Random Thoughts on Life and Work

January 8, 2016

The Effects of Giving

PBS Newshour had an interesting segment during the show on January 7. A University of British Columbia research team conducted a small study on the effects of giving in toddlers and then carried it beyond to college students and adults. In the study, they found that even young toddlers express happiness when giving something to others.

I suspect anyone in fund-raising/fund-development will tell you, “duh” to the concept that it is actually a pleasurable experience to give. One of the interesting (and again, not new) findings in the study is that people who have the opportunity to see and/or experience the impact of their giving are even happier than those who just gave to a general “fund”. However, how often do organizations get caught up in trying to raise funds so that “we can accomplish our mission.”?

You likely saw the UNICEF and/or ASPCA commercials during the holiday season. What struck me about those efforts was the fact that there was no impact of my gift. All I saw was a portrayal of a very negative situation with a statement – help us help them.  I have to confess, I was extremely turned off by the ads finding them very ineffective at telling me how either of these organizations do anything positive. Where were the impact/results pictures?

Watch the PBS segment and then consider your own communications. What are you telling your readers/listeners/site visitors? Are you telling them why they should support you? Or are you telling them that their gift has changed the life of Samuel who now has his own bed or Mary who can go to school because now there is clean water right in her village?

March 5, 2015

Stewarding the Mid-Level Donor

Most of us are well aware of the 80/20 rule of fundraising – 80% of your income will come from 20% of your donors. Major donor programs are built to focus on the 20% of donors who can and do supply that high level of giving. This is good. But how do you increase the number of donors that fit in that 20%?

The logic would lead us to understand that if you add a donor to the 20% group then that will increase the dollar amount that makes up the 80% of income. The goal of moves management in development is to move donors from their current involvement to a higher level involvement. However, the majority of your donors, those in the lower tier, will be resistant to moving. And in general, their annual giving is so low that it probably isn’t efficient to invest a lot of resources to move them up. Does that mean you ignore them? Certainly not. However, you also should not overly invest in efforts to increase their participation. But monitor them along the way and watch for natural movement.

8020DonorPyramidI would contend that there is an optimum zone of opportunity to move donors upwards into increased giving. Often referred to as mid-level donors, these donors are giving at high levels but not enough to be counted in that top tier. They are often overlooked as they fall between the major donors and the “direct mail” responders. If your organization provides opportunities to support specific program areas, these donors will likely take that opportunity rather than support the general fund. “Unknown” major donors will often test an organization by giving an initial gift that falls in this tier. They have heard good things about the organization and think they may want to support the mission at significant levels but want to make sure that the organization is capable of responding to them appropriately.

Larger organizations often have sophisticated donor groups (President’s Circle, Insider’s Round Table, etc) but smaller organizations can also gain from just a little bit of extra effort. Here are some simple steps you might consider to steward this group in particular:

  1. Watch for first time gifts that fall in this tier. Establish an acknowledgement process for that first gift that is similar to what you typically do for the top tier.
  2. Consider special insider reports that are different from that which major donors receive but are higher quality or more detailed than the standard direct mail or newsletter that the lower tier receives.
  3. If you have created recognition societies, consider an annual invite to upgrade their membership.
  4. Monitor this group in particular for lapsing donors. If their giving pattern changes, consider a special contact to re-engage them.
  5. Consider special planned giving/legacy giving communications to this group of donors, especially if you have donors who have given in this tier for a significant length of time.

Each of these are suggestions and are contextual to your organization in the sense that the giving levels for each organization may be significantly different. I have seen organizations that don’t quite match the 80/20 principle (they might be 80/10 or even 90/10) so you will also need to analyze your database to determine how many donors you have in each tier and how close your organization matches the 80/20 rule. Find the zone of opportunity within your particular organization.

If you have any questions about how to proceed with the analysis of your database or establishing a special program for acknowledging your mid-level donors, feel free to contact me and let’s start a dialog about how I can help.

April 22, 2009

Allowing Donors To Be Creative

Okay, so I haven’t posted in “like forever” as my daughter would put it.  Part of that challenge of getting to it.  I just lost all sense of creativity and drive. 

But that’s not the point today.  

Quite a while back, I posted about allowing your donors to tell your story.  Finding ways to facilitate that provide opportunity for them to advocate for you.  Here is an example of what I am talking about:

I am developing a great appreciation for the development of the “friends asking friends” concept and the power that brings to spreading the message.  As I continue to work with individual donors, I hear more and more frequently the desire to let others know about their passion.  

Spread the word.

August 7, 2007

Choosing Donor Software

Filed under: Charities,Charity,Donations,Management,Non-Profit,Philanthropy,Software — Darren Mullenix @ 8:10 am

Admittedly this is kind of a “drive-by” posting.  I will try to expand more later.

I met with a couple of people over the last couple of weeks from different small organizations.  During the conversation with both of them, the discussion came around to the topic of choosing a donor database.  There are many choices out there and each one plays a role for the organization that chooses it at the time it is chosen.  It is worth considering periodically whether or not the software you are currently using continues to meet the needs of your organization.

Here are a few that are worth looking at if you are in the market for a database solution:

  • Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge
  • e-Tapestry
  • DonorPerfect
  • Donor Direct
  • Pledgemaker

This is hardly an exhaustive list as there are many more out there.  Some good, some bad. 

There are many things to consider when looking at a solution for your organization.  I am not sure that I could do justice to the discussion here but let me lay out just a few things to consider when evaluation new software:

  • Ease of use
  • Data retrieval
  • Organizational resources
  • In-house vs hosted
  • Your internal business rules

Maybe this helps.  Maybe it muddies the water a bit.  Comments?

March 12, 2007

What Message Are You Sending Your Donors?

When was the last time you did an audit of your donor response systems?

Sometimes programs get set up without thinking through the inadvertent message we may be sending.  Take for instance a website where it takes more than 3 clicks to make a donation.  What message does that send to someone who may have been impacted by the email appeal you sent?  “Oh, don’t bother giving.  We don’t really need it.”

Inadvertant Messages

Take for instance this car dealership.  I pass this dealership on my way to and from work each day and have really been puzzled by their perspective.  For some reason, they think that placing cars in the entrance way is good promotion.  The dealership sits on the major highway into town and gets lots of traffic.  But now that they have put the cars in the driveway, you would be hard pressed to find your way into the dealership.  “Don’t bother.  We don’t really want to sell you a car.”

I realize there is some disagreement about the value of postage paid response envelopes vs regular reply envelopes.  However, within your own context, consider the message you send by not including an envelope (or a postage-paid envelope) in your direct mail appeal.  Maybe it is good stewardship.  But then maybe using the entrance to park cars in could be considered good use of available land.

Here are some items to consider:

  1. Do you have a “corporate” e-mail address that donors can use to inquire?
  2. Do you have a toll-free phone number available for callers?
  3. How many clicks does it take to make a gift on  your website?
  4. Do you have special landing pages for e-mail appeals that encourage giving and make it easy to do so?
  5. Do you include envelopes in your direct mail?  Is it postage-paid?
  6. Who answers your main phone?  Person or automated?
  7. How long do you take to respond to e-mail?  1 day?  2? 5?

Take a moment to audit your messages from the viewpoint of the donor.  What are you really saying to them?

January 16, 2007

Enhancing the Donor Experience

I had the privilege last week of presenting with my good friend Foster Chase of MinistryLinq at the annual Christian Stewardship Association conference in Dallas, TX.  The title of our presentation was e-Relationships: Using Internet Technology to Enhance Constituent Relationships.  Our audience was made up of primarily development professionals looking for new ideas on web based development.  (At least that is what we hoped the audience was made up of.)  (more…)

December 28, 2006

The Meaning of Giving

Filed under: Charities,Charity,Donations,ephilanthropy,Philanthropy — Darren Mullenix @ 9:05 am

A friend turned me on to this short about the idea of giving.  What does “giving” really mean, especially as we consider the Christmas holiday season.  I won’t pontificate further but will let the video speak for itself. 

 Hoping for a blessed New Year for you!

December 21, 2006

The Committed Donor (The Power of The “Thank You”)

I am back after a brief hiatus due to recent surgery!  About time too!

I have a story to share about a recent experience the proves the value of the simple “Thank You”.  It involves a donor who is committed to the organization and its mission, eBay and its partnership with The Points of Light Foundation through MissionFish, and yours truly. (more…)

December 7, 2006

Security Update

As an update to the Donation Security post from a couple of days ago, here is a resource that you may find valuable as you evaluate various 3rd party providers.  This document is a list of companies certified by Visa to be in compliance with their credit card processing regulations.  Visa Compliant Companies

December 5, 2006

Donation Security

CRM Magazine had a great articlein their recent e-newsletter concerning online security and the concerns that people have in transacting business on the internet.  According to a Gartner survey quoted in the article, nearly $2 billion in online sales will be lost in 2006.   To quote:

Nearly half of online U.S. adults, or 46 percent of more than 155 million people, say that concerns about theft of information, data breaches, and/or Internet-based attacks have affected their purchasing payment, online transaction, or email behavior.  Of all the behaviors affected, online commerce . . . is suffering the highest toll. 

You can also find the full article here.  But non-profits typically don’t sell items on the internet.  So how does that affect the trust relationship in this context? 


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