Knowing What Your Donors Want

Looking at donors imageLast week’s issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy had a thought-provoking article on how public-television has altered their donor strategy.  They are shifting on-air pledge drives to a lower priority position in their overall campaign and considerably raising the priority of individual major donors. This new strategy is currently providing remarkable improvements in their numbers and serves us all as a perfect example of knowing your donors, knowing how they want to support your organization, managing the relationships and seeing quantifiable results.

So how did they go about getting to know their donors and achieving such results?  By ensuring everyone would change his or her own priorities — not an easy task.  They enlisted consultants to hold two-day sessions, with required attendance for each station’s board president, stations’ general managers and chief fundraisers.  And, while some participants still left the meeting unsure of what the results would be, they all left the conference heading in the same direction.

In fact, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has also instituted methods of measurability for fundraisers including defined annual monetary goals, tracking the number of potential donors approached, the number of written proposals submitted to donors, and the “quality of work.”  This system requires the leadership to understand the motivation behind the how, where and why their donors give to public television.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is not alone
The United Way has also spent the past few years building their focus on major gifts.  Their well-known workplace campaign model has limitations when you consider that there are fewer businesses that fit into that donor category.  Mergers, acquisitions, bubble bursts and lack of loyalty among workers have resulted in fewer sizeable businesses with large numbers of employees that want to make United Way a charity of focus.

Other organizations have made smaller changes from their conversations with their donors and added new functions like online capabilities and monthly credit card payments to spread out a larger payment over a period of time.  Responsiveness to consumers is not limited to the for-profit environment.

What does this mean to you?
It means that if you do not fit the industry average – with 85% of your donations coming from individual donors – you should consider restructuring your planning for the future and get to know your donors.

It means you should be talking to your donors to find out what would make it easier for them to give.

It means that it is worth learning what other organizations are using to make their donors feel better about their gifts.

It means that you should remember that  there are many factors, not just the dollar amount, that determine whether someone will or will not give to your organization.

Now is the time to shift your focus and ensure you are not just creating campaigns for the masses, but campaigns of one.