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Today’s Donor Expects Measurable Fundraising Outcomes

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One of the tenants of Dr. Adrian Sargeant’s extensive research into donor retention is how important communicating your key mission outcomes is to donors. Donors want to support organizations that are living out and achieving their mission. Communicating those outcomes has become vitally important, especially for major donors who usually make it a requirement to know the specifics of those results.

That requirement has not always been a reality. The very nature of having a nearly unlimited amount of online information at our fingertips has altered what nearly every major donor now expects. These days, we don’t even choose a restaurant or a pair of socks without thorough research. Why should we expect anything different from a prospective (major) donor? Much more information is required than just a stated need.

Future InvestingMajor Donors Treat Gifts Like An Investment

Think about how you decide how much of your income will go into your 401K – specifically, where will those dollars be invested. You might ask the following questions:

  1. How much of my income must be used to live on and how much can be saved for the future?
  2. Do I need tax free investments or can taxable investments and their higher return work?
  3. What is the past return of each investment fund option?
    • Over the last 90 days
    • Over the last year
    • Over the last 3 years
    • Over the last 5 years
  4. What is the potential risk of each investment fund option?
  5. What are my options if I need any of the funds before retirement?
  6. What happens if I change my location or my job?

Today’s major donors are performing the same exercise before making substantial gifts. Trusting in your nonprofit isn’t enough. Knowing your need isn’t enough. They want to know just how well you are addressing the need compared to other similar organizations.

Tips For Making Outcome Information Available

Every nonprofit must now define its mission in a manner that is measurable and inspiring. In fact, some aspect of both measurement and inspiration is now vital to the mission statement. Think about the differences in these fictional mission statements for a community food bank:

  1. We will help feed those in need in our community
  2. We will eliminate all hunger in our community by the end of this decade

Both of the above can be measured in some manner. Both could be considered positive goals. However, ask yourself these key questions:

  1. Which one is more likely to spur a seven figure gift from an involved donor?
  2. Which one is more likely to cause higher donor retention?
  3. Which one is more likely to spur ever increasing gifts from the same donors?
  4. Which one has a better chance to create a recurring gift transaction?
  5. Which one is just flat out more inspirational and as such more exciting?

If you can combine this measurable and inspirational mission with effective reporting on exactly how well you are achieving it, you have created vast fundraising potential!

The second mission statement has great potential for measurement:

  1. Calculate exactly how many must be fed daily to eliminate hunger in this community today
  2. Calculate that number for the future
  3. How many of that number did we achieve over the past month or year?
  4. How does that compare to the previous month or year?
  5. What was the cost to achieve this?
  6. What is the projected cost to meet our ultimate goal on a monthly or yearly basis?
  7. What is the gap between what we are doing and what is needed?

Can you imagine how useful and powerful this information can be if you are talking to the right potential donor who has both the means and the desire to make your mission come true? Every donor can now know just what a difference they are making! They will also know what a loss it would be, specifically, if they did not continue to support you!

Such information, as the seven areas outlined above, are what the research driven and outcome desired donor of today desires. Indeed, a certain amount of extra planning and effort will be required to make this come to life. I personally believe it will position your nonprofit organization for successful fundraising for the near future and beyond!

What do you think?

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  • Eric Fleshood

    I like the idea of defining outcomes this way and my organization can do a better job using the ideas presented here. One downside I haven't figured out how to avoid is, what to do when the defined time frame has come and gone. I know of a large charity that set goals in the late 1980's and had the year 2000 as the defined outcome time frame. For a decade the donor base was focused and motivated by the clear definition. Funding came in handsomely. However, once the year 2000 came and went, there was a vacuum. People bought in so deeply to the defined goal and outcome that it was difficult to transition to a new goal or time horizon before the first one had expired. This would have created message confusion. The bubble burst, there was an emotional let down, and the organization spent the next 10 years trying to define its goal again. Somehow goals have to be specific, but remain transcendent.
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