Donor Relationships

You're Doing It Right—Spontaneous Online Gifts

One of our clients has had a lot of large unsolicited gifts come in online lately. Our interest is piqued because we're not in the middle of a campaign. There's nothing radically share-able that's been released. If I had to say it, this part of the quarter is a relatively quiet and calm period for this group.

Then it hit me.

This is when you can see your annual plan pay off. The consistency and authenticity of your workhorse communications make all the difference, e.g., newsletters, e-newsletters, alerts, tweets, etc. Being in front of your donors with useful information and copy that shows them exactly why they're so important keeps your group top of mind ... in a good way.

So when they feel moved to give, you're at the top of their list.

You've built a relationship with them that isn't reliant upon a hard ask or gimmicky campaign for support (written with full appreciation for the well-timed usefulness of the hard ask and gimmicky campaign). They feel involved—they feel necessary—to the success of your organization's work. They give freely and with a full heart.

That's when you know you're doing it right.

The Halo Effect

I'm on the board of a local nonprofit that had tax credits available to donors who gave over a certain amount in 2013. Since I'm not the chick that can donate significant cash to the cause, I try to amp up the   "Talent and Time" portion of the good board member's trifecta of contributions: Time, Talent and Treasure.

That said, I asked our executive director if everyone on our file of potential donors knew about the credit. Mentioned that perhaps we should send out a couple year-end emails thanking them for their support in 2013 and inviting them to partake of the tax advantages of a generous year-end gift to our group.

The exec didn't want to bother people with a lot of year end emails so I suggested suppressing those who responded to the initial drop.

Results were impressive, but unexpected. The Halo Effect strikes again.
Several things to keep in mind:

  • One Channel Can Drive Another. Several major gifts were walked in by donors as a result of the email. Others mailed them in. The point is they knew these channels were available and their preference drove the bus here. Everyone wins.
  • Staying Top of Mind Year-Round. This organization invests in excellent PR. Even those donors who come to one event and don't actively engage with us year-round know what we're up to and the difference we're making in our community. That makes a difference when you come asking for gifts at the end of the year.
  • Staying Top of Mind Without Every Touch Including an Ask. Of ultra importance, friends. There's an integrated annual plan that includes a lot of storytelling, chances to engage with the org in person, progress reports, accolades and yes, we ask for help, but in a judicious and considered fashion …
  • Excellent Reactivation Tool. We had donors come in who used to support us, but had moved away. We had their personal email on file—and permission to contact them—so their physical address change wasn't a factor. They moved back to the city and wanted to help out with gifts and volunteer time.








Relationship. Relationship. Relationship.


Network for Good just released its 2012 Q4 Digital Giving Index and updated version of The Online Giving Study.

There are a number of good insights, but I find three particularly noteworthy.

#1
Raising funds online is not about technology, any more than raising funds through the mail is about paper. It’s about the relationship between the nonprofit and the donor who wants to support a cause.



Much of the report focuses on a comparison between “charity websites” (and within that, branded and generic sites), giving portals and social giving. As identification with the organization increases, so does giving. This claim is reinforced a number of ways: the greater the connection, the greater the likelihood that the first gift will be larger and the greater the likelihood that there will be additional gifts.

#2

December is the strongest giving month for most organizations offline. It’s even more so online. Further, it’s not just the month of December that’s spectacular, it’s the last couple of days, and even last few hours that make the difference.

Again, a number of very interesting facts to support this claim in terms of initial and repeat gift patterns. More importantly, the study also firmly reinforces the fact that an organization significantly increases the likelihood of a December gift by nurturing a relationship with the constituent throughout the year.

#3
Cumulative giving over time is a key metric for measuring donor relationships. It’s the number nonprofits should heed in order to make the right strategic choices. In the best relationships, a donor gives repeatedly over time, creating rising cumulative value.

Cumulative giving. Or, lifetime value, as the “traditional” direct marketer might say.

And what drives lifetime value?

Greater involvement. Relevant content. Meaningful communication. The same factors that build a stronger relationship.