.

·       No, not now, but I will give at a different time of the year.

·       No, I will not give to your cause just yet.

If you want to engage donors in a meaningful conversation with your charity you need to recognise that they are not just saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and be ready to address a wider range of more subtle responses.

For example, suppose a donor sends a gift that is significantly larger than the suggested amounts on the response form. How should you respond?

You will say ‘Thank you’ of course, like you always do. But, should that be all? – How about telling them that you have noticed the gift is more generous than usual.

But, what else is the donor trying to tell you? You can find some clues in their giving patterns. How large is the gift compared to the donor’s lifetime giving value? Did they make this gift at a special time of the year, or at a time when they usually give?

If the gift is a significant increase, and especially if it is offered at a time of the year when they don’t usually give, they might be telling you they have received a windfall or money from a legacy.

Now, you can start into a new conversation with this donor by drawing them into a deeper relationship with your charity. If the donor is saying that they are happy to give more to your cause then change the money handles in their appeal next time you ask for a gift or consider moving them into a new donor group.

However, most fundraisers do not carry out such conversations with individual donors. They communicate with thousands of people at the same time through appeals, or email campaigns.

And, this is where the donor conversations get both interesting and challenging. If you are communicating or talking to thousands of donors at a time how can you treat them as individuals? – The answer is through rigorous database analysis.

Just think about the results of your recent fundraising campaigns. If each one of your donors is trying to tell you something what useful information can you glean from their responses?

What about the donor segments with the highest response and low average gifts? Are they looking for the right reasons to make larger gifts?

And, what about record numbers of lapsed donors who were reactivated through the Christmas appeal? Should you be using this appeal package to reactivate other lapsed donors in the future?

What are the donors who seem to respond to regular giving asks in relation to one aspect of your work trying to tell you?

The answers you are looking for are in your response slips and in your database. You just need a good way of discovering them. This is where we can help. 

Take our Fundraising Fitness Test to find out what donors are saying to your charity and to develop segmentation plans that can increase your appeal ROIs.

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