There was a list of “donor centric fundraising tactics” floating around our industry a few months ago. It was mostly proven and common-sense tactics for treating donors with respect, thanking them, showing them the difference their giving makes. Stuff like that.
But there were a few things that just puzzled me. Two of them were:
- Write short letters.
- Never send address labels (They are the gifts sometimes included in direct mail appeals with the donor’s name and address that the donor can use on their envelopes).
Now I don’t see how either of those things has anything to do with being donor centric. You can be amazingly donor centric — or not at all — in any length of letter. Same with address labels.
But both of these things are bad advice, because both are likely to result in lower response.
That alone tells me neither of them is actually donor centric.
I’m not saying there’s a one-to-one correspondence between effective, response-generating tactics and donor centric tactics. After all, you could generate a lot of response with fraudulent fundraising, and that’s not donor centric at all.
But I am saying that any tactic that drives down response really cannot be called donor centric. Because lower response clearly indicates that it is worse at connecting with donors.
My guess: Whoever put “write short letters” and “never send address labels” on the list did so because those things just seem not donor centric to them. It’s just a wild guess. And testing has already shown the guess to be wrong.
Just guessing or using your own sense of what you think you’d prefer to ask a donor are defective ways to know what’s donor centric! If you’re a professional fundraiser, you have no business using such untrustworthy sources.
So here’s the question: How can you know any given fundraising tactic really is donor centric?
Short answer: pay attention to donors.
Long answer, here are some ways to know:
- Test. This is the best way to know if something works. Frequent testers will tell you, you can be very surprised by test results. Example: In direct mail acquisition mailings, I once tested Dear [Donor Name] against Dear Friendly Neighbor. I think most people would agree that using the donor’s name is more “donor centric.” But Dear Friendly Neighbor performed convincingly better. (And it saved a ton of money on list costs!)
- Watch response. Not everyone has the quantities and budgets to run valid tests. So just pay attention. You can see what works and doesn’t. The donors speak with their behavior every time you go out to them. Listen!
- Best practices. If you frequently see some tactic being used in fundraising, it probably works. That doesn’t prove it is donor centric, but it at least tells you it’s not driving donors away. The other way to discover best practices is to pay attention to the professional conversation. Books, blogs, and conferences are packed with great information. (Just take what you hear with a grain of salt. Not all advice is equally good!)
- Research. Find out as much as you can about your donors’ demographic and psychographics. That doesn’t directly tell you what tactics you should use, but it’s a start.
- Supporter Connection Survey. This might be the best way of all to show your donors the love! It’s a very specialized type of survey — not a formal research survey, and not a “fundraising survey.” It prompts donors to tell you, in their own words, why they give — so you can talk to them in their own language! It also helps uncover planned giving prospects who haven’t responded to traditional ways of finding them and potential major donors who aren’t yet giving at their capacity. The long-term financial impact of doing this can be huge!
If you believe in being donor centric, you should be doing all of these things. Don’t guess! Know what really does connect with your excellent donors.
Learn how to make your own Supporter Connection Survey by signing up for The Fundraisingology Lab.
This course is carefully structured to take you on a journey that takes you beyond learning. This is a hands-on course and at the end of the course, you will have produced your own Supporter Connection Survey!
Sean Triner, the supporter survey expert, takes you through creating a survey, step-by-step in four information packed modules. And there are plenty of bonus materials and videos that will turn you into a true expert on supporter connection surveys.