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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fundraising University

Just back from vacation. And although it's still August and the calendar says summer lasts another month, that Back to School vibe is in the air and the season is definitely waning. The "let's get back to business" feeling seems to be widespread - everyone is blogging about fundraising this week. I always eat up this information, because I'm not an expert in development, but I'm always asked to help automate development tasks. And even my vacation was not free of fundraising concerns - the group that sponsors the music camp was in the throes of a new campaign, which we aided by auctioning off a Cajun fiddler.

Amy Kincaid of Fundraising Breakthroughs kicked off my reading with a piece on Improving your Annual Support Letter. A lot of communication pointers here: she reminds us that a lot of people will not read the whole letter, just the first paragraph and the tear-off. And she suggests trying to skim the high donors off, and giving them a separate communication. She also suggests adjusting the ask for people who had given in the past but are not current donors, to try to lure them back. And finally, she stresses the importance of accurately tracking response.
Track your returns. Percentage of gifts vs. letters sent. What's ave gift? Look for trends, look for oddities (maybe call and talk with—listen to—the donor who give $32.58). Targets for new, cold list are only 1-3% return. For your in-house friends mailing list, following rules, and making it more personal, 10% (with follow up phonecalls, 15%). And over time, with a good program taking care of grassroots donors annually, you should be getting a 66% renewal rate.
Speaking of separating out high dollar donors - Jeff Brooks over at the Donor Power blog shares a horror story that comes from undervaluing the low dollar donors. It's true that a donors making a lower first gift will on the average turn out to give less total support over the lifetime of their involvement that someone who makes a high first gift. But Jeff tells the tale of an organization who, armed with this one fact, decided to shift their focus to high dollar donors, and in the process devastated their revenue picture. The moral:
Shifting from a volume orientation to a value one is something most nonprofits would be wise to do. Just don't do it with a chainsaw.
Nancy Schwartz of Getting Attention is just back from the Direct Marketing Association's non-profit conference and shares a few take-ways about online fundraising. To me, the most interesting idea she brought back was the value of using creative and interactive methods to keep online donors engaged and informed.

I rounded out my post-vacation course in fundraising with a piece by Joe Waters over on Selfish Giving about Philanthrotainment. Philanthrotainment is Joe's new word for an event that is equal parts of fundraising and entertainment. The idea is to move beyond tired event formats like the benefit dinner to a festivity that is really enjoyable in its own right:
Tired of rubber-chicken dinners, golf tournaments and magazine subscriptions, Generation X's and Y's are looking for more exciting and creative ways to give.

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Comments on "Fundraising University"


Blogger Nancy said ... (August 30, 2006 at 11:51 AM) : 

Michael, Thanks for pointing to my post on the DMA Nonprofit Federation conference (lots of good stuff there, but lots of folks just not seeing beyond what's right in front of them too), and for bringing together such a powerful list of resources.

Nancy Schwartz


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