fundraising strategy

Back from Bridge: the Highlights

Monica and I recently returned from our third year at the Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference. It’s a worthwhile trek to D.C., and I love their concept of “bridging” the most effective strategies in direct marketing and fundraising. Not to mention the chance to see east coast friends, clients and colleagues.

There’s no way of course to recap an entire conference in a blog, but here are some of the high points:
  • There is a cost to fundraising that shouldn’t be viewed as shameful or unethical. The CEO of Wounded Warrior, Steven Nardizzi, encouraged nonprofits to rise up and defend investing in growth.
  • Content development continues to reign supreme. Many sessions covered the need to provide different content tracks for the user experience. The U.S. Holocaust Museum employed a new strategy along these lines and saw great gains in engagement and fundraising.
  • Donor engagement by generation—Session encourages attendees to find ways to involve every generation of giver by providing philanthropic opportunities that are relevant to them (by lifestage).
  • Acquiring monthly donors was a hot topic. Speakers suggested looking for ways to infuse a sustainer appeal at communication points you might not have considered before (thank you messages and reply forms, for example).
  • Gamification—The rise of gaming is influencing philanthropy more than you might think. Its sophistication and interactivity ups the bar on technical fundraising efforts and what donors enjoy and expect. You can use this to your advantage by creating simple, fun experiences.
Check out a quick recap from this terrific conference and follow Bridge on Twitter.

More than just money.

Many organizations use traditional RFM (recency, frequency and monetary amount) criteria to segment their file and select mailable names.

While this tool can also be applied to nonprofits, it must be modified to fit the relationship the organization has with its constituents. Too often, an organization limits its focus to transactional interactions which may create a misleading perspective of the supporter base.

The experience of one of our faith-based clients illustrates this well.

This organization has a paid subscription product (inspirational), offers free inspirational reading materials and accepts prayer requests.

As would be expected, more involved constituents are more likely to become donors. People with all three types of interactions are more than twice as likely to donate. (And, as donors they’re also more likely to repeat and more likely to give more.)

If you were considering transactions only, a long-term subscriber would look far more “valuable” than a recent request for free reading materials.

But not so for donor potential!

The long-term subscriber is actually far less likely to give; if traditional RFM were driving your selects, you’d miss that entirely.

Another example. Long-term lapsed donors (no giving in the prior four years) who have a recent (within past 12 months) non-transactional interaction are more than three times as likely to give as other constituents with non-transactional interactions (although they look the same, based on current monetary activity).

In both of these cases, tracking non-transactional activity helps us mail smarter … by enabling us to mail to names we might not otherwise select and/or reduce mailings to contacts less likely to respond.

Are your constituents telling you something similar through their non-transactional behavior?

More to the point, are you paying close enough attention to get the message?

A Matter of Perspective

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. One of the hightlights – and there are so many, beginning with your first glimpses of the grounds as you approach the facility – was Monet’s “The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light.”

Initially I took in the painting from just a few feet away, struggling to make out the façade in the surreal, foggy light of morning. But as I backed away, eventually looking at the painting from across the room, lines sharpened and the structure clearly emerged from the haze.

Life’s a bit like that.

Fundraising is a bit like that, too … and I think it’s important to be conscious of how “long” or “short” our perspective is, whether looking back, or ahead.

In looking back, for example, it’s imperative to have the up-close perspective. For an individual mailing, how did a specific offer in a particular format perform against a targeted segment? At the same time, only by combining a number of these distinct results and looking at them over a longer period of time, can we begin to see broader trends and patterns emerge. (

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It’s similar when looking ahead. While you can set an overall fundraising goal (further), you make that goal far more actionable by breaking it down into targets for more specific groups (closer). (

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The thing I like best about impressionist art is its ability to blend both perspectives.

I think that’s what I enjoy most about fundraising, too.