strategic engagement plan

Just in case fundraising doesn’t have enough variables to manage, there are myriad of external factors, from changes in the economic or political landscapes to viral trends, which may impact your organization’s actual fundraising results. Even with a robust donor-centric organization, a dynamic, enthusiastic team and a solid, vigorous strategy, sometimes donor retention rates will be beyond disappointing. How can you halt a downward spiral? 

First, both your organization’s comprehensive strategic plan and fundraising strategy need to have enough flexibility to be able to make necessary changes to address downward trends before they become catastrophic. A solid strategic engagement plan doesn’t need to be etched in stone. They should be fluid, capable of being adjusted to seize new opportunities, respond to recognized or forecasted threats, or resolve any ineffectiveness. In addition, they should be reviewed and assessed on an annual or semi-annual basis, whether or not they are delivering the desired results. 

As previously stated, good donor engagement that optimizes retention requires data and analytic systems to routinely assess donor management in terms of overall effectiveness in revenue generation and donor retention rates. Use the data you’ve collected to determine trends, internal and external causes as well as potential inroads or segue to improve both donor retention and fundraising results. 

Channels, methods and styles of communication should also be regularly evaluated, especially if donor retention rates are faltering. Often, it’s not about what you are communicating so much as how you are communicating. Here are some questions to ask when creating your strategic engagement plan: 

  • Are you focusing on your donors’ preferred communication channels? 
  • Is your style and tone appropriate for your targeted audience? 
  • Does your donor engagement reflect and respond to the donors’ perspective or to your organization’s internal operations? 
  • Are you using terms that are familiar within the nonprofit industry or speaking to your donors in the way non-fundraisers (“humans”) communicate?  
  • Does your donor engagement elicit an emotional response or is it just a broadcast message explaining your needs?

If there are no clear explanations as to why you’re not achieving your donor retention targets, then ask the experts: Your donors. Market and feasibility studies can provide insights but can be expensive and time-consuming to conduct. Quick donor surveys that Bloomerang can do for you, “automagically” can also provide valuable information about how donors perceive your organization, its Mission and operations. 

Comparing your results with other colleagues in the nonprofit sector may also produce some insights as to why your donor retention rates are less than you desire.

Brian Lauterbach
With more than twenty years of experience as a fundraiser, consultant and entrepreneur, Brian has helped hundreds of nonprofits and the professionals who lead them to raise money. Throughout his career, Brian has led the process redesign and integration of fundraising channels that raised $400 million from more than 3 million people. He is the founder of TheNonprophets.org, a 501c3 public charity that provides no-cost and low-cost direct fundraising services to organizations with a small budget but a big vision for their missions and impact.
Brian Lauterbach