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See GivingDNA in action alongside your peers in fundraising. Tour the Platform on 5/26/21 @ 12pm CDT.

Last week we unpacked the difference between open loop and closed loop organizations. Today I want to focus on open loop organizations, those organizations that have a different set of donors and beneficiaries. Here’s the outstanding benefit of the open loop model: virtually anyone with the financial means to support you is a donor prospect.

While a closed loop organization is limited in large part by the number of people they impact, no such limit exists in the open loop model. There is little chance someone will give to support a church they don’t go to, but just about anyone may sponsor a child. Growth is not limited by the extent of the outreach.

The downside to the open loop model is that donors rarely give to an organization they don’t appreciate or understand. Some level of understanding is needed before they will commit their financial support. This requires that an “impression” be created, and impressions, as you well know, are expensive.

So how do you connect with those potential donors?

Be intentional about impressions.

In marketing, an impression is created and counted every time an advertisement is seen. In a nonprofit context, impressions come in the form of ads, a direct mail piece, a presentation to an audience (which would represent multiple impressions), an experience with the charity, or some other point of communication. Open loop organizations are required to invest in impressions to reach prospective donors.

The quality of the impression, then, has everything to do with the success of the acquisition campaign. Impressions are needed with people who have the ability to give, are sympathetic to the plight of the beneficiaries being impacted by the organization, and are invited to respond in a way that minimizes friction while still facilitating ongoing communication and cultivation. Text-to-give may be an easy way for new donors to give to a cause (virtually frictionless), but if the organization doesn’t end up with the donor’s name and contact information, the gift is likely to be an episodic, transactional event and not the start of an ongoing donor relationship.

Invest in immersive experiences. The more immersive the experience with the organization, the more likely the impression can result in a donor relationship. Ideally, the organization should get out of the way. Being a middle-man doesn’t help; the prospective donor knows the organization is important to the process. The greater need is to create a direct connection, a personal experience between the donor and the beneficiary.

So what are the building blocks of these immersive experiences?

  1. Bring the prospective donor to the work. Strong impressions are created by giving prospects the opportunity to observe relief work firsthand, or volunteer time serving beneficiaries.
  2. When donors are unwilling or unable to go to the beneficiary, the beneficiary needs to be brought to the donor, and that experience needs to be as immersive as possible. Use web-based tools to help donors hear directly from the beneficiary. Compassion has a mobile “experience” in the form of a semi-truck they drive around the country and park for weeks at a time. That experience incorporates the sights, sounds, and smells consistent with the children donors sponsor.
  3. Pictures are good. Video is better. Giving the donor the ability to touch, hear, see, and smell something firsthand are best.
  4. Use stories. While it is important to communicate vision, we need to connect the donor intellectually and emotionally to the needs of the beneficiary. We struggle to wrap our emotions around the struggles of 100,000 people, but we can quickly be moved to tears through the vicarious experience of a single individual.
  5. Make sure impressions are hosted by people donors trust and respect. Because such interactions are brief, this is vital. Peers bring influence which is critical to making a quick decision and taking action. These engagements should be interesting, perhaps ever entertaining.