Increase the Perennials in Your Nonprofit Garden – Four Ways to Better Manage Donors and Improve Retention

Nonprofit Donor Retention TipsAs we enter spring, gardens are growing and blooming thanks to the efforts of their caretakers. While many include both perennial and annual blossoms, the daisies, peonies and roses that come up year after year truly offer a beautiful return on investment for gardeners. For nonprofits, this brings to light similarities with donors and donor care.

While your nonprofit garden is undoubtedly populated with annual and perennial donors, caring for those that come back year after year is especially important. Typically about three out of four first-time donors will turn out to be like annual plants, only giving once. To maximize the impact of fundraising efforts, nonprofits need to focus on donor retention and making every donor a perennial donor.

When it comes to donor retention, it is essential that nonprofits understand the vital importance of the back end of donation processing. In order to grow, nurture and sustain donor relationships, nonprofits need to take immediate steps after a gift is made. Here are four ways that the back end of donation processing can help your organization improve donor retention:

Nurture Donor Relationships with Appreciation

Just as gardens need water and fertilizer to thrive, donor relationships need appreciation. The power of acknowledgement lies in the backend of donation processing. Showing appreciation can come in many forms and should be appropriate for the donor’s level of engagement. Thank you letters are an important first step for all donors, and they need to be carefully tailored to take into account donor attributes, from gift size to specific campaigns or reasons for giving. Thank you calls can make a big impact as well, even leading to a 40 percent increase in donor retention, as revealed in Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Fundraising.

Whether showing appreciation through the phone, email or direct mail, it is critical that acknowledgements are timely, meaningful and personalized. Actively illustrating to a donor how their gift makes a difference helps cultivate a first time donor into a perennial supporter.

Acknowledge Individual Care Needs and Add a Personal Touch Via the Call Center

Fundraising Tips - Donor RetentionPlants have different soil, sun and watering needs, and donor care needs to be personalized as well. The call center is the perfect place to make this happen. Many Merkle RMG clients have seen more than a 50% increase in subsequent response rates from implementing outbound thank you calling programs. Contact centers offer an opportunity to make real connections with donors through human-to-human conversations. The ability to appeal to donor emotions and share the impact of a gift in terms of a donor’s specific reason for giving can generate additional donations and increase giving amounts

At the same time, call centers can help address donor challenges, bringing wilting relationships back to life. Call centers allow nonprofits to respond to feedback from unhappy donors and resolve the challenges they’re having with a nonprofit in a way that may encourage continued donations. Often, busy nonprofits receive a response requesting to remove a prospective donor from a mailing list, and rather than explore the issue further, donors are quickly removed. However, by utilizing the call center, the nonprofit may discover that perhaps what the donor really needs is for the method or frequency of correspondence to change, preventing a lost donor by effectively responding to such requests.

Protect Your Garden: Ramp Up Security Efforts

Gardeners know they need to keep plants safe from insects and animals if they expect them to grow, just as nonprofits know donor information must be protected. Trust is critical to maintaining donor relationships and this starts by physically and virtually securing donor information.

Building a secure virtual environment can be achieved through basic data security practices, such as firewall, antivirus, or intrusion detection software. As many donations come in via credit card, following the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council’s (PCI SSC’s) standards for processing credit card information is important. PCI offers a framework through its Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), which takes a comprehensive look at security and can ensure credit card information is properly handled and protected.

Physical surveillance and reliance on trusted employees are also key in locations where donor data and donations are handled. This means maintaining 24/7/365 video surveillance, GPS tracking on donation-carrying vehicles and background checks on individuals handling payments.

From the start, establish trust between the donor and your organization by safeguarding payments and personal information so potential issues are minimized. As a result, donors will be more likely to make a long-term commitment to a nonprofit’s mission.

Give Donors Room to Grow Through Recurring Gift Programs

Fundraising Donor RetentionPlants need the right amount of room and flexibility to blossom – and so do donors. Sustainer programs are growing in popularity as they make giving easier for donors, while also ensuring a more reliable, predictable stream of funding for nonprofits. However, without the right back end support, these types of programs can quickly become frustrating for both parties.

Recurring gift programs should offer donors the flexibility to give whenever and however they choose, encouraging participation. Back end support also needs to account for common issues, like expiring credit cards, taking care of necessary updates without putting an additional burden on the nonprofit or letting planned donations lapse. Sustainer donors have many of the same needs as other donors, such as quick acknowledgement and being shown appropriate gratitude, but unfortunately these needs are occasionally overlooked in recurring giving programs. A stronger back end management solution can help prevent this from occurring, allowing sustainer programs to flourish.

What’s Next?

In order to move forward with your mission, nonprofits should remember that successful fundraising begins with the back end. When nurtured, first-time donors turn into long-term gift givers. With appropriate acknowledgement, call center utilization, security and recurring gift program management, nonprofits can improve donor retention and see their organizations flourish.

Forget “Donor Management.” It’s Time to Talk About “Donor Partnership.”

Donor Management Tips“Donor management” is a common phrase used to describe the way fundraising staff interact with donors. You’ll often hear about “donor management software” and “donor moves management.” As the CEO of Oliver Scholars, a nonprofit organization with a 30-year track record of success, I believe it is a good idea for development professionals to think in terms of “donor partnership” than “donor management.” Donors are your key partners in the fundraising process. Donors want your organization to succeed and can be your most passionate champions. In fact, a good partnership can change the entire trajectory of an organization’s fundraising. Successful partnerships with donors can result in major gifts that make possible an expansion of staff, program, and results. On the flip side, organizations that fail to maintain strong partnerships with donors often see their funding decline. They may even have to close their doors, leaving the individuals and communities they serve without critical resources and services. While every partnership is different, we believe the following five guidelines can help ensure a vibrant organization-donor relationship:

Consider Everyone a Potential Donor

Every individual who interacts with the organization should be considered a potential donor, and ensure that every experience that individuals have with the organization offer them the opportunity to feel close and connected with the mission. Always offer individuals who interact the chance to learn more about the organization’s impact, who you serve, and feel the mission in a way that is personal for them.

Make it Easy. Being a donor is harder than you may think. Often it isn’t easy to find the information you are looking for an organization’s website. Other times it isn’t clear which staff member to call for assistance or even to make a gift. Fundraising professionals (and all staff members) need to think of themselves as “personal concierges” who strive to provide donors with exceptional service. Make sure you provide all the information they will need to attend an event (date, time, location, room, directions, etc.) Your donors are investing their money in your organization; they deserve white-glove service. You want to make it as easy as possible for someone to work with your organization so that they are eager to contribute.

Listen More Than You Talk. Very few people prefer to be talked at rather than listened to. Donors are no exception. They want to tell you about their lives, their interests, and their reasons for giving. The more you listen, the better you will understand a donor’s motivation. And the more you understand a donor’s motivation, the better your case for support to the donor can be. If a donor has no interest in 80% of what your organization does and loves 20%, that is important to know – no need to waste your time sharing details about topics that don’t interest the donor. For instance, at Oliver Scholars, we have some donors who care greatly about our preparation program for high school and others who care most about where our students ultimately go to college. We individualize communication based on our audience.

5 Tips Donor Management Ask for input. Partnerships involve give and take. Donors are investors who not only want to share their money but also their insight and advice. You don’t have to take all the advice you are given, but at least be open to hearing what your donors think. You already know that their values align with yours because they have chosen to invest in your mission. An outsider’s perspective can be invaluable. At Oliver Scholars, we regularly solicit feedback from our donors through email queries, one-on-one meetings, committee discussions, and board meetings.

Keep your donors informed. Donors want to know where there money is going. What are your organization’s recent achievements? Give your donors a chance to celebrate them with you by keeping them informed. Of course, quantitative results are always better than vague descriptions of success. Have there been setbacks? Donors appreciate honesty and transparency. No donor wants to be surprised by learning bad news from a third party. Meanwhile, don’t forget to invite donors to program related events! Give them a chance to meet staff, clients, and other partners.

Remember that donors don’t owe you anything. It’s easy to fall into the habit of expecting donors to give (and getting annoyed when they don’t). But donors don’t owe you anything. It’s their money. How would you like it if someone expected you to hand over your hard-earned cash? Every gift a donor makes is an act of generosity. That means there is nothing more important than saying “thank you!” Your “thank you” needs to be heartfelt, timely, and personalized. (A form letter will not do!)  Pick up the phone, send a card, at the very least, write a personal note on that tax acknowledgment letter. Without proper stewardship, even your most loyal donors may drift away.

New Data Helps Nonprofits Develop Better Donor Relationships

nonprofit donorsThe vast majority of nonprofits use relationship management software to create donor profiles, record information and track giving history. Relying on traditional technology for administrative support is a regular and essential practice across the industry. But as competition for charitable dollars intensifies, is this type of technology providing enough support to help development officers measurably increase donations? And are nonprofits missing the opportunity to utilize technology to its full potential to strengthen relationships before an ask is even made?

Development executives will attest modern philanthropy is more relationship-based than ever before. Nonprofit executives must take into account the varying factors that drive an individual to give, like which charities their friends and neighbors support. They also need to understand that prospective donors have much more to give than monetary contributions. Until now, nonprofits have used technology as a means to track their fundraising progress and not necessarily as a tool to expand their donor knowledge, increase the number of donors they can manage and strategically align fundraising efforts.

As the culture of fundraising has evolved, nonprofits need to update their expectations of how technology can better support them. The future of nonprofit technology lies in the combination of data with psychology, enabling nonprofit executives to gain insights to make more informed and strategic asks. If your organization has yet to tap into technology for more than its administrative needs, take these steps and reconsider how data can paint a broader picture of every donor:

  • Learn from Social Media -Accessing social data allows nonprofits to get a glimpse at a more personal side of the donor, which helps relationships to form. Did they go to college in east coast? Does your donor love tennis? Taking a look at social profiles before a meeting helps to break the ice and get to know the person better. This data also gives nonprofits insights into an individual’s philanthropic goals and needs. If a donor has grandchildren, discussing legacy planning might be of interest to them. Have they recently retired? Volunteerism might be a good option.
  • Know Who They Know – Relational data helps nonprofits discover connections in a donor’s family, workplace and community who may also share an interest in your cause. From this data, a development officer can gain insights to guide their next action. Perhaps timing is off to ask for a cash gift. Instead, by referencing relational data, a nonprofit will know whether to ask for an introduction within the individual’s company to inquire about developing a corporate partnership. Another option might be requesting a donor host a giving circle with friends and family. If your donor is already a strong advocate for your nonprofit, they will be a champion of your cause in their circles, which will ultimately grow your organization’s network of supporters.
  • Review Financial Data – It’s difficult to know what the right ask for an individual. Development officers should be confident that their requests are not under or over a donor’s giving capacity. Accessing prospective donor’s financial information is now possible thanks to wealth data overlays. This information enables development officers to be more strategic when meeting with clients, and have a clearer understanding of what they can give. Additionally, this data assists nonprofit leaders to determine whether a monetary gift is an appropriate ask, or if hosting a fundraiser, estate planning or volunteering would be a better fit.
  • Receive Predictive Analytics – Predictive analytics paint a broad picture of a donor’s giving behavior. For instance, a development officer can see patterns in giving, like a donor averaging three $1,000 gifts per year. If that suddenly dips, the executive will be flagged with an alert to get in touch with the donor by phone or email to re-establish the relationship. Data points assist nonprofits so as to also tell when it is a good time to ask for a donation of a larger size.

Data is a highly powerful reference tool that helps guide nonprofit fundraising strategy, enable executives to be more prepared when meeting with donors and take relationship building to the next level. By taking a donor’s social, relational and financial data into consideration, nonprofits can better understand a donor’s philanthropic goals and move them from first time donors to passionate advocates.

9 Steps to Retaining Donors

retaining donors - fundraising adviceGetting a donation is one thing, but keeping those donors coming back is something else entirely. Here’s what you can do to turn those one-time donors into long-term benefactors:

  1. Keep Service Strong

When you’re dealing with products, making sure the donation process goes smoothly helps encourage companies to continue to donate. Did you make it easy for the donor to ship their products to you, did you accept and account for those products in a timely fashion, did you promptly send out promised tax letters recognizing the donation? All those questions have to have positive responses—not just for the first donation, but for every donation. In the donor’s eyes, you’re only as good as their last interaction with you.

  1. Offer Trial Donations

For potential donors, giving them the opportunity to get their feet wet can be all that’s needed to reel them in. If they have two truckloads of products to donate, but are unsure if they want to commit the entire inventory to an unfamiliar group, suggesting a “trial donation” can help. Have them donate a small quantity, maybe just a pallet full of their products. If that donation goes smoothly, follow up to see if they’re now comfortable making a larger donation.

  1. Get Customer Feedback

To stay on top of how your nonprofit is doing, consider sending out surveys to clients asking about how the entire process went for them. Make sure the survey is complete, yet not too lengthy. The longer the survey, the less likely you’ll be to get a response. Even so, don’t expect huge returns. Ten percent or so is probably typical. Make sure someone regularly reviews the surveys and addresses systemic problems or issues specific to certain donors. You can also use the surveys as a bit of good will. Ask your donors if they want to piggy back on your public relations efforts, offering them the chance to tout their own donations in your press releases and other promotional materials.

  1. Make Communication Count

Once a company has made a donation, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. That means honoring how and how often a company wants to be contacted. Some companies want to communicate strictly by email.  But if you have a choice, phone contact is the better option, with occasional in-person meetings to really help develop positive relationships.

  1. Call Just Enough

When soliciting donations, you have to walk a fine line between keeping your organization in a company’s thoughts and becoming a pest. So how often do you call? It’s best to set up those parameters up front. When you’re first looking for product donations, ask how often companies take inventory or look to move excess product out of their warehouses. Is it on a quarterly basis, every six months? Find out, and time calls around then, when they are more likely to have items to donate.

  1. Get Past the Gatekeepers

If you make a call and a company has nothing to donate, then ask if you can call back in six months or some other set amount of time. If they say yes, then you already have a foot partway in the door. This is especially valuable with companies that have “gatekeepers.” When you are able to tell the gatekeeper that, “Joe asked me to call back,” you’re more likely to have your call go through.

  1. Build Relationships

Keeping in touch by phone and building a personal relationship with someone can help you increase your network of donors. Maybe that person will put another department that isn’t under their purview in touch with you when they notice that department has excess product. Or maybe they’ll let you know when they’re moving to another company or being transferred, so you can keep your contact list up to date.

  1. Meet Face-to-Face

In-person visits are invaluable. If you can, it’s best to avoid limiting yourself to meeting with just one person. When you’re setting up a visit, ask if there is anyone else in the company who might like to join you. That way, a meeting with one person can turn into a meeting with four or five. That not only leaves the door open to more donations, but it keeps you from having to start from square one if the one person you were dealing with leaves the company.

  1. Give Your Donors Value

Don’t assume that what a company values most is the tax benefits it receives. Many companies want to know where their donation went and how it was used. If you can provide that information, do so. It could be the best step you take to turning one-time donors into repeat donors.




3 Ways in Which Donor Data Helps Nonprofits Raise More Funds

Nonprofit AdviceHow many times have you had the thought of whether the donations you make are being used efficiently? Nonprofits across the globe are now turning to data to make the processes much efficient and bring about transparency. They store and analyze data to not just improve their own logistics but also to be able to target potential donors the right way.

The data is available in the form of data stored in donor databases, blog posts, and social media posts and so on. All this data offers a gold mine of insights for the nonprofits.

NONPROFITS’s today are talking about when and how to tap into this data and what to do with it. They want to know how to sort, analyze and manipulate the data and put it to use. By leveraging analytics tools and solutions to analyze the wealth of donor information, Nonprofits can gain powerful insights into their donors’ behaviors and needs.

Especially small nonprofits are really struggling, and data analytics and social media strategy can go a long way in strengthening local nonprofits thrive in the competitive environment. If NONPROFITS’S figure out ways to merge the data across different channels and create a single view of the donors, they will have a competitive advantage in the following three areas

  1. Better retention/reactivation strategies: Nonprofits can develop better retention/ reactivation strategies if they have access to donor data, intelligent data mining can help in generating more donations through reactivation and retention than trying to generate new accounts. For Example. CRY foundation which is focused on child empowerment has donor data across continents. Understanding the mode of communication to which the donor responds best, they have been able to increase their donor retention rate every year. This in turn have only aided them in ensuring a deeper impact every year on wards.
  2. Better marketing decisions: Leverage history and response behavior to make better targeted marketing offers to donors increasing the chances of success. Nonprofits can connect their donor base and put up creative appeals intelligently better offers and increase the donation in response for their appeals.
  3. Better donor experience: If we know a certain nonprofit donors talks better to a certain agent – try and route calls to that agent. If they are online – display information relevant to them based on their web traversal history. Monitor social postings, and identify the opinion leader in a pack of friends to determine where to make an appeal. This will increase the awareness as well as increase donation. Another method to better donor experience is learning from what Akshaya Patra an India based nonprofit organization that focuses on providing mid-day meals for about 2 million Children in ten states of India. They collect data on feedback from Children in order to ensure high quality of meals every day. This data can be passed on to potential or current donors to ensure that their donation is making a difference to the lives of the children.

Even though just two examples have been mentioned in this article many other organizations that are also turning towards data to utilize resources effectively, save time & costs, and thereby increase efficiency of operation tremendously. Even though many organizations are not too optimistic about depending on data for driving their decisions, organizations that have done so has seen great improvements.

Co-Authored by Dheeraj Pandey & Danesa Thandassery



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