Those of you who have been hanging out with me for a while have probably met Jamie Freidrichs of New Fundraiser Pros before. Because Jamie is a great resource of mine. She tells it how it is and I love that about her. She and I sometimes have slightly differing opinions because I'm a marketer, and she's a fundraiser… but at our core, we feel the same way about a lot of things. And so we felt like we would have a semi therapy / semi rant session today about busting a myth; the myth that you have to give something away (a.k.a. “premium”) to get a donation.Hosted By
Those of you who have been hanging out with me for a while have probably met Jamie Freidrichs of New Fundraiser Pros before. Because Jamie is a great resource of mine. She tells it how it is and I love that about her. She and I sometimes have slightly differing opinions because I’m a marketer, and she’s a fundraiser… but at our core, we feel the same way about a lot of things. And so we felt like we would have a semi therapy / semi rant session today about busting a myth; the myth that you have to give something away (a.k.a. “premium”) to get a donation.
I really specialize in working with the nonprofit’s who don’t have a full time fundraiser on their staff like a development director, or those who have grown to have a development director, but maybe don’t have a ton of experience in that position yet. Most of the time the people I work with are bouncing fundraising with a million other really, really important things that are actually accomplishing the organization’s mission, and just keeping things going day to day. So we figure out what’s the best way to raise the funds.
We need to do all this stuff in the teeny tiny amount of time that these typical nonprofits tend to have, so we’re always trying to think strategically about what’s going to be really effective and how to structure different campaigns or fundraising drives.
Any campaign where you’re putting focused attention on reaching out to people with some broad messaging is hopefully also supplemented with some personal life messaging. Another thing I frequently work with people on is incorporating the individual one-on-one giving side of fundraising where there is a lot of potential to raise more money.
You’re telling people about this thing that you might give them, rather than telling them about the great work that your organization is doing. And so rather than defining your ask for donation as if “you give $100, I can give you this”, defining your ask for donation as “if you give $100, we can do this through your money.” Um, there’s just a very different feeling and a very different response from donors.
So rather than focusing on the product, think about your organization and your impact as the product and really focus on the story that you tell about that. It’s surprising how often nonprofits are challenged to be able to define how special and amazing they are.
There have been some studies looking at donor acquisition rates, donor gift rates, donor gift amounts for when they are offered a gift as part of the donation process. And it shows that while giving some type of premium might increase the number of donations overall, it doesn’t necessarily increase the amount of donations received. So people may not be giving as much because they’re giving in a more transactional way.
When we’re thinking about how we attract new donors to our organization, it’s not necessarily about quantity – it’s about quality and finding the people who are going to really connect with our cause and want to make an impact on it. It’s about finding people who are really connected with our approach and in the things that we are doing and then developing and deepening that relationship, so that they further understand what we’re doing. That tends to make them want to give more and more and more.
It can be a good way to get a pool of donors from which to find people who are going to want to get more deeply involved, but smaller nonprofits don’t have a lot of time and energy. So the donors we want to attract, and the donors who we already have to focus on are the ones who really get it at their core without needing anything else, and who are just going to keep falling deeper and deeper in love with our mission and the impact that we make.
Once they figure out what they do and how they do it and really believe that it’s the right way, other people will get on board with that. I think it’s very freeing to raise money from that place and it becomes easy to communicate that. Believing in that I think really frees you up to be able to tell your story well to donors.
It can be a very scary thing, but if you know that you’re making a strong impact and you know the approach that you’re using is the right way forward, that’s really all you need to say to get the right people who also care about that impact and believe in the approach to come forward and give.
You might want to be prepared for questions, but I would not muddy your messaging by saying, “hey, this year, we’re not doing the thing we did before.” I would just be forward facing about it and say, “here are our needs for the upcoming year, here are the things we’re going to do and the impact we hope to make. And here’s how your gifts make it possible.”
Again, that’s enough – your cause is enough. But if you already have premiums, there are other ways you can use them. When you’re in the planning stage of thinking about a year end campaign, this is also a really good time to be spending as much or more time to think about how you’re going to treat and thank every donor for every donation received.
Instead of, “if you give $100, I’m going to give you this thing”, now it’s “you gave, and thank you, and it’s making this impact, and we appreciate it so much”. And “Oh, we happen to have this T-shirt with our logo; if you’d like to show our team colors and show your support publicly, we would love to give you one because your decision to give is so special to us.”
That comes as a surprise to donors, rather than “I gave, so I’m entitled to this”. That does so much to make a donor feel like they really matter to your organization. I think the goal for your campaign should not just be the gifts that you raise this year, but also the relationships that you build from this year’s donors that lead to more and more transformational gifts down the road.
I think that’s just a way of framing your donor appreciation program in a way that’s very easy for you, your organization and the donor to understand. So a membership is separate from a premium. Sometimes organizations do tie some tangible benefits into their membership. At that point, in my opinion, it becomes more of a premium.
But I actually really like it when organizations call their donors members or friends or something that makes them feel a part of the team. Because I think that is also an indication that the nonprofit is really starting to think of them as a part of the team. The more you can make them insiders and understand what’s going on, the better. Those member benefits of communication, connection and inclusion are good for the nonprofit as well.
I love appreciation events. I think they are a wonderful way to say thank you to donors. It is not something I will put in my donation messaging because, again, I feel that dilutes what your organization is all about (and I don’t think many people give just to get to go to an event). It also becomes a premium if everyone who gives gets to attend, which I wouldn’t advise. Otherwise, it’s one way to give and it’s a great way to connect with them.
It’s not about the gift that happens at the event, it’s about the continuing conversation. The more you plan for how you are going to recognize the people who contribute, and then deepen the relationship and understanding through that, the more successful your fundraising program is going to be overall. Both events and campaigns are really good catalysts for bringing in a bunch of donors. But they’re not the end all be all.
People rarely contribute their largest gift at a fundraising event or an online campaign. That comes as they get to know more about the needs of the organization and the great work that’s being done and envision themselves being a part of it.
I think the more you tap into the impact you’re making, how you’re doing it and communicate that… That’s really all you need to say, because that tells donors why our community needs you. The fact is, we’ve seen this very much in the last 18 months; how much our community really, really relies on and needs our nonprofit organizations. You are good enough that you don’t have to offer a T-shirt! The fact that you do the work that you do is payment enough, quite frankly, to people who want to contribute.
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