1 Big Donor Retention Secret: Giving is Not Always its Own Reward

maslow s hierarchy of needs 300x196 1 Big Donor Retention Secret: Giving is Not Always its Own Reward
What are you doing to give your donors the meaning they seek?

Donor needs vary and evolve, depending on where they are in their own life cycle and their life cycle with your nonprofit. Do you ever wonder how you might help them meet their needs? How you might reward them for giving?  You should — if you want to keep them as donors.

You may be familiar with Maslow’s “Theory of Human Motivation” where he breaks needs for human development and contentment down into steps that form a pyramid. Maslow suggests the basic human needs such as food, shelter, and sleep are required before you can pursue higher needs such as security, love and belonging, esteem and the need for self-actualization.

Sadly, just giving to charity doesn’t necessarily meet these higher-level needs. Donors may give out of guilt, fear, peer pressure (which doesn’t feel so good). Some give to be praised (meets esteem need, but only if you praise them). Some give to be accepted by peers (meets love & belonging need, but only if you offer opportunities to connect and feel loved)… and so forth. You see, giving is not always it’s own reward.

To create life-long donors imposes on your charity the obligation to do something proactive to fulfill your donor’s highest level needs.

Donors, like all human beings, are on a continual quest for meaning. It’s the existential search to be all that one can be. To feel self-actualized.

In non-psychological or theoretical terms, at the self-actualization pinnacle donors just feel darn good. They carry around a warm glow, representing the realization of their potential and inner peace.

This feeling is very powerful – and we human beings naturally seek it out. It’s one of reasons why even very poor give outsized proportions of their income to charity.

Another way to describe this is the search for meaning in life. For most people, meaning is deeply intertwined with community connections. Victor Frankl in his famous chronicle on the search for meaning wrote: love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Humans want to feel a sense of connection and a sense of purpose to life. Giving (time, money, and energy) is a central way that we strive to find meaning.

If your nonprofit doesn’t complete the exchange circuit for donors, their search for meaning gets cut short.

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Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos

silo vertical 199x300 Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos
Does this look like a 21st century nonprofit to you?

Ask someone on the street if there are too many nonprofits addressing the same causes. Most likely, you’ll get a resounding “yes.”

When there’s a crisis, folks are confused as to which relief agency they should give their money. When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, they aren’t sure which organization will make the best use of their donation.

This confusion leads to “drop in the bucket” donations. Folks want to at least doing something, but don’t want to risk throwing their hard-earned money into a black hole.

This behavior stifles the entire nonprofit sector. Folks don’t trust their philanthropy will be effectively stewarded, so don’t give as much as they could. Even worse, folks with track records of investing — philanthropic (aka “social”) entrepreneurs — sit on the sidelines waiting. Waiting for the social benefit sector to do something that, up until now, it has not done well. What?Continue Reading

5 Ways to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors

Customer service 300x300 5 Ways to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors
Do you have a “best service” donor-centered culture? If not, you’re losing donors you could keep. Time for a revolution!

It’s common for retail businesses to adopt the mantra: “The customer is always right.” But when’s the last time you heard “The donor is always right?” Too often, the opposite is true.

I hear a lot of complaining about donors. They should do this (e.g., give because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do; be compliant and not make us work so hard); they shouldn’t do that (e.g., give any way other than ‘unrestricted’; require reports that take us hours to complete). I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

What can you do to delight your donors?Continue Reading

Top 10 Nonprofit Leadership Lessons for 2015: Think Differently

Think different 300x249 Top 10 Nonprofit Leadership Lessons for 2015: Think DifferentlyThe Fast Company Blog gives us The Top 10 Best Business Lessons Of 2014. They’re all lessons in leadership. Here’s how I see them applying to your nonprofit in the coming year:

10 Nonprofit Leadership Lessons to Unlock Your Potential This Year

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2015

Moonrise large Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2015

I have a dream…

I have a dream for 2015 – and beyond. I have a dream  this is the year your organization will move beyond defining yourself by what you’re not (nonprofit) and will begin to define yourself by what you are (social benefit). I have a dream  this is the year your people will move from an attitude of taking and hitting people up (aka “fundraising”) to a mindset of giving and lifting people up (aka “philanthropy”). I have a dream this is the year your staff and volunteers will move from enacting transactions to enabling transformation.

I have a dream you will think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. You will understand there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. You will share this vision broadly to attract people — and financial resources — to your cause. You will no longer be content to remain a “well-kept secret.”

I have a dream you will learn who your best influencers  and advocates are and you will embrace them.  You will recognize you are no longer your best messenger. You will understand that many forces beyond you influence your donor’s decision to invest with you, and you will expand your thinking and operations from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional model.  You will allow your constituents to engage with you at multiple points of entry, and to move freely between these points during the lifecycle of their engagement.

I have a dream you will push yourself and your organization towards transformative change.Continue Reading

What “Chopped” can Teach Fundraisers about Productivity and Passion

passion 300x300 What “Chopped” can Teach Fundraisers about Productivity and PassionOne of my secret pleasures is watching the show “Chopped” show on the Food Network. Today I watched an episode that just had me bawling at the end. It was the most heartwarming show I’ve ever seen. And it reminded me of why all of you do the work that you do in the social benefit sector.

So please allow me to share.

I don’t know if I can adequately convey the pathos I felt, but if you’ve had a chance to see this episode I would strongly recommend it. It will make you feel very good. At the same time, it will make you understand — even more than ever — how much work there is to be done.Continue Reading

Whither the Nonprofit Sector in 2015? 6 Ways to Assure Yours Doesn’t Wither

vines growing 300x199 Whither the Nonprofit Sector in 2015? 6 Ways to Assure Yours Doesn’t Wither

Think big to grow and bear fruit; Think small and wither.

I chose the word “w(h)ither” in my title very deliberately. It can mean “Where are you going?” It can also mean “Dying on the vine.” Which does it mean for you and your nonprofit?

If the former, where are you going? You’ll find some “To Do’s” in this article to help you on your way towards a sustainable future. If the latter, how can your prevent this from happening? You’ll find some “don’ts” to help you breathe life into your organization.Continue Reading

Find Yourself Failing at Fundraising? Put on Your Radiator Cap!

Radiator cap 300x198 Find Yourself Failing at Fundraising? Put on Your Radiator Cap!

Put on your radiator cap and spread the joy of your mission far and wide!

Do you find yourself sinking into a fundraising hole?

If so, you’re not the first. And you won’t be the last.

I’m going to tell you how to begin to dig yourself out!

First, stop blaming others. It’s not because so-and-so foundation just pulled their grant (how dare they?).  It’s not because the government just cut back funding in your area (those bastards!). It’s not because your development director is lazy (why can’t she work 70 hours?)… and it’s not because your board doesn’t give enough (they’re so stingy!).

Sure, some of those things may be happening.  ButContinue Reading

Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

dinosaur 300x300 Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

When it’s our time to go, we all gotta go — dinosaurs and pyramids alike!

An Open Letter to Andrea Kihlstedt — Part 1

[I am responding to Andrea Kihlstedt’s Open Letter to me, Is The Donor Pyramid Really Dead, in the Guidestar blog. She was responding to my recent posts on the death of the Donor Pyramid in Fundraising Success Magazine: R.I.P. Donor Pyramid? and Maximize Social Business Blog How Social Media Toppled the Donor Pyramid – What that Means for Nonprofits.]

First, let me say this is a great dialogue to be having. The donor pyramid is a sacred dinosaur, and it’s good to challenge old assumptions from time to time. After all, the dinosaurs had a very good run, but even they became extinct.

Andrea says “no, the pyramid is alive and well,” making the case that (especially in capital campaigns) not all donors are equal. She also finds use for the pyramid in other campaigns, noting a Kickstarter campaign she recently worked on in which the biggest gifts came from donors who were approached face-to-face rather than via online strategies.Continue Reading

You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way- Pt. 2

follow the leader 300x225 You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way  Pt. 2

Is “leader” (or “director”) just a word in your job title? Or is it something you do?

In my last post of this two-part series, “You’re Not Alone: What to Do When You Start to Fail at Fundraising,” I discussed what can happen to organizations when leadership begins to lose its way. This can occur for any number of reasons.

Why Leadership Loses it’s Way

  • FOUNDER LEAVES with no succession plan in place.
  • Founder STAYS TOO LONG, and their founding vision no longer resonates with an evolving constituency and/or landscape.
  • Significant staff and/or board TURNOVER at the executive level.
  • No board turnover, terms of office or adherence to BYLAWS dictating board roles and responsibilities.
  • Organizational INFRASTRUCTURE is dysfunctional (e.g., there are too few committees; all the real work gets done in executive committee; power is lopsided in favor of the E.D. or the board; there is no governance committee holding members accountable; staff support for board is insufficient; board refuse to accept their responsibility for financing).
  • Organization’s leaders are good at MANAGING only one way (e.g. during a period of growth, contraction or status quo) but are not so good at managing through another modality.
  • Organization lacks SKILLS and/or access to RESOURCES essential to survival in a changing environment
  • … and more.

Most organizations share similar traits.  That being said,  every organization is different and I definitely don’t believe in cookie cutter solutions.  In an upcoming post I’ll discuss how to embrace your organization’s particular challenges and face them head on.

Today I’d like to share with you a few  ‘quick and dirty’ recommendations that most commonly flow from the development audits I conduct for organizations who find themselves in this situation.  While you may not need to make changes in all of these areas, my hunch is that if your fundraising has plateaued or has been heading steadily downward, you’ll want to be considering changes in these key areas.

A 6-Step Road Map to Successfully Turn Things Around

  1. Integrate fundraising and marketing under the leadership of a seasoned development professional.

Nonprofit marketing and fundraising have changed more in the past five years than the preceding 50. The digital revolution ended business as usual. Per the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, the biggest challenges nonprofits face today are:

  • donor acquisition;
  • community engagement;
  • brand awareness, and
  • donor retention.

You must attack your greatest challenges head on as you move forward. You won’t succeed if you try to do this catch-as-catch can, leaving folks to figure out what to do on their own. More than ever, successful development requires strategic leadership. You’re in a battle to win over donor hearts – not just once, but over and over to sustain and build loyalty you can count on. You won’t win the war unless you pull together your team, and your resources, and get everyone together on the same page. And that page must be in line with the way today’s donors and advocates research, engage, and ultimately support organizations.

Fundraising and marketing must be seamlessly integrated. They cannot be separate silos any longer. Staff with responsibilities in these areas must speak the same language.  Responsibilities must be clearly assigned, both to prevent fights over territory and to assure nothing slips through the cracks. Department meetings should be held regularly so everyone understands the role they play in contributing towards the big picture goal.

  1. Clarify the role of the board, both as a whole (governance) and as individual members (financing).
  • Work through a Governance Committee to make a plan to add more qualified board members– develop job descriptions, identify needed skills and recruit new members who understand their leadership role in both governance and financing, and assign staff to actively support members and develop customized development work plans with manageable ambassador, advocacy and asking assignments for each individual.
  • Make a formal plan for recruiting and training leadership volunteers — board, associate advisory group and other volunteers to expand volunteer participation and engagement.
  • Expand the Fundraising Committee (consider adding a few former board,  major donors, other committee or direct service volunteers or other influencers) and clarify their role overseeing, evaluating and approving fundraising initiatives. Delegate subcommittees, as needed, to steer major initiatives , events or campaigns.
  1. Build and develop a board and committee structure to evolve to a stronger, more engaged and more diversified fundraising board.
  • Clarify the role of standing committees, ad hoc committees and subcommittees in moving fundraising/marketing forward .
  •  Schedule regular meetings with your full board to reinforce  the strategic ways in which different committees interact and to inspire energy around vision/mission/values).
  • Consider a retreat to discuss  committee (as a whole) assignments and ambassador, advocate and asker tasks (for individual members).
  1. Clarify your mission/vision goals; case for support, and stories.
  • Engage in team-building exercises to energize board and staff and reconnect them with their passions for this work (include time to socialize; learn about each other).
  • Engage in skill-finding exercises and skill-building workshops to re-enforce strength areas and build confidence and collaboration (e.g. “Gallup Strengths Finder for staff; Branding, Personas, Storytelling and/or Content Marketing for all; Fundraising training for board).
  1. Develop and implement a clearly articulated written strategic development plan.
  • Build and polish prospect lists to acquire new donors.
  • Develop and implement a customer-centered stewardship system to renew and upgrade donors.
  • Reframe, consolidate or eliminate strategies that are no longer working effectively.
  1. Build an inbound content marketing program to support development.

You can’t do anything if you don’t have the supporters you need to see your mission through to fruition.  You’ve got to spend money to make money.  These days that means investing in staff and technology that allows you to build relationships online. The digital revolution has ended business as usual. Today, you’ve got to invest time in thinking how to make dynamic frameworks that serve fundraising. Pair your passion to further your mission with the incredibly exciting fact that digital tools and channels will ensure that the way you can engage with people will be constantly evolving. So no one can afford to sit back and wait to follow. The world moves too fast today. There’s simply no substitute for leadership. This is beautifully summarized in Tony Elischer’s Rebuilding the Donor Pyramid:

In the digital world of fundraising it is the leaders who reap the rewards, rarely the followers.

TO LEARN TO LEAD YOUR NONPROFIT TOWARDS SUCCESS…

Get the 7 Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential. Through a series of clairifying worksheets and individual and group exercises, this 23-page guide will give you fresh insights into how fundraising and marketing have changed more in the past 5 years than in the previous 50.

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