Congrats to both Boards, The Land Trust of Danbury and the New Fairfield Land Trust: Great job! Danosky & Associates was privileged to help bring them together. Great model for other land trusts.
“Our Board is not a fundraising board.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that ….
Few Board members are fundraisers. And that will likely not change until our Boards are comprised of millennials – because ironically enough, they do like fundraising.
But for today – we need to deal with the current reality. And just because a Board member doesn’t consider him or herself a fundraiser does not mean they don’t share a Board responsibility of ensuring the organization has sufficient resources. To do so usually requires the Board to raise funds.
Perhaps here it is a good time to define fundraising. Most people think it means asking for money. And most people would be wrong. Fundraising is really the process of cultivating and developing relationships with individuals (and sometimes companies) so that they are inspired to support your organization in magnificent ways. And what is it a Board member should do —
Introduce people to the organization – over dinner, over coffee, bring them to an event as your guest, host a friends’ potluck supper in lieu of going out to dinner and support your organization with the money saved. Be creative –find people who have an interest in the cause you support and share! Perhaps we can take a cue from a millennial on a Board where I was doing a training. After some discussion – this young woman stood up and said – “Tonight I realized my job is to think of some way anyone I meet can be involved with this organization. All the time.” WOW! And she meant it.
Board members can also play a pivotal role in thanking donors. So far I haven’t met a Board member who says no when I ask if they would be willing to have a cup of coffee with a donor and let them know what a difference their gift has made. Write a personal note. Make a phone call – have a thank-a-thon. If every Board member reached out to several donors – you would actually raise more money at the end of the day.
Raising money is not about asking. It is about having meaningful conversations with donors so they know more and care more about your organization. If that is done well – most times the ask is actually superfluous.
Today’s donors aren’t as concerned about your programs and services as they are about the impact you are having. Yet, the old stand-by is to fall back on describing services and programs, which are usually difficult to describe and leave many donors scratching their heads as they try to understand what the nonprofit does. Telling stories and sharing results are far more powerful ways of communicating an organization’s story. Now GuideStar has provided nonprofits with a very tangible tool to use in reporting outcomes. It’s ‘pick and choose’ format applies to a wide range of organizations. And they have made it easy to submit it to them, as well. Many organizations have the capability of going beyond what GuideStar has offered. If, however, you aren’t communicating your outcomes yet and aren’t quite sure how to get started … this is a good place to begin.
How can you tell whether your fundraising program is healthy and growing? Ironically, it’s not based on your bottom line alone. In fact, that can be very misleading. At Danosky & Associates we conduct development assessments that lead to building a strong development program. To perform an effective assessment we have developed a tool we call the Donor Analysis Table. It is based on the premise that good fundraising is predicated on attracting and keeping investors — not whether your on-line campaign, or latest event was successful. No successful business thrives unless there is a base of loyal customers. People who believe in your product and keep coming back for more. This same principle applies to the non-profit world. Instead of customer loyalty programs, though we call it “donor-centric” or “donor-focused” fundraising. The tool we use to measure success is simple. We set up a table. It begins with the donor who has given the most to the organization over the past three years from every possible source. It might be $1 million, $100,000 or event $10,000. We then tally amounts given at each level below that. Once this table is built – we look for trends over three years and ask some very hard questions. Why was there a drop in donors at the $10,000 level and no increase at the $15 0r $20,000 level? Why hasn’t there been an increase in giving at different giving levels? Why have donors been lost at higher levels, where 80-90% of your funds are coming from? There are a number of essential elements we look at when we conduct development assessments and build fundraising plans. But the Donor Analysis Table is pivotal to understanding how your program has been functioning. It provides the pathway to increasing your revenue 10, 15, 20 percent or more in the next three years.
Retention continues to be the major concern for non-profits. In the work we have done over the past 8 years – this is consistently the major issue we have seen with almost every client we work with. Now, there is additional data showing that it is the number one concern for non-profits everywhere.
The Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP), a joint initiative between the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute and several nonprofit software providers was begun in 2006. It has evolved into one of the largest philanthropic research studies in the world.
In the Non-Profit Quarterly, they have just announced some preliminary findings – and the news isn’t all that great – but neither is it surprising. The overall retention level for organizations has averaged just 46 percent. That means 54% of donors do not renew their gifts. The retention level was a bit better for repeat donors: 65 percent, but for new donors, retention averaged just 25 percent. That means that all those events you do to friend-raise only yields 25 out of every 100 donors who walk through your door. Consider that in the context of the work, labor and expense that goes into running such an event – often at the expense of developing the relationship with a donor who is renewing their contribution (at least for the moment).
Most critical is the research showing that $250 is an important tipping point in the donor retention arena. Donors giving that amount or more are far more likely to remain loyal to your organization than other contributors. So, the question to be asked is what you are doing to cultivate those relationships – or to cultivate the relationship of a donor giving $100 so that they reach the critical tipping point and continue to grow with you.
This research shines an important light on what we are doing on the front lines to promote giving and philanthropy. At a period of time when donors have literally thousands of choices where to give – finding those donors who will be loyal to your organization is more critical than ever. When you do find them – the end-game should be keeping them. Only then will you create that sustainable giving platform that will help your non-profit thrive. And that’s the real bottom-line.