Way, way back in 2019, we could predict fundraising trends for individual nonprofits.
Using the standard KPIs like previous giving history, the number of donors, and retention rates for various donors, helped form a reliable path to your goal. There was always testing to determine if your timing was right or if you should send a letter and five emails or two letters and eight emails. But the basics were set if you knew where to look.
Cut to 2023. There are a lot of people asking, “Will we reach our end-of-year goals?”
Development staff openings remain unfilled. Inflation is higher and faith in the markets is lower. And past performance is difficult to analyze when you include the pandemic-inspired giving in 2020 and 2021. Can you rely on 2022 giving data as the core predictor for 2023? Especially when costs continue to climb and your staff positions remain vacant.
I find my crystal ball a little cloudy today. But let me offer you some advice to give you the best possible outcome.
- Continue to ask. This may seem obvious, but the Donor Giving Days in the spring, extra NPR drives in June, and plans to start asking an extra time in August are ways organizations are looking to make up the shortfall this year.
- If you are short staffed, get creative with your hires. In the past few weeks, I have heard of three new hires with zero fundraising experience. They just found a really smart person and decided the organization could train them. Or hire someone like us to train them. Which, coincidentally, is how I heard about them.
- Understand the realities of the situation. If you are down three people in a department of six, there is no way for you to do the work of six. And that is true if you are down two or even one. If you want to retain the remaining employees you have, don’t assume they will absorb all the work. That’s a formula for disaster.
- Make sure your fall appeal is calendared – and even written – in the summer. How many letters, postcards, emails will you send? You don’t want to be annoying and at the same time, prospects who unsubscribe from your list were probably not going to continue to give and grow their gifts. I believe that because I don’t unsubscribe from the organizations I love. I may ask for a different cadence or opt out of emails, but if I care about the work, I will stay involved.*
- Worry less about new donors and worry more about donor retention. If your overall donor retention is less than 50%, you will lose one in two donors who you acquire each and every year. Work on keeping the donors you have. It is less expensive and easier to do.
- Pick a segment to focus on for your end-of-year goals. If you can’t choose everyone, choose wisely. Let’s say you choose your mid-level donors. (What a good idea!) This is the group of donors who have been giving to you for years at an amount that is above entry level but below that major donor threshold. Remember that in the past couple of years, donor retention is down but average gift is up. Can you:
- Create an incentive for them to become major donors?
- Ask your volunteers to check in with them this summer and see how they are feeling about the nonprofit?
- Send a personalized postcard just to that group? Segmentation strategies are essential to help a donor feel connected.
I could keep going but we all know how hard it is to get through a long article these days. Even if the topic is as interesting as reaching your end-of-year goals. As always, if you would like organization specific help, email me or schedule a time on my Calendly.
*Really, even I, who love seeing what my colleagues are sending out, unsubscribe when it gets to be too much. But never to an organization I want to support. And definitely not my top philanthropies.