Last week we began discussing the unique opportunity that open loop organizations have in reaching their donors. This week we want to dive into the practicals and provide you with three tips to implement in your acquisition strategy.
1. Improve messaging with donor feedback.
Effective organizations survey their existing donors to discover and confirm the messages they use to best communicate their work in a way that resonates with donor interests.
We recently conducted a study on behalf of a client and discovered that donors resonate more with the domestic work of the organization than their international efforts. This may sound counter-intuitive, but that’s exactly why such surveys are critical. While the client can and should continue talking about their international reach, a majority of the stories they tell should focus on their domestic efforts.
What assumptions are you making about what you think your donors care about most? Are you sure that’s the way they feel? Does it make sense to conduct a quick, digital survey to confirm your assumptions?
2. Maximize the ask.
The most effective, immersive experience cannot overcome a poor strategy for asking for and securing commitments and gifts. I’ve seen too many organizations provide outstanding, in-person experiences, only to fall short inviting people into a relationship, asking for their support, and securing gift information immediately. They ask at the beginning of an event before the donor has experienced the organization, or they ask at the end and hope the donor will go home, go online, and fill out a giving form…or they never ask at all, assuming the prospective donor “knows we need her support.” Hogwash.
The ask should come on the heels of seeing what the organization does. You should be clear about the use of funds and the financial goal. Use price handles if possible (“$10 covers a meal for a family of four”). Make it as easy to commit to a recurring gift as a single gift, and help the donor understand what a recurring gift will accomplish.
If the ask is occurring at an actual event, the person making the ask should be recognizable and trustworthy. Provide a testimonial from a peer donor. Have your board present to convey their support. Direct everyone’s attention, with no distractions, and walk the donor through the response process and give them time to fill it out. Capture contact and giving information in the moment and make it as easy as possible. Donors usually know right away whether they intend to give. When you give donors time to “think about their response” they may have every intention of going home and taking action. But best intentions are lost amidst the demands of everyday life. The experience itself is often insufficient impetus to follow through later. Collect responses at the event.
3. Leverage intellectual property.
Donors are most likely to give to an organization or institution when that organization has personal meaning or value to them, and next to people they know (friends, family members), and finally to people they may never meet. One way to illustrate that value is this:
It takes a mature donor to give purely to serve the interests of “mankind.” The demographic segments of “Boomers” and “Matures” were/are more likely to give purely in the service of mankind than the Gen X population. Certainly, a lot of Gen X donors give to make a difference in the world, but our experience is that those gifts are often motivated by a sense of personal mission and/or the sense of personal identify they get from being connected to a cause or organization.
It isn’t surprising, then, that acquiring mature donors willing to give purely to serve mankind is become more and more difficult. Indeed, our surveys increasingly show a desire donors have to meet needs in their own country (Mine) over those that exist internationally (Mankind). So how should open loop organizations respond?
Pursuant’s challenge to open loop clients is to consider how to leverage their intellectual property not only to assist its beneficiaries, but to benefit their donors as well. What have you learned in the service of your beneficiaries that might be valuable to your donors? How might you educate them or apply your unique skills to assist them wherever they are?
For example, if yours is a humanitarian organization addressing hunger, how might you educate your donors about the challenge of hunger—especially hunger in their community, or teach them something about food production, or helping people be self-sufficient? How can you help them teach their kids about hunger? How they might respond to the hunger needs present in their hometown? What have you learned through research? What are the trends connected to your cause? What problems are associated with hunger and malnutrition?
The point is to appreciate the value of what you know, and to use that information to serve your donors directly. If prospective donors see how their gifts help them personally, the universe of potential donors to your organization rises dramatically. In effect, it helps your organization function more like a closed loop fundraising operation.
Open loop organizations have both great challenges and great opportunities. Take into consideration these five principles and you will be well on your way to developing an effective acquisition strategy and finding more donors.