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What Fundraisers Can Learn From An Intensive Care Unit


I recently spoke with friends about the frightening and exhilarating experience they had with their less-than-one-year-old baby girl being placed in and cared for by a top notch team within the intensive care unit of their local children’s hospital.

This couple raved about how the ICU team seemed to know in advance what their daughter was going to need during each and every step of her recovery. In short, they had:

  • A fully-developed gameplan for every illness
  • Emergency gameplans for illnesses that progress differently
  • Tests for every incident within the flow of any illness
  • The ability to analyze test results in an expert manner
  • The ability to call upon higher-level experts when needed for special cases
  • Constant care provided by truly caring, professional staff

I am sure this is the case for most ICU units across every hospital because they know this is what it takes to achieve success! Such attention to detail and process has been taught and shared so the success rate for any ICU unit can be as high as possible.

Donors Require Detailed Plans Too

I was recently interviewed by Craig Severinsen, one of the fundraising leaders within the food bank world. Craig inquired as to the #1 issue facing nonprofit fundraising today.

My answer was simple: “donor retention.”

He was shocked to learn the median donor retention percentages, especially among first-time donors. I told him fundraisers should “treat them like you would a newborn baby in the ICU. It’s a fragile relationship. They need more attention, time and support.”

When you look at the six items from the ICU list above, would it be possible to change a few words and have a nearly-perfect list of actions to improve donor retention?

Take another look:

  • A fully-developed gameplan for every first time donor
  • Emergency gameplans for donors that progress differently, downgrade or lapse
  • Tests for every communication touch-point
  • The ability to analyze campaign results in an expert manner
  • The ability to call upon higher-level experts when needed for special cases
  • Constant appreciation provided by truly caring, professional staff

A truly wonderful, and (more importantly) useful donor cultivation strategy emerges.

For item #5 please keep the following links handy for “expert” help:

Each link takes you to a treasure trove of expert advice, best practices and the ability to even submit comments or questions.

Any fundraiser putting such a six-point plan into practice should see a huge change in their donor retention rates. What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

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Stay Together - How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty

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