I think most campaign feasibility studies leave a ton of money on the table.
Here’s a hyper-simplified description of how it usually works. You hire a consultant. Together, you conduct the feasibility study and review the results. Then, you make a decision on whether or not to go forward with the campaign.
So what then? What about the supporters who helped you come to that conclusion?
Prior to conducting the study, did you prepare a plan to give to them after they helped you?
After all, they gave you their time (often their most precious commodity) and their guidance?
If not, you might have missed a huge opportunity.
I guess what I’m saying is that too often feasibility studies are conducted with a ‘taking’ mentality. Sure, your organization needs to determine whether or not to go for it. But isn’t that lopsided?
To me, it seems like the organization gets what it wants while the supporters get left wondering, “What happened? What did they do with the information I gave them?”
Think of it this way.
If someone asked you for advice, wouldn’t you wonder if they took it or not? And, wouldn’t you want to feel appreciated for having provided your counsel in the first place, no matter whether they took your advice or not?
I think that’s how your supporters feel too. And I think this is where the missed opportunity rests.
In fact, I believe failing to communicate with your supporters after the study is completed (using the information they shared with you about their needs and interests) could even leave problems in the wake of your feasibility study efforts.
Every touch counts!
Remember that every ‘touch’ with a supporter has the potential to enhance or diminish the relationship.
With that in mind, try thinking about the feasibility study survey as more than just a single ‘touch’ with which your supporters will engage. Rather, think of it as yet another meaningful experience with which your supporters will involve themselves as they consider whether or not to give, stop giving, give more, or leave a legacy gift.
So here’s my recommendation.
Change your mindset and prepare a communications plan so it’s ready to launch after the conclusion of your feasibility study. Reach out to your top-tier supporters and anyone else who might have taken a survey or contributed to your organization’s decision-making process.
Consider including a way to share the results of the feasibility study survey in your plan. That way, your supporters will feel more included and part of your community.
Remember, the donor journey is a marathon not a sprint.
Each touch counts! That’s why, at MarketSmart, our customers leverage our technologies and strategies to send those who participated in a feasibility study a Survey Report (at the very least). They use other marketing efforts we supply too. But let’s stick with the Survey Report for now so we’re not here all day.
Survey Reports are super-powerful communications tools because they make sure your supporters don’t feel abandoned. Instead they feel included and involved…. loved!
When done right, these reports influence giving decisions in your favor as a result of social norms (unwritten ‘rules’ that help people decide how to behave). Make no mistake, gentle social pressure can be a very powerful influencer.
Here’s an example of social norms.
If some of the questions in your feasibility study survey asked your supporters about whether or not they would consider giving certain kinds of assets, supporting certain initiatives, or making a legacy gift, then you could include charts in your Survey Report showing precisely how many said “Yes” to each.
As a result, those reading the report (which can be provided to anyone who took the survey or others including Facebook ‘likes,’ non-donors, etc.) will likely begin to consider those same kinds of gifts or initiatives.
The trick is to provide value.
Remember, thanks to your feasibility study survey, it is likely that you captured amazing information points about each donor’s story such as the reason for their passion (why they care), their interests (what they might want to support), and their giving temptations (how they might want to support the mission).
You can prove that you listened by responding in kind. Doing so will give your supporters value in ways that align with what they told you about themselves.
Just remember to be polite, persistent, and relevant.
So why not think about your capital campaign feasibility study from your donor’s perspective? See it as a touchpoint along their decision-making journey and not as just a one-shot engagement. Then you will be exponentially more likely to scoop up money that would have otherwise been left sitting on the table.
What do you think?
Have you planned to maximize the value you gain from the information you gather from your feasibility study?
Something about the term moves management has always made me feel uneasy.
When I first heard the phrase I figured it was all about managing the moves fundraisers make to get donors to move forward in the decision-making process, and I was right.
Wikipedia says: Moves management is a term used primarily with the non-profit sector in relationship to donor development. It refers to the process by which a prospective donor is moved from cultivation to solicitation. “Moves” are the actions an organization takes to bring in donors, establish relationships, and renew contributions.
Taking my research one step further, I Googled “moves management metrics” and essentially found the following measures repeated over and over:
# of prospects identified
# of touches/contacts
# of discovery calls/visits conducted
# of cultivation calls/visits conducted
# of asks/solicitations
# of gifts closed
$ total dollars raised
# of stewardship calls/visits
So what’s missing? The donor!
In pretty much all of the articles I found about moves management and its accompanying metrics, it seemed like everything was focused on the fundraiser’s activities. Sadly, the following three essential elements were consistently absent:
The donor’s consideration stage (according to the donor)
Whether or not they are qualified (according to the donor’s reporting their passion, how they rank an organization compared to others, how important they feel the mission is, etc.)
The quality of each engagement (according to the donor’s feedback after engaging with a fundraiser)
This is important because it takes two to tango.
It really doesn’t matter what moves you make if your donor hasn’t qualified themselves (opted-in for a deeper relationship with you, your organization, and its mission and shown that they have capacity, making them worthy of your time— which costs your organization money).
Additionally, you can’t decide what moves (actions) should be taken without first understanding where each donor resides in their consideration process. Their needs and interests will be much different when they are in the WHY stage compared to the HOW stage of their decision-making process. To be effective, you’ve got to align the content of your messages and the timing of them with your donors needs, not yours or your organizations’.
I think too many fundraisers are taught to do it the wrong way.
They let someone (perhaps their boss or a prospect researcher) or some algorithm decide which donors should be on their list and then off they go! They start making moves. And, too often they make those moves mostly to satisfy the quota of moves management metrics they’ve been assigned.
This is completely antithetical to donor-centricity. Rather, it’s fundraiser-centric and organization-centric. Not nice!
Why not try this instead?
Re-think what you’re doing! First, get their permission to be on your list. Ask them to opt-in.
With a survey, you’ll allow supporters the opportunity to opt-in and self-qualify. Asking for their permission is simply the right thing to do! Plus, a survey will give them a chance to disclose where they reside in the consideration process and whether or not they are truly qualified to be on your caseload (so you can understand who is and who is not ready for and worthy of your outreach). That’ll save you time since people who are ready will respond while people who aren’t, won’t.
It’s a technology-enabled donor discovery tool!
In the old days, donor discovery was done on a one-at-a-time basis. But nowadays, it’s almost impossible to get a donor on the phone let alone meet with you. However, if you want to raise a ton of money efficiently, donor discovery still must be conducted. A donor survey will invite your donors to lean in so you can get the discovery stage done well and right away.
Once you’ve got a great list based on what your donors told you (not just based on what an algorithm reported or your prospect researchers have said), you’ll be ready to make outreach with messages that align with each donors needs and interests according to where they are in the decision-making process.
Then, as you make contact you’ll want to review the quality of your engagements based on whether or not they helped your donors move themselves forward in making a decision to give.
It’s not so much about the quantity of contacts. Any goofball can make tons of calls. And, too often, shallow calls designed to meet organizational quotas only lead donors to move backwards along the consideration continuum— exactly the opposite of what you and your organization really want to happen.
Quality is essential!
At MarketSmart, we score our conversations with potential customers so we can prioritize our time and align our messages going forward. This makes it much more likely that we’re not bothering people (like you) who simply aren’t ready to buy from us yet.
We’ve learned that it doesn’t help anyone if we try to move people like you forward so you make a decision in our favor— especially when you aren’t ready. Instead, we try to help you move yourself forward. We try to support your consideration process as a result of our listening tools and skills. That’s true customer-centricity!
I guess you can say we practice what we preach.
It’s about the donor and their needs, not the organization and its needs. Put your focus squarely on the donor and everything else has a funny way of working out nicely to benefit the organization and its mission.
When I first got into sales, my uncle told me that polite persistence was the key to achieving results. He said that I needed to be gentle but tenacious. Like water dripping on a rock again and again until it finally wears away the stone.
He was right…. in the 1990’s. Today, I’m not so sure.
Today at MarketSmart, we have found that politely yet persistently following up with our prospective customers by asking the following kinds of questions over and over again simply doesn’t work anymore. They go dark. Radio silence!
“Are you ready to have a call to learn more about our System?” someone her might ask. Then 3 weeks later she’ll try again, “How about now?” And later on, “Ok, how about now???”
Or she might say, “Did you get the information I sent you? Any questions?” Then, several weeks later, “How about now? Did you get it? Any questions?” And later on, “Ok, how about now??? I’m here if you need me!!!”
Or, once we’ve sent them a proposal she might ask, “Did you get it? Will you be making a decision soon?” Then later, “How about now? Got any questions? Decision forthcoming?” And then later on, “Ok, how about now???”
Are you getting the picture?
You’ve probably had vendors call or email you over and over, prodding you to take some action, haven’t you?
Sure, it might work as a gentle reminder. But we have found that the polite persistence tactic doesn’t really generate movement forward in the consideration continuum as it once did. I’m not sure why. But, for some strange reason, it just results in a blackout.
Instead, try this magical maneuver.
It seems to do the trick.
Instead of politely prodding people, we send them value and we make absolutely no mention whatsoever of the offer that’s still on the table. Then, miraculously, the recipient of our messages either does one of three things:
She will take advantage of the offer providing value with no mention about the offer on the table (to meet, chat or buy);
She will respond with information regarding the offer that is on the table (to meet, chat or buy) while making no mention of the more recent offer providing value;
Or she will take advantage of the offer providing value and respond with information about the offer that is on the table.
Either way, for whatever reason, we seem to at least get a response.
It’s odd right? We actually seem to get more people to respond to us about an offer on the table when we don’t ask them to respond to us about the offer on the table and, instead, simply provide them with value.
I suggest you try it and let me know if it works for you too.
Reach out to someone who has gone dark but this time only provide them with value. For instance, share a link that tells a story or helps them understand the impact their gifts make. Or, send them a helpful resource they might appreciate. Just make sure you DO NOT mention the offer on the table.
Then, let me know what happens next. Did they respond in one of the 3 miraculous ways outlined above?
I think too many nonprofit leaders don’t really know how to lead. Instead they just boss people around.
Having a title means you have authority. But authority isn’t the same as leadership.
In fact, too often people get into positions of authority only to become dictators, not leaders.
It’s sad because nonprofits desperately need leaders.
So what is leadership?
We’ve been talking about this quite a bit at MarketSmart because we’ve grown so much.
With growth comes the need to distribute decision-making among our staff. Otherwise, every decision would have to go through me and I just don’t have the time to carefully consider every move we make anymore.
As a result, it has become necessary for me to teach others how to lead (make decisions other staff will not only accept but also appreciate). This has been quite challenging and we’ve learned a lot very quickly.
So, today I thought I’d share some of my learnings to help you or someone you care about understand what leadership is really about. I hope it helps.
It is essential to recognize that most “issues” among staff arise out of fear. It’s really just that simple.
When people experience fear, they seek safety and security. Then, if they can’t find it, they become frustrated and angry. Soon, they withdraw (to ensure safety) and just bide their time — waiting to get back at someone or a group, waiting for a new job to come along so they can jump ship, and waiting so they can get home to their family and friends while doing as little as possible to rock the boat. The consequence is reduced productivity.
Therefore, I believe it is a leader’s job to – first and foremost – make sure everyone feels safe. Safety reduces fear. Removal of fear increases productivity.
Next, it’s about them — not you.
When you imagine becoming a leader, you conjure up images of people serving you. But that’s not really how it works. In fact, it’s just the opposite!
Once you get put in a leadership role, you have to forget about what you want and, instead, put the needs of others ahead of yours. As the great author of several books on success written during the Great Depression once said:
You can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.
— Napoleon Hill
In other words, as a leader your job is to serve and support, not to dictate and demand.
Last, here’s a list I gave my staff as they took on leadership roles:
Seek and find ways to give, give, give to them
Everyone likes to feel valued and appreciated so catch them doing things right and give ‘em props
Show empathy for what they do and the challenges they face
Seek their advice about you and how the company (organization) can improve so everyone wins (yes, it’s all about them but within reason… the company/organization must hit its goals)
Be approachable by consistently listening carefully with an open mind and encourage feedback on anything and everything
Be fair, honest and straightforward (otherwise… if you don’t, you’ll lose trust)
Understand what they are seeking to gain and how they want to make progress and find meaning in their lives, then try to help them get what they want
Communicate clearly about the needs of the company/organization
Then try to gain buy-in by first seeking input, then collaboration, and finally by making it their idea, not yours
Attack issues immediately, don’t let them linger (in other words, for instance, if they won’t buy in and give back to help the company win – and they only care about themselves – point out that that is not the kind of character we want here)
When you succeed, give the credit to everyone else
I hope that helps.
I’m sure I’ll be learning more about leadership as we continue to grow. As I do, I’ll share what I’ve learned and hopefully it will help you and your organization thrive as well.
P.S. – If you have thoughts or learnings you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section.
Leadership should share the burden of blame because fundraisers tend to feel a lot of pressure to do what’s always been done. In many cases they are driven (by leadership) to avoid trying anything new in case it doesn’t work. If that happens they fear the attempt might be considered a waste of donor money. Although, I believe that not trying something new is what really should be considered objectionable.
But maybe it isn’t their fault either?
Leadership tends to do what the board wants and both the board and an organization’s leadership are afraid of the media. Yep! Unfortunately, the media are always anxious to prove that nonprofits are mishandling donations. Most reporters don’t understand the business of fundraising. They tend to believe that no money (or very little) should be spent on the raising of funds.
Sure, it’s unrealistic and unfair. However, if you don’t abide by their dictates, they might make an example out of you.
How ’bout we blame it on your vendors then?
Too often fundraisers rely heavily on the vendors servicing their accounts— just as their predecessors did. Many wrongly believe that’s a safe bet — the path of least resistance — since those vendors often had been involved long before the current staff were hired. Therefore, they tend to have a fair amount of valuable institutional knowledge.
But, unfortunately, those vendors might also be direct response companies motivated by volume. Therefore, the more ‘stuff’ they send out to your current and prospective supporters, the more they get paid. Sadly, this results in more populist fundraising or spray-and-pray communications that seemingly seek to pound donors into submission (until they give or give again, and give more).
In my experience, very few of these vendors recognize that the goal of acquisition fundraising should be to begin trustworthy relationships with supporters so they become more likely to evolve into partnerships that result in major and legacy gifts. Instead, most take a short-sighted approach. They try to get supporters to make mostly small donations once, monthly or yearly. And, in many cases, it’s the leaders of the organizations who are forcing them to focus on immediate results among low-dollar, impulse-oriented donors.
That shouldn’t be the case! Leaders of organizations shouldn’t seek those outcomes. Instead, they should ask their direct response vendors to aim for long-term results. For instance, they should demand that they aim to find needles in haystacks— supporters who are qualified and likely to make major gifts now and impactful legacy gifts later. And, they should be evaluated on the retention rates of the donors they acquire along with the lifetime values of their gifts, not on how much money they bring in each month or year.
However, too many leaders fear doing anything differently (see above). So the circle continues.
Acquisition fundraising should never be solely about the money. Retention fundraising shouldn’t be either. All of it should be designed to ‘land and expand’. At least that’s what we call it in the tech/software business.
According to Saasx (an online entrepreneur community), land and expand “refers to a strategy to land a customer with a small deal, and then sell into the organization to expand your footprint to more seats, additional departments or more products & services.”
MarketSmart often employs a land and expand strategy. Many times we’ll first sell a donor survey effort to a new customer. Then, once they feel they can trust us because they know we deliver value (results) in line with their needs, we help them navigate the decision-making process in a way that usually leads to a much larger, long-term contract and referrals too.
Land and expand is not a transactional model.
It ain’t about the money! Especially not during the first engagement. Rather, it’s about building the relationship upon a foundation of trust and mutual benefit.
Similarly, when it comes to fundraising, the best, wealthiest, most philanthropic potential donors (the very people you are hoping to ‘acquire’ and ‘retain’) are not looking to give transactionally. Nor are they seeking trivial relationships.
No! These well-meaning people are desperately seeking to find meaning in their lives. They want to live on in the hearts and minds of others for all time. And, they are trying to make impact so they can feel good about themselves.
To them, this is no game and it certainly is not just about making transactions here or there. These philanthropic-minded people are looking for a trusted partner in their journey as they navigate the charitable giving landscape. They desperately want to ‘land and expand’; I promise, they really do!
But too often they only get to land and their attempts to expand are met with crass solicitations that provide very little value for them. Additionally, their desire for a sincere, long-lasting relationship (a partnership) is not fostered. Instead it’s thwarted.
After all, would you find value in a friend who asks for money every time you see her? Wouldn’t you rather have a fair and respectful, mutually beneficial ‘give and take’ relationship?
And so their journey continues.
These amazing people — your well-meaning donors — hop away looking for a relationship with another organization, hoping they’ll find a partner with whom they can realize the best version of themselves, and feel good.
They continue their search until finally, for many, they quit altogether.
Yes, it’s true. You can see the data here. Donors are fed up, so they’re giving up on giving. The number of people giving to charity as a whole has been declining at a rate of 3 to 5 percent each year. Scary isn’t it?
The losers in this self-perpetuating game include the donors, along with the beneficiaries of their gifts, your organization, and eventually you— the fundraiser.
So, in case you missed it, this is the reason why high-capacity donors think your fundraising stinks.
They want to give. Of course they do! It’s part of their humanity.
But too often they feel mistreated. So they become fed up.
It’s pretty simple, really. If they aren’t getting the value they feel they deserve from you and your organization, they just go looking elsewhere for a fundraiser and organization that treats them better. An organization that takes them out of the endless cycle of transaction-oriented pitches and solicitations. An organization they can trust. An organization that gives to them to make sure they feel good.
You can be the one to leverage technologies to help you get the job done. You can be the one who will support their decision-making process with value-oriented cultivation and stewardship that is otherwise very time-consuming and tedious to create and distribute. You can be the one who realizes that the law of reciprocity is powerful and should never be underestimated.
You should be the one who gives!
And, gives again!
Then, you’ll be the one who gives even more to your supporters!
And, you’ll be the one who finds ways to give value in alignment with each donor’s wants, needs and interests.
Plus, you’ll be the one who gives in ways that align with the stage of the consideration process in which each donor resides.
Only then, after you give, will you receive amazing, impactful gifts that will ensure your organization’s survival for generations to come.
I promise, giving will work and your major and legacy donor prospects will no longer think that your fundraising stinks.
In the webinar I presented a ton of data supporting my claim that the fundraising environment has been shifting and the storm clouds have been gathering. I believe that, finally, the day of reckoning is upon us and too few organizations are ready.
Low-dollar donors are disappearing;
Donor retention rates are dropping;
Donor trust in nonprofits is becoming more depressed;
All while competition for donor dollars is growing.
Over 1,000 people attended the live event and viewed the recording. However, a number of people reached out to me asking if I might provide them with an Executive Summary describing the highlights. I understand. People are busy and one hour is a lot of time to devote to self-education.
Essentially, there are two types of face-to-face fundraising.
When fundraising staff, leaders, and board members (or other supporters) meet with highly qualified, major and or legacy gift donors and/or prospects;
When part-time staff (usually young adults) stand on street corners interrupting passersby asking them to give (I call this ‘street spam’).
One delivers a return-on-investment of between 33:1 – 56:1 on average (and sometimes it even garners 1,000:1 ROI) and the other yields 2:1 – 3:1 ROI.
Can you guess which ROI applies to which kind of face-to-face fundraising? If you guessed that the interrupters deliver low ROI, you were right!
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I have issues with the interruptive face-to-face model including:
The ROI is low (2.5 : 1). According to this study by CharityScience which notes that “This method is considered less effective than asking existing donors to give more.”
Prospective donors find it annoying. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Aggressively asking for money on the street is sort of like asking someone to get married right after meeting them for the first time. It’s off-putting and that’s why I believe it can damage your brand. [Note: Proponents are likely to say that it won’t harm your brand. Yet I have not seen any data that supports their claims. So, I simply disagree.]
Shame! Think of it from their perspective. First they are likely to feel that you interrupted them. Then, they’ll feel somewhat pressured (when you asked them for money). And finally, after they say, “No”… as they walk away, they might feel bad about themselves for having rejected you. Yuck! Shame! Come on!… let’s not shame people we don’t know.
The value it provides to most of the people you engage is very low. Don’t forget that the secret to fundraising success is the delivery of value to donors in line with their needs and interests, and at the right time. Sure, a small percentage of folks out in the street might appreciate the fact that you found them and gave them an opportunity to make an impact through giving. But most of the others won’t feel the same way. That larger group will feel they got no value at all. In fact, for them, you’re likely to deliver negative value. Try this: As they walk away, listen carefully and I bet you’ll hear some folks mutter, “Grrrr!!! I’ll never give to that charity.”
What ever happened to the golden rule?
Consider how you like to be treated. Do you enjoy interruptions by strangers with clipboards or tablet devices on the street? If not, why would you send youngsters out to treat people (just like you) in that way? It isn’t nice and it makes your targets feel bad. So, think of it this way: If you wouldn’t want be interrupted and asked for money on the street, perhaps you might want to reconsider the approach.
And if you are an authority figure at your organization and you’re telling these young adults to go out there and ask away, keep in mind how authority can drive people to do awful things. Check out the famous Milgram Experiment to understand how ‘authority’ drives well-meaning people to do terrible things. Then, restrain yourself!
Can you tell that I don’t like the second form of face-to-face fundraising?
Don’t get me wrong, I know you need new donors. But I’d rather see you prioritize spending your donors’ funds on efforts that result in new major and legacy gift donors; not new low-dollar donors. Do that first! Remember, the giving pyramid is dead! [Something I proclaimed in 2013, before many others began to agree.] That’s why I believe the money you budget for the interruptive face-to-face method should be redirected toward generating new, big donors. These days you CAN inspire people to give at higher levels right off the bat. I won’t get into how to do that here because I spoke about it in the second half of this webinar and wrote about in my book and on my podcast. But if you don’t want to review any of that, just reach out to me and we’ll chat. HINT: Referrals are the key to low-cost, new major donor acquisition!
Furthermore, I think you should also consider spending more of your budget on stewarding your current major and legacy gift donors first. By doing so you’ll generate more money, more loyalty, and more referrals leading to more major donors. In other words, once you’ve shored-up your base and generated new, high-dollar donors, then you might think about spending money to find new low-dollar donors. But I doubt you will because you’ll be breaking records generating tons of revenue for your cause.
Just remember, new low-dollar donors have a lifetime value of just $42 while larger donors deliver almost $74,000 LTV.
BOTTOM LINE: Before running out into the street to interrupt people, first align your budgets so you conduct more face-to-face fundraising with the best, most loyal, wealthiest donors and donor prospects
For decades, fundraisers have sought a ‘magic box’ to identify the most ideal donor prospects for outreach, relationship-building, and solicitation.
Of course they do. Who wouldn’t want one? With a ‘magic box’ a fundraiser could become much more efficient and effective. They’d be able to zero-in on the best donor prospects, call them up, land a meeting, build a relationship quickly, solicit a gift, close it, and take a victory lap around the office.
Of course, no magic box exists.
But that doesn’t stop eager vendors, consultants and others in the sector from leading fundraisers, leaders, and board members to believe that something pretty darn close to a magic box can, indeed, make an organization’s fundraisers more successful. So they sign-up to have their data processed.
First they begin by looking backwards at each donor’s recency of giving, frequency of giving, and the total monetary value of giving (also known as RFM). Never mind that hardly anyone would depend heavily on past performance when picking stocks for investments. Of course not! After all, every finance magazine and banking or investment business carefully states that past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Nonetheless, that’s what well-meaning staff do. They start by looking at past performance knowing full well that the information can’t possibly be accurately indicative of future results. And why wouldn’t they? A better way doesn’t exist. Or does it?
Is your blood boiling yet?
If you’ve relied on RFM for decades now, you might find yourself feeling perturbed. You might be thinking, “Who is this guy telling me my beloved RFM doesn’t work?”
Don’t get too hot! I think RFM and the other techniques described below work for narrowing down direct response lists in order to save precious dollars spent on printing and postage costs. But we’re talking about zeroing-in on the best major donor and legacy gift prospects.
So stay with me on this. Open your mind to new ideas. Put aside your orthodoxies and whatever you’ve heard in your favorite fundraising echo-chambers. Come on! Deep down you know that RFM is directional at best for building major and legacy gift portfolios for gift officers.
Take a deep breath and read on.
Marrying more data to the imperfect RFM result.
If you agree that your RFM result has been imperfect, good for you! The first step to improvement is always the recognition of the existence of a problem. Now, let’s continue.
For many, the next step for identifying ideal donor prospects includes ‘overlaying’ wealth screening data with RFM results. The problem with this part of the process is that wealth screening information is only about 40% accurate at best (according to discussions I’ve had with the vendors that sell it and have admitted that fact to me).
At first I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. So, three years ago I began testing data from every wealth screening firm I could find. Then I tested data straight from the humongous firms that most of the wealth screening companies use as the sources of their inputs.
Imperfect RFM data + imperfect screening information = ?
So now you’ve got less-than-accurate wealth data overlaid with backwards peering RFM data that is no guarantee of future success.
Are you beginning to see what I saw years ago? Could it be that marrying weak information with another kind of weak information might produce the holy grail you’re seeking? Unlikely, right?
So what about this new and nifty artificial intelligence stuff everyone keeps talking about (machine learning)?
You may have noticed some new, shiny vendors popping up. They say they’ll apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to the RFM and wealth screened data to get you the ‘magic box’ you’ve been yearning for.
Again, I think this could yield some benefit for narrowing down direct response lists. Thereby reducing printing and postage costs. However, applying sophisticated technology to backwards viewing and only somewhat accurate data doesn’t necessarily make the results any better. You’ll need to track results after soliciting the major and legacy donor prospects. Then you’ll need to provide it to these firms over time. Finally, the machine might have a shot at ‘learning’ whether or not the original outputs were correct or not. Then it will adjust its future results accordingly until it gets more feedback data to nosh on.
But never mind all that, it’s a magic box! The vendors tell you it’s good…
Until the rubber meets the road.
Sh#t goes down when all this information reaches a talented gift officer’s desk.
Sadly, according to a 2017 study conducted by Ruffalo Noel Levitz that asked nonprofit gift officers ‘what percent of newly assigned prospects they felt were truly qualified to be in your major and/or planned gift donor pool,’ the gift officers said only 37% were truly qualified.
Funny how that figure lines up so closely with the 40% stat I mentioned above, isn’t it?
Well, maybe funny isn’t the best way to describe it since the gift officers sent on wild goose chases surely feel that their wasted time is no laughing matter. Interesting might be a better word for it.
Is it any wonder why turnover is so high among those positions? Who would want to spend their day like Charlie Brown, trying to kick the football while Lucy pulls it away over and over again? For many of them the ‘magic box’ is a menace!
So what works?
Remember donor discovery? Truly effective donor discovery helps you qualify and prioritize a supporter for your caseload. It goes way beyond prospect identification.
With donor discovery you can determine the following:
Why they care
Who inspired them to care
How your mission entwines with their history and life story
Their particular interests and passions
Their commitment level and how they rank your cause compared to others they support
Where they reside in the gift consideration continuum and whether or not they’d like to meet with the gift officer now or later
Whether they want to give assets or cash, a major gift or a legacy gift… or perhaps they’d prefer giving from their IRA or maybe a CGA
If they have a family foundation or perhaps a DAF
If they’d like to volunteer, join a committee or take board seat
If they have friends to whom they could refer you because they have similar interests
What stage of their career they are in (retired, selling a business, etc.)
How old or young they are
Whether or not they are married, widowed or have a partner
If they have children
You just can’t truly qualify a supporter for major and/or legacy giving without this kind of dense information. But gathering it via donor discovery takes time and everyone is in a rush. “We need money now,” they say to well-meaning gift officers. “Go visit the list we gave you,” they continue (never mind that getting an appointment is no easy chore). Sigh!
Now you can leverage technology to achieve donor discovery at scale.
What if you could conduct thousands of donor discover engagements in minutes?
Well, now you can. And best part is that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s powerful and effective, fast and relatively easy.
Plus, as a result of tech-enabled donor discovery, gift officers find that they can, indeed, be the fundraisers they always wanted to be. They stay in their jobs much longer. There’s less of a need for them to hop around because, finally, they feel supported. And, they find themselves spending more time with highly passionate, high capacity supporters who are ready to talk about giving.
Wondering how it works and why hundreds of nonprofits (and thousands of gift officers) have benefitted from tech-enabled donor discovery?