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7 jaw dropping things I learned at AFP ICON by Rachel Muir

The fundraising part of my brain was on fire after attending the AFP International Fundraising Conference in Baltimore last month. I’ve been a fundraiser for 20 years and as VP of Training I am constantly studying the subject. Naturally, a 3 day conference dedicated to fundraising is my idea of nirvana. It was a privilege to get to speak and I’m excited to share the highlights of what I learned:

1. Let’s start with a call to action from Seth Godin: “You don’t have a job. You have a platform. A platform to make a DIFFERENCE.” What a great reminder of our power! Shannon Doolittle and Beth Ann Locke shared some sage career advice in their session “Love your job, love your life” and my favorite was “Take care of yourself. No one will make you a priority except you.”

2. Truth bomb from Abila: we know giving is life stage dependent yet very few nonprofits target their appeals and communications to donors based on age. According to their new Donor Engagement Study only 34% of nonprofits target information sent to a donor using their age. This is a huge missed opportunity! But wait, there’s more truth serum. Most nonprofits admit that a single data point, gift amount, drives communications with donors (not donor preferences.)

3. Hearing wins from the field and sources of inspiration from the brightest minds in fundraising is priceless which is why “I Wish I’d Thought of That!” was such a brilliant session. One of my favorites was Robbe Healey’s strategy for “donor circles” - a small gathering to gleam donor advice by asking 5 questions in a controlled social setting to deepen their engagement. Donors can have fun talking about why they love you and you get important insight to take their engagement to the next level. Gail Perry got a great screen shot of her approach, which includes asking these 5 questions:

1. What connected you to us (the initial thing that interested you)? What keeps you connected?

2. What made you decide to become a donor? What makes you keep giving?

3. How could we encourage other people to give to us?

4. How could we make you as a donor feel more special and appreciated?

5. Are there things that other people might like that would make them feel more special and appreciated?

4. Here’s my “I Wish I’d Thought of That”: a moving emotional video of the life changing stories at Operation Smile with a warm welcome from the founder/CEO simply stating “We’d love to have a conversation with you face-to-face but as always we want to do so responsibly.” He warmly invites viewers to raise their hand for a face-to-face visit to “share your thoughts, your hopes and to give us feedback” by filling out a form so they can call to set up an appointment. This is a great example of how you can use video to identify prospects ready for a deeper relationship with you. If you want to learn more about systematic donor discovery this whitepaper on balancing the art and science of fundraising is a perfect starting point.

5. One of many jaw dropping donor insights shared by Adrian Sargeant is that satisfaction is the biggest driver of donor loyalty yet we rarely measure it. People who are “very” satisfied are 2 times more likely to give to you than someone who is just “satisfied”. What can you do to increase your donor’s satisfaction levels?

1. Give them a voice. Quickly acknowledge and resolve any frustrations they express.

2. Pinpoint exactly when your attrition happens. Engineer your communications around those drop off points. Do exit polling on the donors who left.

3. Make donors feel great about themselves for giving.

4. Measure gift officer performance based on donor satisfaction levels.

6. Like comedic magicians Penn and Teller, Bernard Ross and Alan Hutson transfixed their audience teaching how neuroscience impacts our fundraising. As much as it may pain us to admit it, we know that behavior is not rational. Our cognitive limitations drive our decisions. Knowing these limitations and how to navigate them is critical. For example, we look for data that confirms what we already know and ignore data that doesn’t. This means if we give donors info that doesn’t fit into their schemata it is ignored.

7. Tom Ahern is full of jaw dropping insights. I love his advice to “Sell the threat and make the donors responsible for the solution.” Remember - fundraising is a quest for empathy. Let’s heed Toms warning, “Data kills empathy.”

If you missed my session feel free to download the slides and handouts. If you want to spend a day transforming your fundraising results I hope you will join me in Dallas May 8th or in New York May 19th for Fundraising Bootcamp!

Rachel MuirThe preceding is a guest post by Rachel Muir, CFRE & Vice President of Training at Pursuant where she transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers through classroom, custom and online training. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show. Follow Rachel on Twitter here and Pursuant on Twitter here.

Topics: Events