As I see it, the fundamental flaw in our conventional fundraising belief system is this:
"Donors are born, not made."
Those who believe this are convinced that if only they find the right data overlays, the right predictive models, or hit upon the right mailing lists and magic message, there's an enormous reservoir of new donors that'll come their way. Countless millions are futilely spent trying to break the supposed code.
Fortunately, there's a more accurate and actionable approach to take if you really want to improve commitment, retention, and donor lifetime value.
Establishing the proper relationship dynamics (i.e., reliability, consistency, fidelity, trust)—the so-called functional and personal connections that cause commitment—is crucial.
That's only part of the equation, however. What is equally important is identifying the range of organizational actions required to make a good donor, especially those driving the donor toward greater commitment.
We call these essential activities drivers.
Identifying Key Drivers of Donor Commitment
In a DonorVoice study of 250-plus organizations, donors were asked to rate 32 drivers in terms of importance to them. The 32 drivers were:
Personal Connection Drivers
- Timeliness of the organization thanking me for my support
- Sending a personalized thank-you for my support
- Thanking me for my support in a way that makes me feel good about my donation
- How regularly the organization thanks me for any ongoing support
- Providing me with a feeling of accomplishment made possible by my support
- Providing me with a feeling that my involvement is appreciated
- Providing me with a feeling of being part of an important cause
- Being an innovative charity
- Being focused on the mission
- Being a well-respected charity
- Providing me with opportunities to take action for the cause [e.g., sign petition, organize others, attend rally]
- Providing me with opportunities to get more involved [e.g., see the organization's work firsthand, meet staff, volunteer time]
- Providing me with opportunities to make my views known [e.g., solicit my opinion on where effort should be focused, make it easy to make suggestions.]
- Publicly recognizing my contribution
Functional Connection Drivers
- Informing me how my donation was used
- Explaining the tax benefits of my donation
- The organization's knowledge of the issues it focuses on
- Efficiently spending money
- Effectively trying to achieve its mission
- Using donations ethically
- Asking me for appropriate donation amounts
- Keeping me informed about how the organization is getting results
- Sending information that shows who is being helped
- Sending information that makes me glad I support the organization
- Sending information that reflects my specific interests
- Providing readable information
- The frequency of requests for donations
- The frequency of information not requesting donations
- Creating a sense in me that the organization would do a good job of responding to a complaint or question
- Knowing what to expect from the organization each time it interacts with me
- Communicating with me in the way I prefer [e.g., by mail, e-mail, phone, mobile device]
- Having a similar look and feel to all communications with me.
That's a long if not unwieldy list, I realize, but we wanted to survey donors with as many options as possible. So let's home in on the drivers and experiences donors found most important.
Here are the even key drivers we've identified that most influence donors. They've been scored and ranked in order of their relative importance in improving loyalty, commitment, and value:
- Donor perceives your organization to be effective in trying to achieve its mission.
- Donor knows what to expect from your organization with each interaction.
- Donor receives timely thank-yous.
- Donor receives opportunities to make his or her views known.
- Donor is given the feeling that he or she is part of an important cause.
- Donor feels his or her involvement is appreciated.
- Donor receives information showing who is being helped.
Absent a study specifically focusing on your own organization, your retention efforts will be well served by placing your attention and efforts on these seven key drivers.
These drivers have a math-based, cause-and-effect relationship to loyalty and commitment. As you move donors from low to high commitment, the frequency, and amount of their giving will rise dramatically.
I'll venture that one of the most powerful, productive—and fun—sessions you and the key players in your organization can have is discussing and brainstorming actions you can put in place to enhance each of the seven key drivers and tailor them to your organization.
All that's required is an open mind, a pad of chart paper or a white board, and the creativity to adapt the drivers to your own organization.
The preceding is a guest post by Roger Craver. A fundraising pioneer since the 1960s, Roger brings an experienced and critical eye to the greatest problem faced by today's nonprofits: donor retention. He has conducted capital and annual fundraising campaigns, advocacy and membership drives in the United States, Canada, and throughout Europe.