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Give NOW! Our Arbitrary Deadline is Looming!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

June closes the fiscal year for many nonprofits, who are clamoring for every last dollar these final weeks.  As the pressure builds to make goal (and think of staff evaluations), it’s easy to take your eyes off of the ball.

Sid* began working for an affiliate of a national nonprofit, at one of their satellite offices.  Although he was assigned to work as a development officer out in his territory, he also attended quarterly meetings at the state office, for assignments, reports and general brainstorming sessions with the other development officers throughout the state.

One of his many assignments was to send an email solicitation before the fiscal year end, in an attempt to collect more funds in time to make goal, which he did, along with all of his other appeals.

During the next quarterly meeting at the state office, Sid was very surprised when the results of the email were reported, however.  His district’s results raised much more than anyone else’s!  The state director of development chose to make it a point of discussion, because Sid’s email was the only one whose text didn’t include something about “the fiscal year end,” but instead talked about the organization’s mission.

“It’s not an accident that Sid raised more money,” the director explained, “Our donors don’t care when our fiscal year ends.”

While it is true that some campaigns do fare better with deadlines attached, they need to be there for a good reason, and they shouldn’t be overdone.  For example, if you have a matching gift donor, who is willing to contribute at the same level as all funds raised in a campaign, up to X dollars by Y date, that can be quite effective.  Charities that work with disaster relief often work against various deadlines, too, of course.

On the other hand, if every message you send reeks of *ACT NOW!* rather than talking about what your organization helps to accomplish, you risk sounding like a bad infomercial instead of philanthropic.  This can be a problem when nonprofits approach the finish line during the fiscal year.

The pressure can be enormous internally, but the strategy – externally – still needs to remain focused on what the donor wants to talk about, which is why s/he should give and what that gift will accomplish ultimately.

Tori* made a point to research and then visit her regular – yet lower-level – donors and speak with them about their support of her nonprofit.

“I told them that I was going to profile them in our upcoming newsletters and annual report (which I did), but my real purpose in making the visits went beyond that,” Tori explained.

“I wanted to better understand what prompts our donors who continue to give to us, year after year, but haven’t reached the major donor levels yet.  If I can better understand why they give, this would give me insight on how best to appeal to other Annual Giving donors.”

Tori said that she considered sending out either written or online surveys, but didn’t figure that they would capture as much meaningful data.  “. . . if people even responded!” she laughed.  She felt that, although her donor visits to lower contributors was time consuming, it would end up paying off in the long run.

Although she couldn’t directly tie specific gifts to her visits’ data collection, overall giving in response to her newsletters and annual report increased, as well as her Annual Giving portfolio, after she began modifying her appeals to include the language and strategy she learned from her interviews.

There’s little question that a long-term donor-centric strategy fares better in the end when approaching your campaign, but how do you balance that against the short-term pressures of making goal when it looms in the not-so-distant future?
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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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