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In part 3 of our special 3-part series with Rebecca Gregory Segovia of Pursuant, we discuss how to improve donor loyalty through better stewardship strategies.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Hey there. Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. This is part three of a special three-part edition that we are doing with Rebecca Gregory Segovia. She is the executive vice president of client strategy over at Pursuant. Hey, Rebecca. Thanks for being here again.

Rebecca: Hey. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

Steven: I hope you took your vitamins because you’ve been talking with me for about the last hour about all kinds of cool things. We’re going to talk for a little bit longer about some stewardship and retention-type issues. But before we get into it, I want to give you a chance to talk about Pursuant for those folks who may not be familiar with your organization. What’s going on over there?

Rebecca: Pursuant is a full service fundraising agency. We’re located in Dallas, Texas, and our goal is really to help nonprofits raise funds and achieve their mission and impact lives across the world. And we’re really passionate about it here at Pursuant. One of our unique differentiators is that we think about fundraising holistically. So what does it take to take a constituent from a transactional relationship with an organization to a transformational one? And we look at how strategies impact fundraising all at the annual fund level, the mid-level, and the major general level, all the way up to capital campaigns and planned giving. So it’s a fun place to work and we really enjoy working with the clients we have the privilege to serve every day.

Steven: Yeah. We love working with you guys. You’re always fun. You guys put out great content and one of the things I like about Pursuant is you’re part of our fight to solve the retention problem in the nonprofit sector, which is a big problem. It seems like it gets worse every year. But it also seems like people are really kind of catching on and understanding that retention is an issue. But we can’t seem to move the needle. Why is that? Why can’t we raise that FEP average every year instead of seeing it decline? What’s the problem here?

Rebecca: That’s a great question. With the organizations I’ve had the opportunity to work with in the last couple years, the core theme has been less donors giving more dollars. And so, that is something that we need to take into account. People are really, and I think the last statistic that we looked at is I think people were giving to five to seven charities a few years back, and now it’s down to about four and a half charities that they’re giving to. People are being very intentional with the way they’re giving their dollars. And so, what that speaks to, to me, is you really got to have a clear case for support. You have to understand who you are as an organization, why you do what you do, the why, how what. The Simon Sinek circles, if you will, the golden circles.

Steven: Yeah.

Rebecca: And if you’re really clear on that and you’re putting a clear case for support in front of your constituents in a meaningful way, I think that that can go a long way in helping us deal with the retention issue. A couple of other things to think through with my experience is that not a lot of organizations have the time, money, resources to really scale their retention strategies. Not because they don’t want to. They all know that retention is an issue but you’ve really got to carve out the time to really plan for what’s the next step.

After I spend all this energy and effort bringing people into the file through acquisition, what is that right engagement that I want to take them through, and am I doing it based on how they incepted into the organization? And am I communicating to them in a way, maybe even the channel that they first incepted, and am I building a bidirectional relationship where I’m sharing with them the outcomes from the action that they took? And so, I think that really thinking through what that could look like with the organization sometimes can be really complex.

Steven: Yeah.

Rebecca: So I believe in beginning with the end in mind. How do you figure out what that evergreen is going to look like and then start customizing after you get the first evergreen piece in place? And where I feel like or have seen clients get stuck is because they want to be so specific that they’re missing kind of the bigger piece. So if you can get the general evergreen welcome series, convergence series, whatever you want to call it in place, then you can actually go back and customize it based on general inception and interest and all of that.

Steven: So nonprofit gets the first gift. Right? Someone, they give online, the appeal was successful, they go to events, whatever. It seems like nonprofits think, “Okay. My job is done. I got the donor.” Right? But that’s where it really begins, is trying to get that second gift, because we all know that if you can get the second gift, the retention rates just sky rocket, something from 39%, I think to almost 70%. But how do you get that second gift? How do you engage with someone and actually start to cultivate that relationship so that they don’t lax?

Rebecca: So again, it comes back to that case for support, understanding the why, how, what, and how to communicate that in a way to your donors as meaningful. I’m going to share a slide here. So here’s really the pathway that you want to take your donor on. So after we have acquired that name onto the file, how are we activating that name? So they’ve raised their hand, if you will, and they’ve said, “I’m interested in what you’re doing. I’d like to learn more.” So how are we activating that interest?

And then what does it look like to convert? So I would say that first you have to look at new name conversion. Can you get them to make that first gift, and then if they’ve made that first gift, then how do we get them to make that second gift? And so, that really speaks to kind of steps four and five. Have we thanked them properly and have we shared with them really the outcome of the gift that they’ve made?

So Charity: Water, you mentioned in a previous episode, does a great job of saying, “Okay. Here is how we used your funds. Here’s the well that you were able to drill.” So what does that look like for your organization? What is that outcome? And then, are we being intentional in how we’re stewarding and engaging the donor based on that initial inception point.

Steven: So what does that look like being intentional in that stewardship piece? What does boots in the ground actually look like?

Rebecca: It’s the classic, it depends. If they’re coming from the online channel, then my recommendation would be to put them through a stewardship series, a welcome series, a new name convergent series immediately. And that really needs to be based on that inception point. If they are coming in through the mail, then what does that look like? How can you get something in their hand pretty quickly, the receipt, if you will, with a little bit of the story of impact. And then, they’re getting put into a follow-up mail stream that is customized based on how they originally came into the organization.

And then, what does that first gift look like? So I just recently gave to an organization and I’ve been watching how long does it take for them to actually put me into a conversion stream. And you need to actually pay attention to what are you really sending out? Because I got two receipts. They were from two different organizations, for the same gift. So confusing, right?

Steven: Yeah.

Rebecca: So, it’s because they’re owned by a parent organization.

Steven: Okay.

Rebecca: But it was confusing because I got one on one day and one on the next day. But the follow-up since then has been about a completely different subject, and it’s not the subject that was my motivation for giving.

Steven: Right.

Rebecca: So really to pay attention to what was that motivation and then we’re following back up and having that communication based on that motivation.

Another thing to think through when you’re engaging in the offline space, if you will, so whether it’s through mail or maybe even events, it’s okay to jump channels if you have an email with them, so that you can get that thank you and that stewardship out sooner. It’s not that you don’t do both. It’s that that may be the quicker way to actually have a conversation with someone.

And the other thing that I would encourage you to do is to think through what kind of information do we want to learn about the constituent so that we can actually provide that relevant communication. So is there a survey that they take somewhere in that communication stream so we learn a little bit more about them.

And then I think we also need to give them the resources that they’re asking for. So is there a story, or is there some actual resources that your organization can offer that is an offer and incentive for them to actually take a survey or something like that?

Steven: All right. So you got the second gift. Great. Job well done. Now obviously, we don’t want the second gift to be the last gift either. So there’s a lot more to the donor life cycle. I know it’s just another thing that a fundraiser has to do, but what else should they do to steward people along even further after that second gift? Because your job’s not done.

Rebecca: Yeah. Great question. So hopefully what you’re seeing on this screen now is really the donor pathway. So you’re right. You want to take them from a new name to a new donor. We want to get that second gift, and then really we want to turn them into a sustaining donor or a monthly donor for the organization. With really an eye on are we moving them up the chain, if you will, do a mid-level donor or a major donor, a lifetime donor. And you’re going to have people on your file that the most that they’re going to be able to do is give at the annual fund level, and that’s okay. We want to treat them with respect and continue to communicate to them their value to our organization, and then there are going to be some that actually have the capacity and desire to want to grow beyond that. And so, knowing how to ascertain that and then being able to speak to the donor and what we say is actively drive them up the pyramid, if that is a prospect that would be good for that.

Steven: And that up arrow, that’s years. That’s not just one year or a month. I mean, that’s a long time, right?

Rebecca: This is what we call moving from a transactional donor to a transformational donor. And yes, it takes a long time because you’re growing with the donor. Some of these may become new donors in the time where they actually have capacity to give and can move into that major donor relationship really quickly. And some, you may be garnering their attention just out of college, and they’re going to grow with you as an organization. And so, you need to have an eye on that as well. Where are they in their life cycle and what is the right ask to put in front of them at the right time.

That’s one of the things I actually really love about the digital part of fundraising, is that we can garner some of that additional information. So RFM is out there: recency, frequency, monetary. How often are they giving, recency, how frequently are they giving, and then how much are they giving. Then we also want to overlay that sometimes with a wealth data. And what’s important here is observational data or behavioral interest data. So how are they engaging with you and what psychographic or demographic information can you learn, which would help you best prioritize what that upgrade strategy could look like here.

Steven: Love it. Well, Rebecca, this is awesome. I always feel like whenever I do these interviews our time was truly too short. But even after three segments with you, I feel like we could have talked about this for an additional hour or so. But thanks for being a good sport and sharing all your knowledge with us over the past hour. If you’re watching this, this is part three. If you haven’t seen part one or two, definitely check those out with Rebecca. Great information, just like in this segment. So Rebecca, thanks for being here. This was really awesome. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Rebecca: Thanks for having me.

Steven: And thank you all for watching, for taking another 10 or 15 minutes out of your day for this episode of Bloomerang TV. We will be back next week with another great conversation. So we will see then. Bye now.

Rebecca: Bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. She also serves as the Director of Communications for PRSA’s Hoosier chapter.
Kristen Hay