In this webinar, Brian Lauterbach will show you the steps you need to take in order to retain and upgrade donors all year long.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Okay. All right, Brian, my watch just struck 2:00 Eastern here. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Brian: Let’s do it.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, welcome, everyone. Good afternoon, if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning, I should say, barely if you’re on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Creating a 12-month Engagement Plan: How to Build Donor Relationships with Every Donor.” I love it. Can’t wait. Thanks for being here. My name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides a little bit later on this afternoon. Hopefully, you’ve already gotten the slides as well as a couple of goodies, but if you haven’t gotten those yet, don’t worry, you’ll get an email from me later on today with the recording. I promise.

Most importantly, as you’re listening today, over the next hour or so, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to try to save some time for Q&A at the end. So don’t be shy, send in your questions and comments along the way. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those, so will our guests. I’ll also keep an eye on Twitter if you want to send as a tweet. We love it. We love you Twitter folks. Just use the hashtag, Bloomerang or @BloomerangTech.

And lastly, if you have any trouble hearing us through your computer speakers, we actually find the audio by phone is a little bit better quality than the computer audio. So if you’ve got a phone and it’ll be comfortable for you to dial in, if you don’t mind doing that, try that before you totally give up on us. There is a phone number in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about 15 or so minutes ago with a phone number just for you there. So give that a try in case you have any trouble hearing us.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to you first-timers. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. Actually, in 2019, we did 49 Thursday sessions. We love it. Actually, we’ve got eight webinars this month. We’re doubling it up from our usual four. One of our favorite things we do here at Bloomerang is these webinars, but what we are most known for is our donor management software. So if you are interested in that or just kind of curious about us, maybe you’re shopping or thinking of switching sometime in the future, check out our website. We’ve got a video demo that you can watch of the software. Can take you on a quick tour of all of our capabilities. That’s a nice way to kind of get introduced to us. So check that out if you’re curious.

Don’t do that right now, of course, at least wait an hour, because you all are in for an awesome session. I got a chance to peek at these slides earlier this week. I am super excited. So welcome my buddy, Brian Lauterbach from beautiful Chicago. Brian, how’s it going? You doing okay?

Brian: Yeah, I’m great. Absolutely ready . . . strapped in and ready to fundraise.

Steven: Yeah. This is awesome. I actually feel bad that we haven’t ever had you on before because we’ve been buddies for a while. I was thinking back to the day we met, it must’ve been probably six or seven years ago at our old Bloomerang office. But I’ve been an admirer and actually you’ve been contributing some really awesome advice to our blog over the past couple of months. And that’s going to continue on. I put that link there on the slide. You guys are going to want to read more after this presentation, I assume.

But if you don’t know Brian, got to check him out at Some great resources there. And one thing I like about Brian is he’s been in your shoes. That’s like the number one thing I look forward in guests, he’s been doing this for over 20 years, raised a lot of money, and is just really passionate about, you know, kind of giving back and helping folks with some good advice and some lessons learned. So, Brian, I’m going to hand things over to you, my friend. I’m going to let you tell us all about creating that engagement plan. So the floor is yours.

Brian: Great. Well, thanks so much, Steven, and welcome back to fundraising, everyone. I could imagine after putting calendar yearend in the bed and then take a little holiday break and coming back up for air. You know, I can imagine everyone’s a little bit daunted, but hopefully, today, what I can do is help you cut through some of the noise and create a little bit of momentum donor-focused momentum that is as we kind of jump into fundraising activities into 2020.

And so what I’m going to do today is I’m going to take a little bit different approach, or I think it might be different approach, is the information I share with you is less theoretical and it’s more research-based, but then what I’m doing is interpreting some of the research and saying, “Hey, this is what I think we could do about it.” And I when say could do something, I mean what I’ve done is implemented many and all of these tactics and practices or campaigns that I’ve run, but most importantly, for nonprofits that look just like yours. You know, whether you’re a major gift officer, an executive director, a development manager, or a chief, everything officer or something in between, what I try to do is really design today’s presentation to help you understand why donor engagement is so important.

I think, you know, assuming many of you are returning champions of Bloomerang’s other webinars and blog posts, we don’t need to litigate the importance of donor retention, but instead, what I want to do is focus on how to do it and how to do it in this day and age when consumer behavior has been forever changed by companies like Hulu, HBO, Netflix, and Spotify, and the like.

So with that, let’s dive into what we’re going to cover today and then we can most importantly get started. So first, we’ll go through some insights around fundraising and the development profession. Some of them you may have seen heard, and roll your eyes, or groaned on, but I think they’re important to kind of level set for everyone today.

Then I want to talk about really what I think is commonsensical, but when it comes to putting into practice, the new donor paradigm. We’ve heard a lot of talk over the years about donor centricity, donor-centered fundraising, culture of philanthropy. I’m not here to say any of those things aren’t relevant. In fact, now more than ever, they are, but what I’m going to focus on is really around the execution of those things in a digital environment.

And then lastly . . . or not lastly, but then we’ll talk about how to create a donor roadmap that is stage and budget and size-appropriate for your organization. So one plan doesn’t fit all. We got to perfect the basics before you move on to more experiments, that is.

And then as Steven referenced at the top of the hour, is I’ve included a couple tools to help you get started so you’re not beginning from scratch. Because I know going from a webinar or a presentation or workshop to back to the office or back to the desk and trying to synthesize all of this into what you can actually move forward and apply is sometimes the most difficult thing. So we’ve addressed all of that.

So let’s move into some of the insights. And the headline here around the insights is that we need to manage through the data and the dysfunction, the challenges that we face as fundraisers in an environment and in a sector where scarcity of resources is, you know, commonplace and very few of us has the luxury of operating from a place of abundance.

And so, to level set here, let’s look inside kind of what I see as the 2020 fundraising offices office in the big headwinds that we have to address or embrace. First and probably most importantly is around tools. This idea that just with software and that if we as fundraisers are equipped with technology, somehow fundraising becomes easy. I couldn’t disagree with that sentiment more, but I feel that their entire sector is set up around that. And that’s not to say that your Bloomerang software isn’t an arterial part of all your fundraising activities, but instead, it is just that. It is the foundational fuel that animates a strategy, a calendar, and tactics. It’s in and of itself despite all of its functionality, with all the features that help us as fundraisers, isn’t the thing that we need. It is one of three important things, so we’ll get into that.

The other thing is around time allocation. We spend too much time as fundraisers focusing and reporting on outputs instead of outcomes. Ultimately, we are seated in our job to raise money, whether that’s full time, part time, half time or some of the time, the reality is that we need to change our conversation as practitioners from, I sent out 1,000 pieces of mail. Sent 20 emails to major donors. Have one meeting scheduled step outside grants, and we have three tables sold with nine months ago in a special event. All those things are important, but I would argue they are internal metrics or our own key performance indicators. They aren’t really important to fundraising as it relates to creating streams of earned and contributed revenue.

The other thing that we lack in the fundraising office is a real career map. You know, I’m not going to address the turnover, we all know about it, but instead, you need to think beginning with, you know, today and inside of today’s presentation, and what do you want to achieve professionally that sets you up for your next step or your next stage in your career, be it in fundraising or nonprofit management. And so I would argue, despite my strong bias that, you know, if you if you want to continue on in fundraising, then the number one thing you have to do is create results. And so that’s where to get to today in just a moment.

And then the other thing, two elements of the modern fundraising office that I acknowledge and we need to manage too, is that coaching. Yes, our board chair or an executive director or our vice president of development, you know, they have a busy day too. But for a whole lot of empathy and an open-door policy, it’s not lost on me and other practitioners that you don’t always have access to the expertise and the insight that you need.

So today, what I want to do is go through all of those things. But the last thing I want to address quickly is this the notion of experimentation. Oftentimes, as a fundraiser, I have gravitated towards experimentation and trying new things when I couldn’t break through the lager head internally. So I would venture off and try to do something new to create results. Ask and having buy-in. And many of us do that as fundraisers out of necessity and out of creativity, but I’m here to tell you that what we need to do as practitioners is real simple. All we need to do is rededicate ourselves to the basics and think about the donor experience that we’re going to create.

So what’s the situation? What are we up against today? Well, you know, if we think about the creativity, the time, and the stick-to-itiveness that we applied for calendar yearend fundraising, and I’m referring to basically the five weeks from, you know, the day before Giving Tuesday to New Year’s Eve when roughly 20% of all individual gifts come in and online, might I remind you. The idea that somehow we can stop doing those things to engage and retain and upgrade donors and that, you know, all the tactics and all the digital channels that we use to fire them no longer apply could not be further from the truth, and the reality, and the experience when you create for a donor.

So it leads to the question, well, why? Why does this matter? And the problem that we face is that for all the apps, and technology, and strategies and tactics that we learn and are able to implement, most organizations are raising less money than they did the previous year. Why does this matter? Well, I think, and this is my opinion, but it’s based upon 20 years of theories but also looking at data is that we’re focused too heavily on acquisition and not retention. Now, it’s a balancing act and then the art and science of fundraising conflates the two and animates the two at the same time. But my point here is we need to put as much creativity into keeping a donor as we would acquiring one.

Now, that’s master the obvious, so let’s unpack some data behind that. So 56% of fundraisers report missing their fundraising goal last fiscal year, and this is really a fiscal year 28 or excuse me, you know, 2018 I’m referring to. So that’s roughly almost half or 40% of all nonprofits in our sector report missing their fundraising goal. Well, there are many factors that contribute to a missed goal, but the one I want to identify is not knowing who to target and ask and when and why. The idea that we lack relationships with our donors and that pervade fundraising success is the takeaway here.

Then the other thing is six out of 10, you know, the majority of executive directors who had the luxury of having a development director or development manager don’t think they have the skills required. And I know that not to be the case for probably each and every one of us on this webinar today. The fact that we’re here means we are looking for skills to acquire skills and enhance existing ones. But there’s the perception problem that we have up and around the latter and what that leads to is significant turnover in the sector.

But my point I’m making here is the idea that small nonprofits struggle to compete with larger nonprofits in terms of . . . or certainly in terms of salary for development directors, but that is largely missing the point. My point here is that to do what we need to do to digitally engage donors and create relationships with them at scale, all you need is Bloomerang and the ability to send email and to engage people via social media. All the rest of this is just additive channels to communicate with people that we want to give to our organization.

So the headline here that we need to take away from the information I’ve just shared, it’s not about our challenges as fundraisers, it’s about donors’ needs and preferences. The only thing that that donors require from fundraisers, it’s time. Now, I’m not talking about time to go to meetings or lunches or to dinner and drinks and all that stuff, like kind of more traditional major gift cultivation and stewardship activities, instead, it’s really about time allocated to create a digital experience with our donors.

So why is this so important? Because the landscape that we now operate in, or fundraise in, has experienced really a tectonic shift in priority, but also the channels and methodology that we need to use with donors. Now, I’m not saying it’s time to throw out the baby, the bath water and the bathtub. No, what I’m saying is we need to figure out, okay, what do we add to our existing fundraising activities to create these relationships? And when I mentioned earlier about consumer behavior has forever been changed and that the idea here is even though you have a tiny budget and I guarantee none of you have a line item for $25,000 for experimental fundraising ventures. So we need to use existing data and adapt existing consumer behaviors to be able to better engage our donors.

So what I mean by this, it certainly, you know, if you don’t have knowledge of, you’re directly using some of the subscription-based services and it’s not just all, you know, entertainment content or television movies and that sort of thing, but how we pay bills, how we order food, how we grocery shop, all those things that forever changed because corporations out there figured out that consumers want an easier go of consuming goods and services as well as having that experience curated uniquely for them.

And so you could imagine, you know . . . And roughly, I’d say about 80% of donors that give $100 or more are what I call subscribed households. They pay their bills online, they probably consume content online, you know, through Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, HBO, and the like. And the vast majority of them also have done some purchasing guidelines, you know, groceries for household items, not just Amazon gift purchases, but what I’m saying is the modern donor household is subscribed and digitized. And it wasn’t a transition they went through, it was a aspiration they organized to. And what I mean by that is these companies have successfully not created new consumer behavior, but adapted consumer preferences to eliminate roadblocks, to buying, paying, ordering, eating.

So what does this mean for us? It doesn’t mean that you need to replicate the infrastructure of one of these companies or even the largest nonprofit organizations that can solve many of their problems with purchase orders and hiring staff. No, it just means we need to be fiercely protective of the one resource that we have control of, generally, and that’s time. And it’s the one thing donors need from us to create the experience they need to enable giving and what I call excited giving.

So there’s one thing to renew a donor get an upgrade, but there’s one thing to have a donor say, “Heck, yeah, I love this organization and one fly your flag for you.” And so, when we dive into this, so there are two kind of concentric parts that actually need to work together. So donors want a digital experience, they want content curated, they want it to be engaging, and they want it to be accessible on every device, you know? Gone are the days where we have to wait for a piece of direct mail to land in a mailbox to determine how and if a donor or a prospect is going to give.

But speaking relative engagement and donor retention and upgrading, we need to think about them first. But what I’m trying to show here is there’s a relationship between what the donor wants and what fundraisers need and want, and that is they want their fundraising activities to be inexpensive, trackable, create repeatable processes, and, of course, measurable. When I say measurable, that is certainly the outcome, did we hit the goal? Do we get the number of donors? What was the average size gift? But then to measure if all the channels and all the digital communication can actually be, you know, evaluated and analyzed.

Because I look at fundraising as kind of like a big fire, a campfire. And as fundraisers, we need to determine what we pour water or gas on in order to raise money. And so my point here is that what the donor wants and what the fundraiser needs to provide and actualize, actually works together and to do understand this concept a little bit more, I want to dive in.

So the first thing we need to understand is that donors don’t give to your organization, they give through it. Now, that sounds like clever consultant speak and to be honest, it is a little bit, but it has the added value of being completely genuine and sincere. The idea that donors are giving to an organization because you do good work, that may have applied maybe 20 and certainly 30, 40, and 50 years ago, but now in terms of this hyper-communicative environment that we live in where nonprofits are no longer the arbiter of choice of what causes are supported, but it’s that there are major brands that do it. We have to understand as fundraisers is that in a sense, we are being hired as, you know, independent contractors to do something that we uniquely know how to do, and that is execute and implement and evaluate the programs that comprise our mission.

And so, this what you have done, you know, doubling down on this analogy is that the messages that you create have to be more of those of accountability and transparency as opposed to sunshine, everything is perfect all the time.

Now, there’s a fine line between communicating failures and successes, but what I mean by transparency is if you were hired to do something, you’re going to explain to people what you need to do, how long it’s going to take, what do you think the outcomes are going to be, and what are the potential setbacks. And so [absent 00:23:32] being able to create, animate, and distribute that information, you actually aren’t giving donors what they want from your organization because donors are not interested in your coffee cups and your mouse pad, and your stickers, and your tee shirts, they’re interested in your impact.

And when I made the reference to flying a flag, meaning the owners give to nonprofit organizations who not only do good work and reflect their, you know, I guess a shared value system, but they want to fund a winner. And so, if you’re not talking about the outcomes, not of your fundraising, but of your mission, you know, how many people you’re helping, how many people need your services or programs, and how many people comprise the entire universe that could benefit from your mission and services, that’s what you need to be communicating over and over. And I don’t mean to sound like it should be repetitious, but it means to be ruthlessly focused on outcomes. You’re not giving money because you’re a nonprofit, you’re getting money from donors because they believe what you do matters and it creates value and certainly creates outcomes.

So what do we need to take away, is that your product . . . And I know, you know, like many purists like me, we are low to think of our missions and products and nonprofits as, you know, analogs to corporate corporations and their products and what they do. But if you truly want to embrace this new operating environment for fundraising that’s been conditioned by new consumer behavior, you have to. You know, you don’t have to talk about it, you just have to understand it. And so you need to understand that your product is not your building, the founder of your organization, your program, it is the outcomes and the impact you create. You are a nonprofit, not to be a public charity. You are a nonprofit to do charitable work that solves a problem, meets the needs, or help a constituency in your community.

So all that said, you know, message is very important. And again, for the returning champions of the Bloomerang webinars, some of my friends like Claire Axelrod and Tom Ahern have literally wrote the book on these things. And I would say, you know, with all humility, there’s little I can do to augment that, what they have contributed to the sector around messaging and case for support, but rather, I’m encouraging you to take the information they’ve shared with you and look at it through the lens of how you create outcomes and impact.

So let’s get to the real meat and potatoes here of creating an engagement plan. First, you know, I think it’s obvious, but I will say that, you know, planning needs to proceed implement. If you’re anything like me and you think you’ve got the concept and you want to start running, well, I’m here to tell you that you can do that and it will just take you longer to be successful if you don’t start with a plan.

Beyond the obvious, you know, what the plan helps us do is align all of our resources, people, time, and budget around something that everyone believes will work. And so, while I’m going to get into, you know, what does this engagement plan consist of, I think it’s important to bring you through the process that I’ve always brought nonprofits or the organization they worked before through before we get to implementing the thing that we think will change the results or will work better or create efficiency.

I’m not going to go through this in granular detail, but what I’m saying is the first thing I would argue is the most important is consensus. Do your fundraising stakeholders and not necessarily just donors, but internally, board chair, development committee chair, finance director, executive director, fundraising staff, fundraising volunteers, does everyone generally agree on this is the way forward?

And I will tell you that I am hoping that you can use aspects of this presentation to begin those conversations internally because not all the stakeholders, many stakeholders say, “Yes, sure, that’s important,” but when it comes down to financial planning, and budget, and the products that you need to be able to do this, then it becomes a very different conversation. So to ameliorate, you know, those concerns or any skepticism, let’s start with building consensus around what has worked and what hasn’t worked. And the, you know, after you have that, then the planning roadmap or planning sequence gets a lot easier. And what I’ve mapped out here, the various stages that . . . Or not stages, but really steps that you need to consider and operationalize.

You know, the other thing, you want to think compliance, so it’s not to suggest that there’s all this legal rigmarole that you have to go through, but rather, you know, if you’ve never been kind of emailing people every other week or every month consistently using Bloomerang or like a MailChimp or something like that, you need to understand that, you know, you need to be compliant with the rules that govern and regulate email communication. So when I say compliance, is just like, it’s not just ready-set-go, it’s ready-set-make-sure-you-can, and go.

So anyway, enough on the planning framework. So what you should be aspiring to do is create as many automated processes as possible. I know having been . . . or currently being a super user of Bloomerang for another organization that I’m consulting with is that Bloomerang has everything you need to basically operationalize the type of engagement plan that I’m outlining, calling for.

And so I’m not going to go through in granular detail, you know, all of the different elements, but zoom out of this slide, if you will, in your head to 100,000 feet. So if we think about all the, what I call donor input, whether it’s an event, a direct mail appeal, Giving Tuesday, peer-to-peer campaign, a one-on-one solicitation. If we think of all the ways, the points of entry for a donor to become just that, a donor, we have to think as methodically and as systematically about how to engage them after they go into our funnel.

The number one reason why your special event donors don’t convert to annual donors is because many organizations treat them as basically, you know, as this one size-fits-all. We’ll put them in the database, they’ll get the thank you, they’ll get the e-newsletters, they’ll get the invitations, and by some mystical act of divinity, those things come together and create a donor or an annual donor. They do, but in a very small percentage.

So when someone comes into your organization to donors, specifically a first time donor, that is the point of intervention where you can . . . what you do in that moment for that donor will determine their likelihood of renewing, let alone upgrading or just walking away. And so, obviously, when you put people into your funnel, you have to segment that funnel. So a current donor, lapsed donor, a first-time donor, special event donor, all those people don’t need to have different messaging, but they do need to be engaged differently, especially in the run up to appealing to them or in soliciting them when that occurred. But the other thing you need to, within the segmentation, there are preferences.

Well, you know . . . Let me go back to the special event owner again. So the special donor could be there because they got roped by their company into occupying a table. They could have been asked by one of your donors, they could have just bought two tickets and got stuck at a table. Well, not stuck, but placed at a table that staff or the committee had put them at. So, and bottom line is you don’t know why everyone is there. And if you make assumptions around that, then, you know, that will just slow you down and decrease the outcomes that you’re able to create relative to fundraising.

So figuring out how to capture donor preferences, is, you know, what programs do they like? Are they just in it for the mission? Or is there a individual board member volunteer that brought them there? All those things, if you can’t capture them, you should figure out what are the one or two things that are important and start to try. Okay? Because I don’t need to explain to anyone here that, you know, more information means more insights, but it also means more personalization, customization, and suggest that there is a relationship present.

The number one reason why direct mail isn’t as effective as it can be between organizations is the amount of personalization. You know, dear friend, creates a environment where there’s doubt. Dear Brian creates an environment of confidence where, okay, this person knows me, I’m on the right list theoretically. So segmentation, preferences, experience. What do you want the donor to understand and how are they going to get that information and retain it? Then the innovation, what do we need to do beyond knowing the date and the amount that people gave in order to personalize and customize the message.

And then qualification. That’s another thing, is to the extent that you can begin to, you know, predictive model probably makes me sound way more smart than I actually am and it sounds more daunting than it actually is. But if you’re able to understand what types of, again, using our example, special event donors became annual donors without much lifting or watering, then that’s who you should pursue first. And then, obviously, the funnel needs to create an environment of analysis.

So what I’m really certain I’ve just done is made this all seem really complex and overwhelming, and it’s not. Instead, you know, if we all do our jobs creatively, authentically, and with data, all these things can happen pretty naturally. And I’m going to share with you a infographic that was created by some research that I did for another partner, Network for Good, a year ago. But I share this with you because this is the manifestation. This is a good example of a roadmap that leverages all the elements that I just spoke of and meaning that what we want to do is over time and have this concept of a contiguous campaign, not where we’re always asking for money, but rather, where we’re always engaging and providing information through all of what I would argue are these natural phases or the accepted natural phases of donor engagement, communication, and retention.

And so, if we do this right so, what I argue is that you could actually ask the donors twice for a gift in the same fiscal year, right? Because if you’re providing information that’s based on outcomes and not just financial needs, a donor will more easily understand that you want to serve more people as opposed to you have a looming budget deficit or an always structural budget deficit.

So what you see here is simply the appropriation of email, direct mail, and in this case, text message, which you can sub in, you know, if you’re just starting out Facebook or Instagram. If you can appropriate one message, over time, throughout 12 months that actually begins after the acknowledgement letter is sent or transmitted, then you’re on the road to saving probably 70 to 72% more of your donors than you did the previous fiscal year.

And so what do donors want? They want content that communicates the impact of their giving. Again, you’re being hired to perform a job that you convince them only you know how to do, and that’s not money and that’s not be a nonprofit. It is what is your mission do, who benefits from it, and why is that important? All you need to do is remind your donors creatively about that sentiment after you start your communication sequence.

And so I don’t want to spend time on the stats on the bottom part of this infographic. This information will be provided to you. But what I’m saying for the headline from those stats is more channels doesn’t mean you’re interrupting donors, or we don’t even worry about contact fatigue, as long as the content is relevant, timely, and speak to the donors’ interests, not projecting your internal needs, like, you know . . .

An example of this is . . . and then I’m going to move on a bit more to go through here, but an example of this is, you know, statistically speaking, less than a 10th of 1% of donors who give $1,000 or less annually to the organization do it for reasons of tax deductibility. But yet on every appeal that I usually read and including ones that I used to write, we all talk about the tax exemptions that is afforded to philanthropists.

Now, that are part of the legislation and what it means for major gifts, when we’re talking annual gifts, you know, generally, no one does it because they are just getting a tax deduction, but yet we waste that precious real estate in a letter, in an email explaining that. Right?

The other thing is, but for your finance director, your executive director or your internal stakeholders, no one gives a rip roar about when your fiscal year ends. I can’t tell you how many appeals or messages I get from nonprofits like, “Our fiscal year ends on this date and we’re trying to raise, you know, close the gap to do this, this, this.” Well, unless the mission of the organization is to raise money, I don’t think that, you know, continuing to do leverage precious real estate, you know, email, text, and the like, Facebook, social media, certainly Instagram, if you’re talking about things that don’t matter to donors, then you’re just creating noise.

So the long story short is that it’s what you do over time to do consistently remind the donors that they have created value for, not for you organization, both for the people you’re all interested in helping or servicing. That’s what increases retention. But what I’ve done is kind of broken down this, you know, what looks to be like a, you know, a nice-looking infographic that’s terribly complex. What I’ve done is broken down, so basically the planning elements that you need to consider to have this type of campaign.

And like I said, the only thing that you need to have to make this all work is an email delivery system, a database that is, you know, has good data in it, and then the ability to understand why donors give to your organization. And there’s a couple of tools that I’m going to go through in a couple of minutes here that explained that.

But right here, what I’ve done, if you start in the upper left-hand corner, rethink your case for support. That doesn’t mean rewrite it, have a board retreat or all that kind of stuff. But as you as the individual fundraiser, dust that off and determine what’s in it, is this concise enough, and is it compelling enough to get, you know, if you were to recite your case for support to somebody that has no knowledge that your organization exists, how long could you hold their attention? That’s what you need to think about in terms of case for support, ruthlessly functional, focused on outcome.

Then the other thing is the analog of, you know, having a campfire and pouring gas or water on it to determine, you know, how long your fire will burn is you need to begin your planning, your engagement plan with an understanding of what has worked before. So if you . . . Well, I’m not going to go into a deep dive on that, like either understanding if emails work, if text messages work, if social media’s worked, if direct mails work, you need it . . . That’s not to say to rule out one channel, but rather to manage expectations. Okay?

And then when you move into segmentation, that creates another layer of planning consideration. But the point is that if you go through this wheel, these are all the things that I would argue many of us are already doing, but we just have to sequence them in a way and ritualize the planning and evaluation of them.

You know, what I love about fundraising is that I look at it as one, you know, one appeal is just the start of the conversation. It’s not the end or necessary, just the beginning, rather, our communications, you need to think about them in terms of the arc of time and the arc of information that can be communicated over time.

So start with the end in mind. What is one thing you want a donor to know at the end of 12 months or at the end of 11 months before they give a gift? Not how much you need, not how much, you know, when your fiscal year is, but what you will do with that fund. And so that is what you need to be litigating in your engagement campaign over the 11 or 12 months that come after their gift, is remind them constantly of why they gave, what the impact is and what is being achieved.

Now, the other thing I did want to touch on very briefly before we move into the tools and then opening this up to questions, is the notion of capturing stories of donors. Now, when I called for this before I get, not so much frowns, but like why the donor, why not our program, or why not the program recipients. I’m not saying either/or it’s and/and.

But in social media, there’s this phenomenon called social proof that is basically underpins all the psychology of why we go to those apps nonstop and engage with our communities on them. And that’s because we are influenced by our peers. Okay? And that’s, you know, a master of obvious statement. But what we need to understand is that influence drives activity. And so I’m not saying that it’s the donor-only show, but imagine the power if you have in your feed, if you had video or simply a picture with words, a donor saying, “I gave because I want this in my community and I know this organization always creates it.” It’s a level of social proof and testimonial and actually what I call internal stakeholder-ism that gets people think a different way.

So all things being equal for nonprofits, meaning great mission, great outcomes, great work, great fundraising. What do you need to do? You need to showcase the donors as they are. You have two constituents, the people you serve and the people that fund who you serve. And so what you need do is bring those two things together to create not only continuous engagement, but to provide social proof from other donors why they should give, right? That alone isn’t going to do it, but when you animate all of the reasons together and then add donors to the communication, you’re going to do much better.

So now let’s get to some of the things that were promised in the, you know, as advertised, so to speak, when you registered for today’s webinar. The first thing I’ll help you do is an Excel spreadsheet that I created for nonprofits. I use this with every engagement before I get started and doing campaign work. But basically, it’s a quick back of the napkin empirical assessment of where the greatest fundraising opportunities are. And this will be provided to you in a follow-up email that comes from Bloomerang if you don’t have it already for some of the people that preregistered.

But basically, when you use the spreadsheet, you put an input, and it’s going to calculate the cost dollar raise and come up with a net income projection that also factors in, you know, what I call standard donor attrition. What I put in there was a, you know, in fact, 30% of the donor households and 40% of the donor revenue. And when you complete this work, this quick little workbook, what you’ll have is, you know, a document that informs where you should pour or allocate your resources of time, budget, and human resources. But it also will tell you what’s reasonable to expect from those outcomes or from rather animating that particular channel.

So I’m probably over-explaining something that doesn’t look simple but is simple. And you can play with this when you get it in the follow-up materials or if you have it in the free registration materials, great. But the other two columns here, it’s just rather when you’re filling this out and have the calculations, you have to look at what I’m calling for here is, you know, mention what the staff responsibilities are and then board dependencies, what can board members do to help or accelerate the results or implementation of engaging donors in that particular channel. But from 10,000 feet, what I’m trying to communicate here is, “Hey, let the numbers not [hunchery 00:49:05] inform who you engage and how.”

The last thing I want to share with you is this doesn’t look very impressive on this slide but when you get the actual document for the workbook tool, I think, you know, you’ll know smell I’m cooking. So what I did here was basically to double down on the quantification of outcomes and what’s important and why you do it. Basically, a no-nonsense abridged case for support is you answer the question in this form and what I’ve done is built this form so that when you populate these, I guess we could call them merge fields in the questionnaire, it populates content in an email content creation deck for the next 12 months.

And so, when you do this you will basically, when you complete this exercise, you basically have the guts and the messaging for your 12 months engagement plan that you can send me via email. And then with selecting images, just six, not swell, but you rotate, you then have the imagery, it’s used for email headers, Instagram posts, and Facebook posts, all animating in different channels at different times directed to your donors, basically, what are the outcomes that you’re achieving on a monthly basis and how grateful you are for them financing those outcomes.

So with that, I want to open it up to questions. But one thing I do want to mention, that if you want some help doing some of these things, even doing it inside of your Bloomerang software, you can go to my organization’s website and either schedule a help desk session or simply fill out one of the service enrollment forms.

What our organization does is we provide fundraising, support, consulting and actual implementation help at no cost. And so we built a model with foundation philanthropic support, because what I’ve learned over 20 years, the organizations that are doing some of the most important work have some of the smallest budget and they don’t have all of the . . . you don’t have all the time and the expertise so we can help you do that. But anyways, most importantly, I want to get to your questions because I’ve seen quite a few come in through the course of the presentation. So, Steven, how would you like to begin addressing some of the questions?

Steven: Yeah, let’s do. Let’s get into them. There are some good ones in here. Probably won’t have time for all of them because we’re about by about 10 minutes for questions, but, Brian, is it cool people reach out back to you if we don’t get to all of them? I assume that’s okay with you.

Brian: Yeah. And like I said, if you have a question I don’t get to, go and just fill out the form and we respond within 24 hours and I can . . . happy to help you out.

Steven: Cool. I’m going to put that link in the chat so people can get to it if they didn’t already see it. But yeah, we got some awesome questions. Here’s one from Catherine. I thought that would be a good way to pick up or start off. Catherine’s got a board retreat next week and is wondering what is the most important thing that you think they should take to that meeting in order to kind of do the things that you’re talking about here with donor engagement, the digital everything. What’s maybe one thing you recommend to maybe a board or the leadership team?

Brian: Yeah. So I think the best thing that you can go into and come out of that retreat with, Catherine, is a board buying in to this idea that how we’ve done it before may have worked, but we’re not going to raise more by just doubling down on what we’ve always done before. And so I would encourage you to, you know, select a couple of these slides and share the information with them and that you already have your Bloomerang software that is basically your fundraising cockpit to be able to operationalize some of these things.

But from a high level, you want the board to understand that, “Hey, how we’ve raised money in the past, even if it’s worked, is not going to finance our future.” And so we need to be doing things differently, more importantly, we need the new things additively to be able to engage our donors. And then, you know, the secondary to that is retention is the new acquisition. And, you know, the adage it’s easier to keep a customer and then find a new one, that certainly applies to donors. And so that when a donor gives, that should just be the beginning step in a 12-month or 11-month trajectory to engage those donors. So it’s what you do between campaigns or between appeals determines to what extent donors renew, upgrade and, you know, become a recurring donor, sustaining donor, or something like that. But bottom line is what we’ve done before isn’t going to help get you to the [seat 00:54:33].

Steven: I love it. Here’s one that we get asked a lot on these webinars because we tend to be talking a lot about just telling of the impact, you know, telling those donors the impact of their gift. And I’m curious your take on it, Brian, for those organizations where there may not be those tangible sorts of things to report on. So, for example, Trish here is asking . . . She’s an environmental organization. Maybe there are other organizations that do like advocacy or research. What advice do you have, Brian, for how those people can tell those stories and explain the impact that the donors are having?

Brian: Yeah. What I would say is talk about what the world looks like, small W without the information or advocacy that you are providing, right? And so, like if you’re an environmental advocacy organization, you know, you don’t have to litigate global warming to be able to convince someone that what is happening in the natural world around them matters. And so what you need to position yourself as, as the instrument for the community, country, region, you know, whoever and however you serve, is that you are the point of information or point of referenceable information for the movement for this cause. And so, if you could explain that when people build this information, here’s how they make little changes in their lives that have big impacts relative to, in your case, the environment. So talk about, like I said, the world that exists when it’s uninformed and how many people you inform and what is the, you know, the reasonable net impact of all of those people being informed.

Steven: Very cool. Brian, you mentioned donor preference earlier. What are ways where you can kind of glean those insights? Is it surveys? Is it one-to-one interactions? Can you infer those things? What are all those things you can do to get their preference?

Brian: So they can’t be inferred because most of the time we as fundraisers are wrong, but rather, but I would say the easiest way to do this at scale is with a simple survey. You know, in politics it’s called push polling. And it’s pretty disingenuous, but when we move over to the Mother Teresa side of it here in the nonprofit sector, you know, I think it can be effective.

So, you know, of the three programs that we operate, which one do you think is most needed in the community that you’re aware of? So that’s an example of a question. That doesn’t mean like you’re going to stop doing the other two programs or three to five programs, but rather, you’re getting a preference. And when people indicate a preference in a survey, that means that there’s a corollary between how strongly they feel.

And so, in doing in a survey environment, you don’t have to make it scientific. You just have to make it methodical. So what you make your survey three questions or even one question that you’re employing in every email and you’re just building this composite preference profile of your donor. So the number one thing you have to do is not just design a survey, but make sure there’s place you set aside space in Bloomerang, in the constituent records to house that. You can query it and build segments.

Steven: I love it. And I love the surveying idea because you get, you know, it’s the best way to get that information and I totally agree with you about inferring can be you engage us to do that. Wow, Brian, this is awesome. We’re about out of time. We’re getting real close to 3:00, and I want to be respectful of everyone’s schedules. But there’s still a lot of good questions in here, and I would encourage everyone to visit Brian’s website and submit those. He’s a good guy. He’ll answer them. He’s on Twitter also. Reach out to him. Brian, any last thoughts? Any parting thoughts before we close things out here?

Brian: Yes. All this sounds exciting and overwhelming, but I promise you can do it. It’s start small before you try and take over the world. The number one objective here is to make sure your donors know what you’re doing and know that their money, their investment in you was leveraged to create outcomes every month. Doesn’t mean the project or the programs is complete, but again, communicate with them as if you’re accountable to them because we are and remember that start small before you try and go big because all this stuff is necessary for we as fundraisers to not only understand but to operationalize.

And so I hope that some of the tools will help you get started. And as Steven and I reference, I am happy, you know, sign up for a free help desk, and I’m happy to deep dive with you one on one to talk through some of these things. In fact, I look forward to it. So with that, Steven, thanks through the time and the forum and I appreciate everyone’s participation and interest and these great questions.

Steven: Yeah. This is a lot of fun. Good way to close out the week. So thank you, Brian. Thanks for staking time out of your schedule to do this for us. I know you’re super busy doing a lot of webinars and speaking, but this was fun and we’re going to keep things going. We’ve got a lot of great webinars coming up just in January. Like I said, at the top, if you weren’t here, but we’re doing eight webinars this month instead of our usual four. We’ve got Tuesday and Thursday sessions through the rest of January because we love you all. We want to do it. We want to help you.

Wow, we’ve got a good one coming up Tuesday. Tom Ahern, my hero, he’s going to be talking about some really interesting research that he’s been looking at for the past six years on identity-based fundraising. Going to be some good insights there. At 2:00 on Tuesday, if you’re free, join us. If you’re not, sign up anyway because I’ll send you the recording even if you don’t attend live. That’s no problem. That won’t bother me at all.

Speaking of recordings, we are going to be sending out the recording of this session as well as the slides as well as both of those spreadsheet templates that Brian was showing earlier. I promise I will get all of those to you this afternoon if you didn’t get them already. You can’t have the recording yet because we’re still going, but we’re going to get all those out today, I promise. I promise you will get those by email in just a couple of hours here.

So we’ll call it a day there. Thanks again for joining us. Hopefully, we’ll see you again on another session. Check out our webinar page, lots of sessions you can register for and hopefully we’ll see you again soon. Have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. We’ll talk again soon.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.