We are starting the college process with my 16-year-old twins. What is amazing when you look at the 3000+ colleges in the country is that there are 3,000+ colleges in the country. That means that if a child wants to go to college, there are plenty of options. And not every child wants to go to an Ivy League or an NCAA champion. In fact, there are thousands of other schools that are better matches for millions of students.
Stay with me here.
Your child will not, in all likelihood get into every school they apply to. The school will not get every student they want. And yet, 3,000 plus schools will have amazing freshmen classes starting each fall.
Just as a university only wants the students who want to be there, you only want the donors who want to give to your nonprofit. If they don’t feel connected students, and donors, will leave for a place with a better fit.
Getting New Donors
At this time of year, it feels as if everyone is talking about getting new donors. Whether they are focusing on end-of-year giving or strategizing for next year, the obvious path forward always seems to be about getting as many people as possible to write checks for any amount.
You may want to increase the number of donors in 2019, but you may not.
I would suggest that instead of searching for 50 or 100 new donors to your organization, you consider deepening the relationships with the donors you already have. If you are anywhere near the average of 45.5% retention, you will have to find 50, 100 or more first time donors. But those new donors usually give lower amounts than long-term donors, so you will have to find 50, 100 or more first time donors each and every year to replace those you are losing.
You can raise more money if you focus on retention and increased giving. Unlike colleges, you will not have millions of people looking for new organizations to donate to. So, in all likelihood, if you are finding 50 new donors, they are coming from other nonprofits who did not engage them beyond the first gift.
So the real question about getting into college vs. getting new donors might not be which is easier, but which will help you find a better connection(s). Over time, you will raise more money, with less volatility, when you have stronger relationships with the people who want to give to you. You may never have millions of donors, but retaining hundreds of donors year after year will help you fulfill your mission. And that is the idea, after all.
* I suspect that this will be the first of many columns that will reference this fact. Why? When I learn, I like to share that learning. And so many skills learned outside of fundraising can be used inside of fundraising (e.g. timely thank yous, telling people you appreciate them, keeping in touch beyond when you are asking for something, etc). I hope it doesn’t give you PTSD or scare you. If it does, please let me know and we can talk about therapy sessions we offer.