At the end of last year, I took a trip up to Leeds for the CASE conference. Adrian Salmon and his colleagues at Leeds University led a really great presentation about maximising donor engagement. Adrian summed up with six take-away points, which apply across the board in fundraising, so I asked if I could share them with you.
1. Yes, we were lucky, but it’s about making your own luck
Adrian described how a donor had progressed from making a one-off gift to becoming a major donor. Not all donor relationships work in such a satisfying way, but as it says above – you make your own luck. In this case, the team at Leeds were working in a really interesting way. They were segmenting their file and analysing their results very effectively, but they were also looking to build personal relationships with individuals with the potential to give more.
2. Don’t ignore your outliers, & talk to your colleagues!
The individual concerned didn't actually fit the profile of existing major donors, but that didn't stop the team at Leeds engaging with him personally. That's what I really like about their approach. They used their data to identify good major donor leads, but were also prepared to look outside – to outliers – and find out what was motivating them to give.
3. Listen hard!
Listen hard to your donors – what better advice can you get. Only today I was discussing with a colleague what this really means. You might think this is covered by an annual questionnaire to your donors. But I think there's an important distinction to draw between what your donors are saying and what they are telling you.
A good researcher will dig below the surface and draw out these conclusions for you. Alternatively, you need to look at what your donors' behaviour is telling you – do they give to appeals? Do they take part if you ask them for a campaigning or another non-financial action?
4. Give even ‘modest’ donors the chance to feel involved
Have you sat down recently and thought about all the ways donors could get involved with your cause - without giving money? It's a great way of building loyalty and ultimately keeping older supporters involved who may not have cash to spare, but would consider legacy-giving. There are obvious opportunities in inviting donors to events, but here are a couple of nice examples:
Charity, Clearvision, ask donors if they will make a tactile book for blind and partially sighted children.
5. Think about legacies all the way through, not just at the end!
From 101 Fundraising
Whatever you think about donor pyramids (and there's plenty of debate, summed up here on 101 fundraising), they can lead to linear kind of thinking – that a donor will move through certain stages towards a legacy. Of course, actual behaviour is far less easy to map and Adrian makes the point that you should always be thinking about creating pools of prospects.
6. Even if it only comes off rarely, keep giving yourself as many opportunities as possible to make your own luck!
And if it's not too late, that sounds like a very good new year's resolution.
Thanks to Adrian and his colleagues at Leeds for those six points.