Welcome to the new year, fundraiser! Look at you all bright eyed and bushy tailed. You are awesome. Stay that way. Look at that clean slate in front of you! Congrats on your sparkling fresh start.
And because no fundraiser ever started the year planning to raise LESS money than the year before I know that being even more awesome than last year is #1 on your task list.
I’m here to help! I’ve outlined 7 New Year’s Resolutions guaranteed to up your fundraising game. Ready to be the fundraising master?
Here are 7 new year’s resolutions to help you raise more money in 2019.
1. Resolve to learn more about your donors.
Make every moment of discovery count! Ask thoughtful, meaningful questions, like: What programs do they care about? What motivated them to give in the first place? What was the best gift they ever gave and why? Of all the organizations they support who does they best job engaging them? What are their top three philanthropic priorities? What do they love about what they do? How do they prefer to be communicated with? Stumped for what to say? Here’s a guide just for you loaded with 25 of the best open-ended question you can ask a donor.
What about the hundreds or thousands (or millions!) of donors you don’t get to visit? Learn more about them in a visually rich donor survey.
2. Resolve to learn from your data.
Hopefully, by the very virtue that you are reading this post, you have been drinking enough Bloomerang Kool-Aid to know your donor retention rate.
Why does retention matter so much? Acquiring those donors cost you money, time and effort! As Roger Craver, author of Retention Fundraising, advises, “Taking actionable steps to reduce donor losses is the least expensive way to increase your fundraising income.”
One of the most important data points is how good of a job you are doing converting first-time donors into making a second gift. To find out, calculate how many donors made their first gift to you in a 12-month period, i.e. 2017. Then determine how many of those new donors made a gift to you last year by dividing the number of 2017 donors by the number of 2018 donors. This is your first-time donor conversion rate for 2017. Why do you want to know this? Maybe you had 100 first-time donors in 2017 and only 10 of those made a repeat gift in 2018 giving you a 10% renewal rate. This information might lead you to shoot for a goal this year of 15% new donor renewal rate and add critical new donor cultivation strategies to your plan, such as new donor welcome calls, a one-month update, a new donor survey, etc.
Why does first-time donor conversion matter so much? Only 19% of first-time donors are retained but a whopping 63% of repeat donors are retained. If you can convert a first-time donor to make a second and third gift you are well on your way to keeping them!
3. Resolve to make your donors FEEL something.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves in fundraising. Giving is such a joyous experience but so much of our communications can feel bland and lifeless. Does your appeal or acknowledgment make your donor feel great about themselves? It should. What we feel is irrelevant. What our donors feel is the only thing that matters. While we’re busy trying to educate our donors or boasting about how awesome our programs are our donor might be tossing our letter in the trash. Communicate in a warm, friendly, personable tone. Make the donor feel like gushing over what they made possible. If your autoresponders sound like a robot wrote them, it’s time for a rewrite in 2019!
4. Set a revenue goal (and a cultivation plan) for every donor in your portfolio.
I am a huge fan of organizing your donor portfolio by monthly goals and putting in your ask amount and cultivation steps for your donors. Base ask goals on your donor’s capacity, inclination, prior giving, and interests. Now you’re ready for your best fundraising year ever! What’s more, when your CEO walks in and tells you about a budget shortfall you havesolid ground to push back on unrealistic goals.
5. Resolve to dedicate 30 minutes a day to call and personally thank donors.
Don’t start with the biggest and then fall off the wagon on this goal come February. Add NEW first-time donors to your call list too. Be prepared with a few great discovery questions and opportunities for them to engage with you deeper. Before you know it, your lower level donors are now major gift prospects! The secret is you have to STICK WITH IT. Put it on your calendar as a recurring appointment when your energy levels are at their peak. Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking or leaving a message.
6. Follow the RIGHT approach
Sure, it may be easier to shoot an ask over email than arrange a visit with a donor but we all know what works best, don’t we? Building relationships isn’t optional in fundraising, it’s inherent in the definition of what fundraising is. Don’t shirk away from asking for gifts face to face. This type of ask boasts the highest success rate. According to the late Jerry Panas, if you can get a visit with a donor you have an 85% likelihood of getting the gift.
7. Love what you do!
Above all else, love what you do! You’ve dedicated your professional life to making the world a better place. You may be sacrificing other rewards, like financial compensation, to pursue your passion. Take care of yourself. Furthermore, doing the things you love that bring you joy, whether it’s hiking mountains, crafting or travelling make you to be the joyful, fascinating interesting person your donors want to know.
Know that we never climb the fundraising mountain and get to the top and shout, “Hey everybody! I’m here! I made it!” Tomorrow offers you another mountain to climb. It could be a new vision, a bigger challenge or even another cause that speaks to you.
If you follow these 7 tips you’ll be in tip-top shape to tackle it!