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The Top Nonprofit Fundraising Resolution for 2016: Improve Donor Retention

Resource Center - Foundation

by Darian Rodriguez Heyman

Darian newNow that the New Year is upon us, many nonprofit fundraising professionals are getting excited to take their efforts to the next level in 2016 and beyond. As we collectively contemplate where to set our sights now that the Holiday dust has settled, I’d like to propose what should be just about everyone’s top priority: bolstering donor retention.

Many of the more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the US, as well as our 10 million-plus counterparts globally, struggle with keeping donors engaged, especially critical younger supporters. I’d like to share two quick tips to focus your cause’s efforts:

 1. Flow Like Water: When I interviewed fundraising guru Kay Sprinkel Grace for the major donor chapter of my new book, she quipped, “People don’t give to you; they give through you.” Nothing could be more true, especially as it relates to younger donors, which research finds inherently distrust institutions.

Always good for another zinger, Kay also shared “People don’t give to you because you have needs; they give to you because you meet needs.” The point is:  your organization is a channel, a conduit, which connects people with resources to the change they want to see in the world. Focus on that change—that impact—instead of how great your organization is. Soon, great things will become possible.

Finally, always do your best to avoid fundraising from a place of crisis or need. Yes, you may require funding to implement critical programs, but ultimately, people want to be part of a winning team instead of bailing out a sinking ship. Approach fundraising from a position of strength and focus on what you’ve been able to achieve given past support and what you are committed to doing moving forward. Then invite those with a shared vision to join in your efforts.

2.    Stage a Thank-a-Thon: I agree with the nonprofit experts who share that your cause should strive to communicate with people 3-4 times in between each ask if at all possible, but other than a newsletter or email update, what are some useful models for this?

The best idea I’ve heard is to engage your board in a way that teaches them that fundraising is about more than just the ask, while simultaneously solidifying relations with your donor base. So stage a thank-a-thon!

At your next board meeting, divvy up your donor list, hand out call scripts to each trustee, and invite them to the office for pizza one evening. During the thank-a-thon, each board member calls the donors on their list to simply say thank you, helping supporters understand what kind of impact they’ve made possible via previous donations.

And then—and this is the key part—then they hang up. There’s no ask, no event invitation, nothing. Just a simple thank you. And how do you think that donor feels, instead of once again being treated as an ATM? And how about that board member, once the donor ups his or her contribution during your next campaign? Maybe this fundraising thing isn’t so hard after all!

I hope these two simple insights and tips find their way into your 2016 fund development strategies and wish all of you a New Year full of impact, effectiveness, and community transformation!

Darian Rodriguez Heyman is an accomplished fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author. His work “helping people help” started during his five-year tenure as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation, after which he edited the best-selling book, Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals (Wiley & Sons) and co-founded the global conference series, Social Media for Nonprofits and Sparrow: Mobile for All. His new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, is the first truly comprehensive yet practical guide to all aspects of fundraising for your cause, and Heyman is also a frequent keynote speaker at social impact events around the globe.

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