Sorry darling
Donor LoveMajor and Mid Value DonorsMaths of FundraisingMonthly Giving

Sorry Darling, Not Everyone Wants a Relationship With You

It’s a question that many fundraisers ask me about mid-value donors. And it’s one of the key things that came up at my webinar All About Mid-Value Donors yesterday:

How can I identify those donors ‘worth’ an extra investment in time and money?

Go to any conference, read any fundraising blog and you will likely be told how important it is to ‘build relationships’ with your donors. Maybe it is couched as ‘engagement’.

You may see headlines like ‘Research shows that donors are more likely to donate if they are engaged’.

We believe this. After all it makes sense, doesn’t it? More engaged donors will give more.

Of course, people who give more are more, ahem, engaged too.

Chicken or egg?

At the same time we read about rising costs of acquisition and development, and are constantly reminded about this by our own budgets and results.

So, on one hand we need to build relationships –- which costs money –- and on the other hand keep costs down.

What to do? Luckily, you don’t need to invest lots into everyone.

You see, most donors don’t want relationships with you. They gave because they liked the pack/person who signed them up on the street/advert online/Facebook post/friend who did an event. The connection is slight. Casual. Hardly ‘engaged’.

If you have ever done any qualitative or quantitative donor research, you’ll find most of your donors don’t even know the name of your organisation. They often don’t know how much they gave. Or when. Or what for.

Also, about 80% of your future income is going to come from just 20% of your supporters. And, interestingly, about half of all your future income is going to come from a tiny number of donors – perhaps as low as 5% of them!

Combining these facts, you can quickly begin to prioritise those donors ‘worth’ an extra investment in time and money.

There are some nearly free ways we can improve how we communicate with all donors.

These boil down to:

  • Donor-centric language. Thank them, not you. Praise them, not you. Demonstrate outcomes from a recipient’s point of view, not yours. Make all your communications about them. Not you.
  • Personalising letters and response coupons in mail. Modern technology allows for personalised ask amounts in letter copy very easily.
  • Using the phone to thank and to ask for monthly giving.

These things will also lead to you raising more money straight away.

There is more we can do, but it will cost you.

And that’s what my recent free webinar was about: spending more to get more from the donors who can give more. It’s part of what makes the difference between a fundraising program that floats along, gathering revenue at a poor return-on-investment, growing slowly if at all … and a program that really grows by leaps and bounds.

Which one would you rather be?

I’d love your thoughts – please comment on the blog below.

CFRE Points:
amnesty netherlands sign up e1515673149945
Digital FundraisingDonor Love

Welcoming e-News Subscribers

A friend just asked me about the best practice for welcoming people who sign up for e-news or updates through your website home page.

Well, as always, it depends.  Is the purpose of the newsletter, information, fundraising or service provision?  Each may require a different solution.

For fundraising, let’s start with some hypothetical numbers.  It is fine to adjust my numbers, just make sure you follow a similar logical process and measure reality against your projected numbers.

For example: Let’s say you have  500 new subscribers a month. Perhaps 300 will ever open another email, 150  might click on anything, and in the end, only 1-20 would ever donate.

Of those that donate perhaps 20-30% would ever donate again.  So, that means 500 new subscribers a month leads to just maybe 25 repeat donors.  There will be exceptions, but from my experience, that’s rare.

So, whatever you do, think it through carefully.  Be careful with how much time and effort you put into it.  If you put ANY effort into it then it essential you also include budget and time directing people to the e-news invitation in the first place.

With e-news we need to consider a few things:

  • What is the primary purpose of the e-news? I can only think of three:
    • Charitable purpose, e.g. for people with diabetes, you could be giving tips or useful information.
    • Fundraising (asking for donations, or thanking – with a view to getting more donations)
    • Getting volunteers.
  • Who is your target audience?
    • Depends on your primary purpose.
    • It is unlikely your e-news will excel if it were trying to do all three of my examples.
  • Do you have confidence that it will go out regularly?
  • It is written all about beneficiaries and donors, NOT the organisation?

Now if fundraising is the purpose of your e-news, you have about thirty days to get a phone number and/or donation! 

So you will need to work hard and fast.  After that, the chances of a donation are so low it was all a waste.

This is the honeymoon period where people are most likely to click, open and respond.  And one of the biggest drivers of one of those actions is the volume of emails.  Not a volume of rubbish emails, but a volume of quality, well thought through emails to your donors.

Also, if you are asking for a donation or monthly gift then your targeting is key.  You want people over 45 for best results.  Maybe a few 35-45-year-olds will be ok, but age is the most important targeting criteria for most such campaigns.  Older is better.

During this honeymoon phase, your emails need to be engaging, aim for a click or feedback every time and include surveys, asks, information, links to video and more.

If you are on top of your data, save the ask for towards the end of the thirty days so you can personalise depending on people’s clicks, links, shares, and feedback.  But this is pretty advanced stuff.

Including a survey in the mix is a good idea too…

A few surveys I have been sent recently – GetUp! was likely testing these subject headers, including one which was a joke about our recent Australian Census failure.

A few surveys I have been sent recently – GetUp! was likely testing these subject headers, including one which was a joke about our recent Australian Census failure.

In the survey, every question needs a purpose.  It should be one of these:

  • A question that makes people want to fill in the survey
  • A question that aids targeting (especially age, or age bracket)
  • A question that leads people to donate
  • A question that can and WILL be used in personalisation.  ‘As a mother of two children you understand…’ or ‘imagine if Bramble didn’t have the love of you and your family and was abandoned…’
  • A question that tries to get across the key proposition of the organisation.
  • Something that captures address or other details but most importantly, phone number.

It’s an easy statement that someone might make in a planning meeting: “Let’s have an e-newsletter and sign up on the homepage.”  It’s unlikely anyone will disagree, but you really need to plan this out properly and do the numbers before investing any time.

I’d love to hear from you – what works for you? What is your approach? What do you need to improve?


(P.S. Wanna learn how to deal with your newsletter subscribers the RIGHT way? Then check out our Supporter Connection Survey Course in The Fundraisingology Lab.)

CFRE Points:
Amnesty International
Direct MailDonor LoveMajor and Mid Value Donors

Great Donor Care from Amnesty International

You know how we all worry about overheads? Well, Josh O’Rourke, a relationship fundraiser from Amnesty International Australia had a good approach with one of his mid-value donors.

Having met up with a mid-value donor who had ‘only’ ever given $2,000, Josh found out the donor was keen to multiply her donation. The donor asked to be anonymous, but let’s call her Janine after Josh’s mum.

There is lots of evidence that ‘multiplying gift appeals’ increases average donation and/or response rate. The offer is something like ‘Donate by 30 June and our sponsor will match your gift…’

Janine had obviously liked that offer previously.

Chatting with his colleagues in direct marketing, Josh found out there were no matching gift campaigns that she could contribute to at that time. So he turned it on its head and asked Janine to be the ‘sponsor’ who would be matching other people’s gifts!

It turned out she was keen and interested in Amnesty’s campaign on the back of their work with indigenous children. She gave $30,000. Josh was chuffed, as were his colleagues in digital direct marketing. They usually have such a campaign around this time of year and hadn’t got a sponsor. They emailed it today.

Within ninety minutes of the email going out, they had raised $20,000, and will definitely whizz past the $30,000. Janine’s donation will be worth at least $60,000 to Amnesty’s important work.
Amnesty was making sure Janine felt like a VIP.

I hope this Amnesty YouTube video gives you some inspiration!

CFRE Points:
TheMostPowerfulToolinFundraising SeanTriner
Bequests and LegaciesDirect MailDonor LoveMajor and Mid Value Donors

The Most Powerful Fundraising Tool in the World

Understanding Donors

The most important asset a fundraising organisation has is its database of supporters. But only if it is actually recording useful information.

Luckily, most organisations record main contact details plus transactions. In other words, you know where someone lives, hopefully, you have their phone number and email address and you know how much they donated and when.

Basic analysis of this data can help you predict how likely people are to donate to you and how much. If communications that have been sent are also analysed you can even work out what donors are most likely to respond to, too.

This basic data is crucial for making a basic direct marketing program work. But to make charity direct marketing fly we need to build relationships, and we do that through respecting our donors and their wishes. And we do that by using the most powerful fundraising tool ever – the Supporter Connection Survey.

Achieving Many Goals

This multi-function device, used well, will also help corporate, major donors, events, donor retention, and bequests. It can even be used for PR purposes, and it usually makes a profit on its own.

These are real surveys, getting really useful information, they are not scientific research and shouldn’t pretend to be. Even so, be honest with the donor – you want their opinion and to be able to communicate better with them, but you can also share their views with the public.

Short-term Benefits

Our tests have shown that despite running a survey to get data including a direct ask does not suppress response. In other words, using the survey as an actual fundraising appeal subject works.

You should aim to break even but what we have found is that when a survey is sent to donors who have responded to a previous appeal through the post, the survey actually makes a profit.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has been using surveys as an integral part of its donor communications strategy for some time now. Their first survey was mailed to over 25,000 donors and nearly one in four responded – half with a gift. They not only received a ton of useful information but made a $50K ‘profit’ as well.

Information taken from the surveys is then reflected back to the donors in future communications. For example, if a donor is motivated and interested in climate change, but an appeal is about forests then the letter should be personalised to connect the donors’ concerns with the subject of the appeal.

Important Note: The sort of surveys I am talking about tell us how to communicate better with individual donors. They are NOT quantitative research tools!

Medium Term

Appeal results and retention can be improved by clever use of survey information, and their completed survey is The Perfect Aide Memoir to take with you with when meeting a major donor. It pretty much tells you what to ask for!

But most charities who use the survey wisely get medium-term returns on their regular giving. For example, The Lost Dogs’ Home uses surveys to gather pet names. It has found that this is crucial for building relationships. They include personalisation in appeal letters mentioning the donors’ pet name:

“Thank you so much Sean, and please give Bilbo an extra cuddle from all of us at The Lost Dogs’ Home!”

But they also use it in phone conversations with donors. When asking donors to increase their monthly gifts, known as ‘upgrade calls’ our caller asks after the health of the donor’s pet.

The Pareto Phone team compared the upgrade success rate of donors we spoke with where we knew pet name against those where we had no pet name. The results are extraordinary:


Knowing Bilbo – a great way to see the value of listening to donors and reflecting back what you heard in future communications.

And the Long Term 

Already surveys have proven their worth. You can see how using them for donor care, appeals and upgrades can work really well, and make them a useful part of the mix. But the biggest return comes from bequests. Specifically using surveys to generate bequest (legacy) leads.

The best measure a bequest fundraiser has to monitor their performance is a count of people who have mentioned the charity in their Will. We call these ‘confirmed bequestors.’
By asking the right questions, we can identify these and also bequest ‘prospects’ – i.e. those most likely to become confirmed bequestors.

A well thought through approach ‘burying’ the bequest question in a survey obliterates any other method of bequest marketing I have ever seen.

For example, Australian National Heart Foundation had seven full-time equivalent bequest officers working traditional bequest marketing techniques for seven years to get around 1,500 confirmed bequests. A brilliant achievement and potentially worth $75m, producing a huge return on investment.

But a year of surveys with follow up mail and phone acquired another 1,500. The charity now uses a combination of both techniques to drive more bequests.

And the surveys keep working. The Lost Dogs’ Home now has about fifteen (!) percent of key financial supporters who have put the charity in their will.

A Word of Warning 

Don’t rush out and do surveys without ensuring you can follow them up, record the results and actually use the data in communications with your donors.

It is not as easy as just writing a survey – a good survey needs a great cover letter, it asks questions that help you understand what motivates your donors (avoid questions like ‘how many times they like to be mailed?’), a bequest conversion pack and trained people to follow up leads. And remember, a bequest lead from a survey is only ‘hot’ for a few weeks with conversion success dropping off dramatically the longer you leave it.

Learn all how you can create those perfect surveys for your donors by checking out our Supporter Connection Survey Course. It’s available for all members in The Fundraisingology Lab.


CFRE Points:
Donor care
Direct MailDonor Love

Fantastic Donor Care

Everyone talks about stewardship and donor care, but great examples are actually pretty rare.

But it is actually not that hard to ‘do’ great donor care. Nor is it that expensive.

Looked at in another way, NOT doing donor care is expensive.

One of my favourite pieces of great donor care is a letter I received from the Children’s Cancer Institute nearly ten years ago. Click here and have a read.

All the coloured text is actually personalised based on my previous transactions. I hope you enjoy reading it.


CFRE Points:
Green Peace lead the way
Digital FundraisingDonor LoveDonor Psychology

Greenpeace Lead the Way

We are working on a new thing here in Australia.  It doesn’t sound new, but it could have a profound impact on how charities use social media.

Visit Greenpeace Australia on Facebook and leave a comment on one of their posts.  Watch what happens.

So many people talk about social media being interactive, an opportunity for dialogue, but Greenpeace is actually doing it.

I made a comment about how Greenpeace is working with others to stop shark nets (bad) here in Australia.


The link they posted in their reply to my comment takes me to this petition:


Cracking stuff.  The response was not a bot, but a person.  Of course, once I have signed the petition, Greenpeace will give me an opportunity to become a monthly giver, and maybe call me if I give a phone number.

I spoke with Nicola Norris from Greenpeace and asked her if this was proving to be a good use of Greenpeace resources.

She told me:

“This is true to the grassroots nature of Greenpeace’s activism and fundraising.  And it is definitely worthwhile.  

Through our team of paid and volunteer staff in Greenpeace and an external agency, we engage with virtually everyone who comments on social media posts.  Through the dialogue and direct 3,000 – 4,000 supporters per month to various campaign petitions to help make a genuine social change.  

Also, of the 2,500 or so that give us their phone number every month around 16% of the people that we speak to on the phone are deciding to help even more with a monthly gift, usually just over $20 a month.  We think we are reaching a new and unique audience who really want to help preserve our planet for the future.”

We are calling this social media hyper-personalization but really, it is a just good old-fashioned dialogue between two people who care about the environment using modern technology.

Best wishes,


P.S. check out Nicola’s awesome Out of Office message.


If you want the link to the article it is here.


CFRE Points:
Soi Dog Foundation
Digital FundraisingDonor Love

Superb Customer Care: I am Great!

Well, according to Soi Dog Foundation I am – and so are all their other donors.

I got this email (click to enlarge) thanking me for my support; it has a lovely video and great copy.


And then when I shared it on Facebook, it switched to an involvement device and asked my friends to ‘Click Here To Find Out How I Helped Save Thunder’s Life’.

Yes I did it!  Clicking will take you to the letter I received.  At first I thought it was a shame it doesn’t say ‘your friend did this’ and then ask my friend to support them.  But then I forgot how clever Soi Dog are.  I know they will be tracking that cookie and ensuring my friend gets plenty of opportunities to support Soi Dog.

Great stuff Soi Dog. And you too can see the full text of the letter.  Just Click Here To Find Out How I Helped Save Thunder’s Life.

CFRE Points: