Which Interactions Are Most Important?


I was in Sioux Falls this past week for the AFP MidAmerica Conference on fundraising.

(The South Dakota Chapter did an exceptional job, by the way, which may explain why there were more than 275 fundraising professionals in attendance!)

The tone was set from the opening keynote, given by Bob Carter,  Senior Advisor to Changing our World and Chair-Elect of AFP International.

Broadly, the topic was global fundraising trends  … and how these affect every organization at virtually every level.

But what I found most interesting was Carter's perspective on how to work with "major" donors, (and how to grow them into "mega" donors).

He emphasized three key points in building his argument.

1. 73% of philanthropic support comes from individuals. Even more, if you include the 8% that comes from bequests.

2. The number one reason for giving is because an individual believes in the cause or idea. (The number two reason is closely related; because the individual is involved and sees the need.)

3. As an organization, you must recognize the difference between "transactional" and "relational" prospects. 

Carter defined the transactional prospect as the typical event attendee or direct mail donor. By his definition, this supporter is less likely to want to be involved and less willing to commit to the long term.

The relational prospect wants deeper involvement and expects to see change over time. It is in this category of supporter that Carter sees potential for major, mega and transformational gifts.

And that's where that I have a concern. 

I fear that some organizations may think of relational donors only in terms of prospects for major gifts.

By contrast, I would contend that a broad range of interactions – both transactional and non-transactional – can indicate whether an individual has an understanding of and affinity for your mission.

In fact, it may be the non-transactional interactions – volunteering, non-paid event attendance, Facebook posting or tweeting, for example – that signal a prospective relational involvement (i.e., deeper commitment).

The organization that monitors such interactions across its broad base of supporters – not just at the top dollar levels – will be in the best position to tap both mid-level and major giving opportunities.

While the one that monitors only transactional frequency or amount may well miss out!