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Posts Tagged ‘recurring giving’

Can Capital & Annual Campaigns Play Nice Together?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Many Annual Giving professionals dread the words Capital Campaign more than any other two that get uttered around the office. They’re considered more obscene than stretch goal, performance review or even database conversion!

Why do so many feel this way?  Because all too often, when a capital campaign is engaged, the Annual Giving staff is ignored at best and sacrificed at worst.  As the board and CEO pursues this bigger, better money, the nitty-gritty plans to obtain it are rarely shared with the everyday staff.  When all is said and done, however, much of the heavy lifting, clean up  –  and accountability  –  is left to whom?  You guessed it:  the Annual Giving staff.

It’s not that any development staff member in their right mind wouldn’t want a few hundred thousand – or million – extra dollars in the coffers, not to mention the added engagement of dozens of willing constituents, but at what cost?  Often, capital campaigns aren’t very well planned from the beginning . . . or thought out to completion.

Ike* recalls one campaign his small nonprofit began, where his Executive Director decided to hire a consultant from a big shot firm to lead their campaign.  The consultant was a well known person with a fine reputation, but also from a small shop, and he expected their organization to “type this up,” and make all of his follow up phone calls, etc.  He also informed them that, “I don’t really do email.  Leave me a message, and I’ll get back to you.”

Ike’s small staff was not in a position to take on the added burden of being this consultant’s personal assistant as well.  They had expected him to assist them, not the other way around.  Big reputation or not, Ike’s nonprofit had to let the well-known consultant go and hire a larger firm that could give them a staff member temporarily in the office during most of the capital campaign, to provide backup assistance, rather than expect them to work double and triple time.  This mistake in hiring delayed the capital campaign launch by almost a year for their organization.

Jean* was in charge of the Annual Giving campaign at her organization when it started working on a capital campaign.  She wasn’t pleased to be left out of the meetings, but believed that her Director of Development would keep her apprised of all aspects relevant to her campaign.

She was shocked when she learned that the board and Executive Director had decided that when the capital campaign was to launch the following year, they would be folding all aspects of the annual campaign funds into the capital campaign, which would last for three years.

Jean tried to explain, in vain, that not only did very few of the major gift donors (and therefore capital campaign donors) overlap with their annual campaign donors – as defined at their organization – but that if they essentially looted the annual campaign for three years, there would be nothing left of it at the end of the capital campaign.  Everything she had built would be gone, and she’d basically have to start over.

“The response I got from my argument,” Jean said, “Was, ‘Well, this is the way it’s going to be.’  So, the next day, I updated my resume, and I was gone before the capital campaign began!”

Kyle* recounts that his organization took care to continue feeding and nurturing the annual fund in a thoughtful and active way.  The capital campaign deliberately designated a small percentage of each individual’s capital pledge for the annual campaign, most of which were over a three year period.

“I’ll be honest,” Kyle said, “These were difficult to keep track of every year.  The donors didn’t always remember that they’d ‘already given,’ but we had to, so as not to ask them for an annual gift ‘again.’  We also had to make certain to acknowledge the gifts, and keep in touch with them in other ways.  Otherwise, when we resolicited them in the fourth year, it would appear as being from out of nowhere.”

Lamont’s* nonprofit had tried to save on expenses a few years before, and switched to a cheaper database system.  He was already feeling various pains from the conversion, and upon hearing the organization’s plans for the upcoming capital campaign, he saw a disaster approaching.

Lamont was in charge of sending out acknowledgments and pledge reminders.  Just in the past year, his nonprofit had offered recurring monthly donations with their online giving forms, and the new database system was constantly having problems getting this correct.  Lamont was spending nearly a week every month, manually fixing the few dozen recurring donors in the system.

Upon hearing plans for the capital campaign – which would allow monthly, quarterly and annual recurring pledges – and projections for hundreds more pledges coming into the system, Lamont inquired as to whether the organization planned on investing in better software prior to launching the campaign.

The executive director’s response was no, but told him that depending upon the success of the campaign, they might be able to afford better software afterward.

Lamont, like Jean, decided to start looking for another job with this news.  He felt that executing all of the pledge statements with such limited software would be impossible, and if he didn’t leave now, it would only be a matter of time before he was blamed for the problems that were sure to come.

For many in annual giving, hearing the words, “We’re going to be starting a Capital Campaign” is enough to send a chill up the spine . . . or a resume out the door.  Has it been a good or bad experience for you?  Does it affect how and where you interview?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Do You Retain the Donors You Have?

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

A good deal of scrutiny is typically given to total dollars, average gift, as well as new dollars and donors raised, whether from an acquisition appeal or not, but how much time is spent analyzing the existing funds and donors that were retained?

Understanding your churn rate is important, because as most fundraisers realize, it takes a great deal more energy and expense to bring a new donor on board than it does to maintain an existing one.  Also, building the loyalty and consistency of an ongoing supporter leads not just to greater longevity, but often, larger gifts over time, when the donor is properly cultivated.

Consider what you could do – or change, and not do – to make donors feel more appreciated and connected to your organization.  Since your nonprofit is competing with countless others, as well as a tight economy, you need every advantage to convince a contributor to become a loyal, returning donor.

How easy is it to donate?

Regardless of the method of giving, the constituent should feel that the process is virtually effortless.  If the nonprofit places too great a burden upon the donor to the point that they pay more attention to how long it takes to make the gift, then the thought and sentiment behind the organization, its mission, etc., have been lost and replaced with frustration.

The next time this donor is asked to contribute, they are more likely to remember that frustration they previously felt, instead of the altruism that initially stirred them into giving . . . and not donate again.  Instead, they’ll aim their philanthropy in a direction that is more accommodating and continues to remind them of the organization’s mission and feelings of benevolence.

No donor giving to charity wants to come away with the feeling that they just completed a transaction, or that it took five times longer than it should have.

What is your acknowledgment policy?

Perhaps it’s time to review your acknowledgment protocols.  Does everyone involved know precisely what your procedure is, or do some people fall through the cracks?  Which areas could be improved upon?  At what level of giving does a donor receive a personalized acknowledgment?  Is it a phone call, a (direct mail) letter, an email, etc.?  Does it look more like a receipt, or an actual thank you letter?  How soon after making a contribution does the donor receive the acknowledgment?  (Have you tested this to find out?)

Everyone likes to feel appreciated – and in a timely fashion.  Many people cannot afford to give what they once could, so it may be time to reassess your policy and send acknowledgments to giving levels that you previously didn’t.

What do your analytics say?

Check your statistics and find out how many and which donors you do retain, exactly.  What do they have in common?  Do they tend to give during a certain event, time of year or via a particular venue, such as online, direct mail or phonathon?  Do they cluster in certain geographic areas, or have other demographics in commonHow long do you tend to keep your donors renewing before they become lapsed?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you create targeted appeals to keep at least some of your groups from becoming lapsed, but first you have to understand where your various tipping points are.  Adding a “Would you like to make this gift recurring?option to your online eform could be one way to boost retention, for example.

Test, Test, Test!

Using the analytics that you’ve collected, don’t only send segmented, targeted appeals to retain your donors, but make attempts to test different approaches on portions of your appeals.  With carefully planned tests, you will be better able to gauge what your specific audience(s) responds to and give them more of what they want over time.

The better able you are to serve your constituents, the more likely you are to retain a larger portion of them in the long run.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Why Recurring Giving Is So Important

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

As many of us are reviewing and planning budgets and campaigns for 2011, ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be nice to know that X% of your income is already assured?  Then make certain you add a Sustainer Program to your 2011 agenda!

Certainly, your selling point to your most loyal donors doesn’t begin with, “Help us to depend on a percentage of our budget!”  Instead, study your analytics, find those people who are already regular supporters of your program, and tell them why and how it is important – and (make it) easy! – to provide ongoing contributions to your essential programs.

Although the average single gift of the non-recurring donor is higher, it is worth the investment in a Sustainer Program.  Not only is less time is spent regaining lapsed donors, research shows that the overall value of the recurring donor is greater than the one-time donor.

Bringing these repeat donors on board typically involves further education about the organization, its mission and accomplishments, and often boosts their giving during the transition (e.g., asking the $100 donor if s/he’d care to give $10, $15 or even $20 per month).

There is a danger, however, that some organizations face, once these donors are on board.  Take care to have policies in place so that they are not entered and forgotten, or simply placed on “auto pilot.”

For example, create a Sustainer Acknowledgment Policy that is known throughout the department.  (No one wants to receive the same thank you note every month.  It says, “We don’t even know your name, and nobody really reads this while signing it.”)

Some organizations will send an initial thank you note for the pledge of a monthly commitment, followed by a thank you letter and receipt for tax purposes at year’s end, for example.  When each year’s anniversary of the pledge approaches, a development staff member may call to express gratitude at the donor’s ongoing commitment to the cause, tell of some latest news or progress, and ask for an upgrade or continuing level of support.

Those nonprofits that take care not to leave these sustainers off to the side will see the best retention rates from them.

Because credit card donors are those who are most likely to participate in recurring giving, it is essential that your online giving form(s) have this as an easily visible option on your main giving page.  While you may want to offer several options (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually), the majority of recurring giving donors prefer the monthly option.

It’s unusual for a donor to contribute on a daily basis, but this is what Carlo Garcia has done, and successfully combined recurring giving with social media, to encourage others to join his microphilanthropy cause.  This technique has flourished among other nonprofits, depending on their messaging, diligence and expertise at social media.  Maintaining contact and communication with donors is essential, regardless, so that they don’t feel viewed as cash machines.

How will you make your donors feel a part of your nonprofit family enough that they will want to sign on to give regularly this year?  And what will you do so that they will want to stay on board for years to come?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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