Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Raise Donations, Or Rather, How to Raise Donors Who Give Again

Donors who lament, "...they got me...they got me to give..." aren't likely to give to that organization again.  No nonprofit should, upon discovering one of their donors gave and then mentioned this to another, after; feel their fundraising is effective.  This is not good for either the donor or the nonprofit.

Fundraising isn't a side-gig where nonprofits mostly focus their energy and efforts on the organization's work (the mission statement) but '...have that annoying fundraising to get to at some point, too'.  Fundraising is a full time job.  What nonprofit doesn't constantly need cash flow?  Well, then it needs to be raised, constantly - all year round, every week, every business day.

Donors are not forced, cajoled, or sand that give once to our organization but then slip on and away.  Donors are people, foundations, corporations, families, local businesses, etc.  In other words, donors are people.  The goal, then, is to retain the person who gives to our organization once, so that they give again, and again.  How?

If we consider the tragedy of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing need, there, like any other catastrophe people are compelled to help however they can, including donating towards a relief organization.  But, after the Japanese pick up the pieces and get their nation moving on steadily, again, will those donors give again to say The American Red Cross, regularly?  In this case, they might not and its not that The Red Cross has lacked in its fundriasing effort.  In this scenario, the donor was compelled to give for whatever reason and selected The Red Cross as the organization it entrusts their contribution with.  The donor trusts that the assistance that they can afford to send to Japan will reach the Japanese at nearly 100% of the monetary amount pass through, in a program, service, or form of relief that truly meets the current needs of the Japanese, such that it actually helps someone or some people.  Now, if the donor comes to know exactly (what percent of) their dollar did, for whom, how, and what need existed or remains for that assistance, that donor might give to The Red Cross again.

Or, what about our friend David, who recently moved from an apartment to a small rental house closer to his children's school?  He packed the apartment up two weeks ago and all last week moved from the old apartment complex into his new neighborhood.  While he packed, he put aside anything that he no longer used or needed.  He planned on donating everything that was in good condition to donate to St. Vincent de Paul's or Goodwill, and making a run to the dump with everything else.  Perhaps David decided which nonprofit to donate his used clothing, household items, and furniture to based on convenience.  After all, he was literally in the middle of a move.  Or, perhaps David has given to a specific charity used household and personal goods before and has a personal connection with that organization, so he gives to them, again.  There are a couple of reasons, at least, that David would select one nonprofit over another, when he decided which organization to give his items to.  If he's giving, again, to an organization he gave to, before; then the recipient organization might just have a repeat donor.  David might have a strong tie to that particular organization.  Perhaps a friend who was down on her luck when the economy went south was tremendously helped out by one of these organizations and he saw what that assistance did to help her.  Or, perhaps David, after giving a coffee table, set of cooking pots, and some jeans and sweaters he no longer used to an organization, was clearly informed, perhaps by a thank you letter (even a form one), where the contributions go, to whom, why, and what need exists for that assistance.  He was informed and from that information, the organization created a repeat donor, because David saw that the contribution was given to a hard hit, low income, family in need; and he didn't realize, but the unemployment rate in his town, right then, was nearly 20%.  The need clearly exists for that kind of assistance and he was able, through the organization's work, to successfully help others.

Finally, let's say that our friend Kim was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  You and I had taken turns going with her to a couple of preliminary doctor's appointments, for tests, so we know that Kim is understandably shocked, feeling powerless, and terrified.  You and I speak on the phone after we discover that the concern has indeed led to a diagnosis.  We coordinate our schedules so that we can each be there for Kim, right now.  While you take Kim to her first chemotherapy appointment, I spend the day phoning local breast cancer nonprofits.  Neither you nor I have much experience with breast cancer, and Kim certainly hasn't until, now.  All of us are out of our elements, understandably, and needing to know what we can do to help Kim survive it, get through it mentally and emotionally.  Like most anyone who is faced with a new terrifying diagnosis (of any kind), none of us have any idea about what support, information, and services exist in our community for us and Kim to get through this in the best possible way.  Let's say that I phone five different nonprofits.  I hadn't even realized that there were five nonprofits, locally, that dealt with breast cancer.  One assists people who have breast cancer (and their loved one) by providing information on local doctors services just for breast cancer patients, refers patients to local oncologists and other relevant specialists with excellent reputations and success rates, and provides counseling and support to patients and even their loved ones (who are often care takers).  Another organization provides transportation at low or no cost to those in need who can not get to cancer-related doctor's appointments and treatments, otherwise (for lack of resources, lack of personal vehicle, inability to walk on one's own, etc.).  The third organization provides information to the public but mostly fundraises to provide cancer researchers (doctors, scientists, etc.) with funds to find a cure.  The fourth organization provides housing, food, clothing, or any other basic need to those who are cancer patients, but without means of their own to arrange for these basic needs for themselves.  The fifth organization, I find out, provides hospice or personal care, medical assistance, and spiritual care (for any faith) to those who are tragically perishing from cancer.  I learn, while speaking to these organizations, that there are two good oncology departments in our local hospitals but one (over the other) has an excellent breast cancer unit and has actually but recognized, nationally, for it's success rate and repeatedly excellent care of patients.  I also find out that one local doctor, in particular, given Kim's specific diagnosis (as I related it) would probably be very effective at helping her eradicate the cancer entirely.  I decide that this information and the first two organizations will probably be extremely helpful to Kim and us, during her fight against cancer.  I base this on Kim's particular financial, emotional, mental, and health insurance situation.  She is working, she has good health insurance, her ability to care for her basic needs are fine, and of course, though she's just been diagnosed, she is certainly not dying and we anticipate that she won't for tens and tens of years to come.  I also base that decision on how we can best help Kim.  I know that you and I have to work, but we know, too, that sometimes Kim will have an appointment during the work week.  The second organization will be very helpful at safely getting Kim to and from those weekday appointments on time. 

I gave this in depth example above, based on a similar (but not exact) nonprofit that I worked at for over five years, in Seattle.  The reason why I gave such an in depth scenario about Kim and the organizations that 'I phoned' is to demonstrate the lack of knowledge, real needs, and emotions that someone (anyone) who phones a nonprofit (any nonprofit, for any issue or cause) might be dealing with.  The well run and successful nonprofit that succeeds at delivering its mission (repeatedly) can wind up being a real answer in a time of some one's time of severe need.  It can wind up being the difference between survival and a tragedy.  Similarly, the scenario above demonstrates what both the person (or thing) that has experienced the actual trauma and the people in their lives go through.  It might be an 'everyday thing' for the volunteers and staff at the organization to answer the phone and hear that another person needs their assistance, but if their office is run well, and if the volunteers and staff are both trained well and given necessary support from their superiors; no call for assistance is less dire or important than any other the organization received in the past or will receive.  From this comes donors.  You and I might come to learn exactly what assets our community has in the two nonprofits that we and Kim work with.  After her battle with cancer is won, in a couple of years or so, perhaps you and I look back at the entire experience, with Kim, and decide that the nonprofits that helped were literally partners in her survival or our ability to form a viable and safe team that would help her survive and get through the horrors of breast cancer.  Based on this, the three of us decide to pledge some amount to the two organizations and the hospital, regularly.  We three feel confident about giving to these specific organizations because we witnessed (or experienced) where the money goes, what it does, and we know the organizations (in this scenario) are honest, effective, efficient, and successful at what they do.  We're donors for life.

From the different donor experience examples, above, you can see from the potential (individual) donor's perspective how a nonprofit can create new donors who give again and again.  Nonprofits that do not follow through, that do not thank donors, or that do not expressly describe what current work is being done, where, for whom, why, and how (to each donor - no matter if they gave $5 or $25,000) are simply leaving potential repeat donors (and future donations) by the wayside. 

No comments: