Pop Art Businessman watered money dollars from a watering can
Direct MailDonor CareDonor Love

The Most Important Gift from Your Donor – It’s the 2nd, Not the 1st!

I started my working life in customer service, selling women’s shoes. This had two major impacts on my life. 

  1. I have a shoe addiction that appears to be incurable. 
  2. I have always believed that understanding your customer leads to the best possible outcome for both of you.

In my shoes days, my chatty nature allowed for me to get to the heart of most ladies’ shoes desires fairly quickly — and resulted in solid sales for me and happy ladies with new shoes they loved. Over my seven years selling shoes I generated a small following of ladies who returned to me time and again for their shoe-indulging needs. If they came back a second time and sought me out, I knew I would very likely see them again and again and again.  

The same goes for donors, if they come back for a second time, they are much more likely to give again than those who have only done it once.  

One of my first jobs in fundraising was on the phones with an environmental charity taking inbound donation calls. I was blown away by the passion of the donors, how much they knew about the environment, threatened species, and climate change. I found myself learning as much as possible so I could join and understand their enthusiasm and concern. And I naturally found myself focusing on thanking them for their donations, their time, making the effort to call in, for supporting again for supporting for so long, for supporting for the first time.  

I didn’t know that this kind of thanking was not common. And like my shoe days, I ended up with a group of donors I spoke to, or who asked to speak to me, every time they gave. They appreciated my attempts to understand them and what they cared about and my thankful approach. I learnt quickly — because they told me — that lots of other organisations did not thank them in any way. That they weren’t always sure their giving was doing anything. 

These basics still hold true, but now I have the evidence beyond my own anecdotal experience to prove it.  

Thank and engage with a new donor and they are more likely to give again. And someone who gives for the second time is more likely to give again … the first gift is not a commitment, the second one is closer to an indication of ongoing potential. 

So how do we secure a second gift? 

I think it’s important we don’t assume a first gift is a commitment.  

When we solicit a first gift from a new donor, we rarely suggest it’s any form of commitment. In fact, strong first gift asks focus on a single focused offer (see Jeff’s blog on this: How to Make Fundraising Work: Nail the Offer), and as such the expectation we set with prospective new donors is to receive that gift and show the donor that their giving has achieved what we said it would. 

Sean explains this well in his blog: Sorry darling not everyone wants a relationship with you.

“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’.” 

Here’s my top tip for securing the second gift: 

Make sure your first-time donors know they have done something meaningful, that they have had the impact you offered them.

Your thank you acknowledgment for their first gift is your first moment of truth. Your first opportunity to engage and influence a potential second gift. Running at the first-time donor with expression of thanks for the “commitment” they’ve made to your organisation … or worse still, throwing a tonne of information about everything you do and welcoming them on board like they have committed to marriage, is not responding to where the first time giver is. 

If you aren’t even sending a thank you or acknowledgment, stop reading here and go address this. It’s the most important thing you will do to improve your donor experience and donor retention.  

Effectively thanking donors for the donations, they make is not a cost — it’s a necessity. It’s good manners, it’s common sense, and it will help you take a step towards being donor-centric (See Jeff’s blog 20 Donor-Centric Things You Can Do to Raise More Money — Now and for Years to Come  for some chat on what donor-centricity is and other things you can do to be more donor-centric).

I’ll put it out there: the majority of first gift acknowledgments are rubbish.  

Why? Because they are generic or purely administrative or not reflective of what the donors did (which was make a gift, in response to some trigger). None of these things make a first-time donor feel like their donation was valued. And even worse, they don’t give an emotional pay back … they don’t show your first-time donor that they have done something important in some specific way. 

An administrative or generic acknowledgment ticks the boxes of being organised and they are unlikely to upset anyone … but they certainly don’t provide compelling, emotional support for the outcome of giving. 

An over-the-top ‘Welcome to Us’ first gift response is likely just confusing and/or overwhelming. This is just information overload, with lots of organisational information unrelated to them, their donation, the impact of their donation, or their motivation for giving the donation. Lots of rational, factual, and organisationally focused information that I guess we create with the belief we are presenting our credibility. Often these packs ‘educate’ or introduce a first-time donor to everything we do. 

Welcome to Save the Snails Fiona, you have joined an organisation that is 45 years old, and doing X, Y and Z to save snails and we are so pleased to have you on board. 

And the donor is thinking, Hey wait a minute, I didn’t join anything. What is happening here?  

Even if you acknowledge what they gave for, this ‘too much, too soon’ approach can obscure the compelling, emotional support for the outcome of giving. 

A really great thank you / acknowledgment should: 

  1. Address the donor personally and correctly. 
  2. Tell her what impactful / life-changing thing she has achieved, personally, by making the donation. Be specific about the impact … this is different from what you are going to spend the money on. Make sure this impactful thing is the impactful thing you solicited the donation for. 
  3. Say thank you … the actual words Thank You. It’s surprising how much effort goes into writing thank you letters that do not say thank you.  
  4. Tell the donor a story or extend the story she responded to. A rescue helicopter charity thanked me for my first donation, made online and unsolicited, by telling me about a young child whose life was recently saved by the rescue helicopter team and thanked me for helping to ensure further missions like that will happen. I was given an emotional reason to feel good about myself for making a donation. I was given a compelling story I could re-tell myself or my family about the impact of my generosity. My giving was treated with the respect it deserved. 

Here are a few common first gift acknowledgments to check to make sure they’re working right: 

  • Website auto response – the response that confirms the donor has made a gift once she makes the final click on the donation form. These are hands-down the most non-personal and uninspiring administrative interactions most charities deliver. If you don’t have control over this part of your web journey, find out who does and engage them to help you. It might cost some money, but it is worth it. 
  • The donation destination on your website. Do the words Thank You appear at all? 
  • Inbound call to your office / supporters service team. Are they trained and supported to have the skills and feel they have the time to be delivering really heartfelt thank yous to everyone who makes a donation? 
  • Inbound call to a phone agency. Have you listened in on their thank yous?
  • Response to a direct mail pack. Are you pumping out a generic, two paragraph note on the combined thank you and receipt piece of paper your database produces? At the very least please make those two paragraphs meet the above criteria, and if they can’t, find a way to include an additional thank you letter with the administrative receipt. The cost and operational hassle are worth it. 

We can help you explore your Donor Service needs and opportunities through our one-to-one Coaching. To find out more and book a free call visit: www.moceanic.com/coaching-plus/ 

CFRE Points:
Pop Art WOW e1551253653775
Donor Love

VIDEO: How a Supporter Connection Survey Transformed Our Fundraising

Rose Young, Campaign Team Leader at Baptist World Aid in Australia, wanted to know how to create a Supporter Connection Survey. She’d heard about them and how effective they are, but had never done one.

She Googled it and found Moceanic. Went through the training. And then worked with us to create and produce a survey of her own.

How did it go?

See for yourself as Rose describes the game-changing numbers of confirmed bequests, donors interested in leaving bequests, donors happy to give $1,000 for the first time, and more.

The payoff was quick … and will last for decades as the bequests come in.

You can get similar results.

To find out how to field your own Supporter Connection Survey, check out our online course about supporter connection surveys. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab and will show you how to raise more funds for your cause from every channel! 

More blog posts about Supporter Connection Surveys:

This Survey Type Is Better Than Almost Anything Else You Can Do in Fundraising 
Roger Craver on the Amazing Donor-Behavior Prediction Tool You Can Use Now 


CFRE Points:
Fundraiser conducting survey
Bequests and LegaciesMajor and Mid Value DonorsMonthly Giving

Here’s One Easy Tool That Transforms Your Fundraising

Suppose I told you there’s a fundraising tool you (yes you!) can put to work that will do these things:

  • Gather information on what motivates your best donors to give, so you can speak more personally and relevantly to them.
  • Meaningfully increase your number of monthly donors.
  • Help you find and upgrade mid-value and major donors who’ve been “hiding” among your general donors.
  • Find donors who are ready to put your organization in their Wills — resulting in a revenue windfall that will play out for years to come.

You might think I was selling a certain bridge over the East River in New York.

But what I’m talking about is 100% real. And you can do it now.

It’s not even all that difficult to create.

It’s called the Supporter Connection Survey. It’s a very specific type of survey that can be fielded by direct mail or email (preferable both!) to find out what individual donors think about your organization and the cause you share.

Connecting with individual donors is the key. This is not a research survey to uncover what “the file” knows and believes. You will not get meaningful statistically valid findings about your donor file with a Supporter Connection Survey! In fact, you will almost surely lead yourself astray if you try to use it to get valid research. (Real research is hard. If you need to do some research, get professional help if you want to do it right!)

It’s also not a fundraising “push” survey. You know that kind that basically gets the reader to agree with your values, leading up to a fundraising ask. These work well for some organizations, but they are not at all what we’re talking about here!

Here are the types of questions in a Supporter Connection Survey:

Questions about their connection with you and their motivations for donating. These questions are highly qualitative and aimed at giving you specific insight into that donor — why she cares and what matters most to her. Her answers arm you to speak back to her later with super-focused communication.

  • A question about being a high-level donor — sometimes more than one. This helps uncover donors with a desire and capacity to give at a higher level than they have before. It almost always finds “hidden gold” in your file.
  • A question about being a monthly donor. This one helps you find donors who are ready to make the leap into this high-value group.
  • A question about bequests. This is the “money” question because it surfaces bequest leads, which can result in huge revenue in the coming years.
  • A question about the donor’s “loyalty” – highly tested to find donors who feel most connected with you, regardless of their current giving level. This helps you find people who you might want to concentrate on more than you have.
  • Donor facts that help you build a better relationship, like email and phone number (if they’re willing to share); mailing address, in case you have it wrong; birthdate and other demographics that can help you connect with them more.

In case you’re thinking, “There’s no way we could field such a complex survey” … I have good news for you. You can do a Supporter Connection Survey.

We’ve worked through Supporter Connection Surveys with fundraisers at every level of experience.

We’ve done it with very small organizations, huge global organizations, and everything in between.

We’ve done it with all types of causes.

And we’ve done them in every part of the world. Supporter Connection Surveys are quite common in Australia and New Zealand, but less so elsewhere. They are especially new to North America — so if you’re in the western hemisphere, you can benefit from “first mover” advantage!

If you aren’t doing Supporter Connection Surveys now, chances are you eventually will … ideas this good tend to spread!

So why not start now?

Discover the success your own Supporter Connection Survey will have, take our online course The Most Powerful Communication Tool: The Supporter Connection Survey. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab and will show you how to raise more funds for your cause from every channel! 

More blog posts about Supporter Connection Surveys:

Have you done a Supporter Connection Survey? Please share your experience by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

CFRE Points:
Save the Snails Hyper-Personalisation In Action
Direct MailDonor LoveMajor and Mid Value DonorsWriting

Save the Snails Hyper-Personalisation In Action

Hyper-personalisation is a phrase coined by fundraising author Mal Warwick. He used it to describe going well beyond normal personalisation in direct marketing.

It is all about asking donors questions and reflecting their answers back to them.

Using this technique – otherwise known as ‘asking and listening’ – will increase the lifetime value of a supporter’s gift. It will also increase their personal lifetime value. They will feel listened to and valued. Because you, um, listened to them and valued them!

The best way to get their answers is through a Supporter Connection Survey, though you can ask questions in many other communications too.

Let’s say your organisation is Save the Snails (you will see more and more of this charity in our blogs and information!)

In your survey, you’ll ask donors a question about the part of your work they feel most connected to. Something like this:

What part of Save the Snails’ work is most important to you? (choose one)

  • Saving pigmy snails
  • Protecting polar snails
  • Rescuing homing snails
  • Standing up for basking snails
  • I care about all of the endangered snails

In a future fundraising message, you can use this information, like this:

Mrs. Example, I know you’ll be excited to help build our Snail World Super Habitat because, as you told me in a survey a few months ago, you love our work to protect polar snails.

That’s basic hyper-personalisation.

You’ll also have a question that allows donors to tell you how and why they’re connected with you in their own words. So Mrs. Example might say something unique, like:

“My first summer in college, I worked at a snail habitat, and I grew to love the majestic ways of snails and how they teach us to love life.”

As with the answers to the question above, you now have the ability to say back to her what she said to you. But it isn’t so simple. You don’t want to just plug it into the data because it might come out like this:

Mrs. Example, I know you’ll be excited to help build our Snail World Super Habitat because, as you told me in a survey a few months ago, My first summer in college, I worked at a snail habitat, and I grew to love the majestic ways of snails and how they teach us to love life.

Instead, to avoid looking like a database wrote your message, you’d want to revise it a bit to sound human. Like this:

Mrs. Example, I know you’ll be excited to help build our Snail World Super Habitat because, as you told me in a survey a few months ago about your first summer in college, you worked at a snail habitat, and grew to love the majestic ways of snails and how they teach us to love life.

That is true hyper-personalisation.

If I were you, I’d only do this for donors who give or have the ability to give above average donations. About 20% of your donors would be in that gift bracket, but perhaps only 10% of them would ever have written something in their own words. That should be a manageable 2% of donors – at most – that you should hyper-personalise.

It could still be too many to handle, so start with just the top 50 or so – but if you have too many, work at increasing resources so you can handle more.

Sean Triner

P.S. Learn even more about hyper-personalisation. Get access to my Supporter Connection Survey Online Course now when you join The Fundraisingology Lab!

CFRE Points:
The Most Crazy Thing I Ever Heard
Maths of FundraisingBequests and Legacies

The Most Crazy Thing I Ever Heard

I heard the most crazy thing ever: A frustrated charity fundraiser told me that they had to cancel their annual survey this year.

Why? Had it failed to work?

Not at all. It was still gathering game-changing data from their donors. Uncovering major donors and legacy givers.

They were cancelling because the programs department had gone over budget. “We all have to cut costs!” she said, clearly frustrated.

They will definitely save costs. They’ll save even more than they planned:

  • They will save money on producing the survey
  • They will save on entering the data from the survey
  • They will save on banking and bank fees for depositing the immediate revenue
  • They won’t have to follow up all the bequest and major donor leads
  • They won’t have to call as many people to explain how they can become monthly donors after they asked
  • They will save costs on the people they don’t hire, or make redundant because they are raising less money
  • They will save money on implementing their charitable purpose because they won’t have as much to spend

Why not save even more? They can cut other super money-making communications. That will save an enormous amount of money — when they close their charity down.

But then I heard something even crazier.

Another frustrated fundraiser told me she could only send their survey every other year because they couldn’t keep up with the leads!

Yes. They couldn’t repeat a fantastic, donor-centric fundraising communication every year because it worked too well!

OK, it really is crazier than cutting because money is tight. But not by much.

Imagine any other business that cuts back on its best lead generator for the most valuable product line it sells because they can’t follow up the leads!

It really is the same as being offered a million dollars and saying “No thanks, I haven’t a bag big enough to put it in.” The savvy leader would come up with the $100 for the new bag.

In the case of a charity worried about following up too many people telling them they would like to donate over $1,000 – they should get more fundraisers to follow them up. Or re-prioritise!

Fundraisers: Don’t make silly decisions like this. And don’t accept them without a fight if it comes from above. If it keeps happening, take your brilliant skills and help a charity that genuinely wants to make the world better, and has people competent enough to not make crazy decisions.

Sean Triner

Don’t be a cutter. Don’t even be a wait and seer! Sign up for my Supporter Connection Survey Online Course now! It’s available when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
Title of article (please use title caps and rename this file as Title V1 JB): The Data Does Wonders, But Only If You Use It
Bequests and LegaciesDirect MailDonor LoveMajor and Mid Value Donors

The Data Does Wonders, But Only If You Use It

When I tell people about our Supporter Connection Survey, one of the most common questions I’m asked is this:

What exactly do I do with the data we gather?

Let me give you a quick look at how to handle the bonanza of data you’ll get. But first, the most important advice I can give you:

Still go ahead with a Supporter Connection Survey even if you’re not sure what to do with the data! The gains that are in store for you are too important to put the project aside. It would be far better to do it imperfectly than to not do it!

That said, here’s a “real world” approach to what will be, for some, a data challenge….

The Supporter Connection Survey will give you several critical pieces of data:

  1. Legacy/bequest leads

Run — don’t walk — to give these to your major donor or planned giving people for a follow-up!

These are leads to hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) in future revenue. Every day that these leads sit untouched, their relevance and likelihood of yielding actual revenue fade. They can be dealt with on old fashioned paper if you can’t get them in the database. Just photocopy the surveys as they come in and give them to whoever deals with planned giving.

  1. Major donor leads

These leads are almost as important and just as urgent as the planned giving leads. So start following them up immediately.

Record key information on pen and paper if you need to – just get back to these people quickly!

Following up major donor and bequest leads doesn’t rely on a good data system. So they can always be managed in some way. Fortunately, they’re also the big money part.

However, there are a couple more pieces of data you’ll also gather…

  1. Donors’ specific connection with your cause

Let’s say your organisation is Save the Snails. You’ll ask donors a question about the part of your work they feel most connected to. Something like this:

What part of Save the Snails’ work is most important to you (choose one)?

  • Saving pigmy snails
  • Protecting polar snails
  • Rescuing homing snails
  • Standing up for basking snails
  • I care about all of the endangered snails

In a future fundraising message, you can use this information, like this:

Mrs. Example, I know you’ll be excited to help build our Snail World Super Habitat because, as you told me in a survey a few months ago, you love our work to protect polar snails.

This will boost those fundraising efforts.

To do this, you need to have a place in your data for this new field. This can’t be done until you have got your database able to do this. However, whilst it will increase revenue, it is not as significant as the high value leads.

You can keep the data in a separate database or list, just be really careful on quality control when you merge it for a direct mail or email.

When you’ve done the Supporter Connection Survey just once, most of your donors will have nothing in this field, so you’ll need default copy for the donors who haven’t taken the survey. As you repeat the survey through the years, it will become common in your data.

This will build better relationships and increase life time value – for you and your donor (they will value you more through their lifetime too!).

  1. Donors’ specific connection with your cause, verbatim

Donors may even write answers in their own words. Only a small proportion of supporters usually do this and don’t worry about recording it all straight away.

Just ensure you have a system for recording the small proportion who write things in their own words AND are planned giving or major donor supporters or leads.

To use this verbatim data, someone has to physically revise every single message. Which is ridiculous … except for your very best donors. For them, say the top 50 donors, this extra bit of human touch is very worthwhile. In the long term, you’ll need a field in your database to hold this. Just be careful not to use it wrong!

I hope this is helpful. More importantly, I hope it inspires you about the possibilities the Support Connection Survey opens up for your fundraising.

Sean Triner

Learn how to make your own Supporter Connection Survey by signing up for The Fundraisingology Lab.

In the course, I will take 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. This is a hands-on course and at the end of the course, you will have produced your own Supporter Connection Survey!

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Ice Bucket Challenge business man

How You Can Have Your Own Ice Bucket Challenge-Like Success

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It happened in the Summer of 2015 when the ALS Association in the US (and a number of related organizations around the world, where ALS is often called motor neurone disease) became the beneficiaries of a gargantuan fad. They raised more than $220 million worldwide.

By now, nearly two years later, it’s clear to almost everyone that trying to launch your own Ice Bucket Challenge is like trying to fund your organization by buying a winning lottery ticket. You could win — somebody has to! — but realistically … it’s not going to happen.

But here’s the good news: You can have Ice Bucket-like financial success. Yes, you. It doesn’t take lightning-strike luck. Just smart and well-targeted work. Quite a lot of work, actually. Which is why it’s rarely done. The field is wide open for you to be a hero at your organization!

You only need to do three things. Any one of the three will make a huge difference for you, but the more you do, the more astounding the amount of revenue you’ll see pouring in!

Here are the things to do (in no particular order):

Focus on planned (legacy) giving

There are a lot of checks with amounts that include a lot of zeroes waiting to be written to your organization. Some of them will just sort of drop out of the sky when donors decide on their own to leave you in their will.

But you’ll get a lot more of that if you actively cultivate it.

A lot more.

Really: A lot more.

How to cultivate planned giving is a bigger topic than fits in a blog post. But let’s just note that there are good and not-good ways to do it.

In fact, I’ve seen evidence that doing it, but doing it wrong, can actually drive away legacy givers!

So make sure you do it right.

The payoff for focusing on planned giving won’t be this summer. It’ll be five, ten, and more years from now. That’s another reason so many organizations don’t do this in any meaningful way. Why spend your time on something that’s going to pay off when you don’t work there anymore? (How about professional pride.)

Spend more time and money on your mid-value and major donors

Imagine a salesperson working at a Ferrari dealership who spent the same amount of time and effort on a customer wanting to buy a Ferrari key fob as he did on someone looking to buy an actual Ferrari. What would you think of that salesperson?

Does blooming idiot sound about right?

That’s exactly what a lot of fundraisers do. They treat all donors — whether they give $5 or $5,000 — exactly the same.

You could be just breaking even — or even losing money — on your low-end donors. The loss might be invisible, because the upper donors are more than picking up the slack, which makes the overall program look like it’s just fine.

You could make a lot more revenue if you spent (wasted) less on your low-end donors and more on your middle and major donors.

How should you be spending on them? Communicating with them more. More personal contact, like phone calls. Higher-end direct mail. More elaborate acknowledgments, thank-yous, and reporting back.

The result: More revenue, at a higher return on investment.

Also: Better retention of your best donors. And more upgrading.

The Ice Bucket-like impact of doing this is probably not as huge as a planned giving strategy. But it’s quicker.

Find more monthly donors

This may be the biggest opportunity of all. Monthly givers have an annual value that’s triple (or more) what typical donors give. And more important, a monthly donor’s retention is usually above 90% — compared to around 50% for most donors.

Between the high annual values and the superb retention rate, monthly donors are more than a nice-to-have. They’re an Ice Bucket.

How and where to get monthly donors is a big topic we’ll talk about another time. But you should be working on moving your donors into a monthly giving program. Just a few points that might help you do that:

  • The main reason donors become monthly donors is their ease and convenience. (Not yours.)
  • Push for EFT (direct debit) or credit card giving. (Note: EFT is a hard sell in the US. It’s much more common in the rest of the world.)
  • Give the program a name that makes the donors feel like super-important insiders, heroes in the cause.
  • Pursue these three goals — planned giving, middle and major donor giving, and monthly giving — with your donors, and you will have your own Ice Bucket-like astounding success.

Think of it as a “get rich slow” scheme.

Not everyone is willing to work for powerful results. That’s the main difference between you and the people who just keep whining that they can’t seem to get their own Ice Bucket Challenge!

Learn how to make your own Supporter Connection Survey by enrolling in Sean Triner’s online course that is available to all members of 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.

Join The Fundraisingology Lab here.

Jeff Brooks

CFRE Points:
Survey Course
Bequests and LegaciesDirect MailDonor LoveMajor and Mid Value DonorsMonthly Giving

This Survey Type Is Better Than Almost Anything Else You Can Do in Fundraising

One of the first things I learned about when I joined Moceanic a few months ago was an amazing fundraising technique we called the Supporter Connection Survey.

I was blown away…

But now I’m even more blown away because I’ve seen it at work first hand.

Listen: If the Ice Bucket Challenge and the LiveStrong Bracelet got together and had a child, that child would be lame and ineffective compared to the Supporter Connection Survey!

When I learned about the Supporter Connection Survey, I blogged about it.

I want to quote extensively from that post, and then tell you how I missed the mark at that time. I simply wasn’t amazed enough!

Here’s that post:

I’ve just learned about an exciting new direct mail fundraising technique. Yes, I’m using the word “new” in the same sentence with “direct mail.” I know we all tend to think everything about direct mail is older than dirt. But this is new.

And it just might blow your mind the way it did mine.

It’s called a Supporter Connection Survey. It’s a direct mail pack that features a survey.

You might be saying right now, “Surveys are not new in fundraising, you idiot!” That’s more or less what I said at first. But a Supporter Connection Survey is different. It’s so different, it’s not really a survey at all — even though it looks and acts exactly like one.

Sean and Paul, the co-founders of at Pareto Fundraising used similar surveys in the UK in the 90s, and Pareto developed them further with charities in Australia from 2003. This type of survey is now common in Australia and New Zealand and used in some form by the majority of successful fundraising charities there.

In short, a Supporter Connection Survey is meant to discover what individual donors think and say about your cause… so you can talk back to them about the things they care about. It’s not unlike an actual conversation!

It also helps you find solid legacy giving leads and other forms of valuable connection with donors. (And this — revenue-wise — is even more important.)

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re an organization called the Australian Animals Alliance. One of the questions in your Supporter Connection Survey might be this:

Which of these projects interests you most (check one)?

  • Saving wombats from spreading urbanization.
  • Providing rescue homes for orphaned echidnas.
  • Rescuing emus that have wandered into cities.
  • Providing medical care for sick platypuses.

Then the money question: Can you tell me why that is important to you? And leave a blank space for them to write an answer.

These are all things the Australian Animals Alliance does. Now here’s the cool part: You’re going to put your donors’ answers into your database. And later on, in direct mail, you’re going to have a paragraph like the following:

I believe you’ll be thrilled to support our Kookaburra Habitat Campaign this year, because, as you told us in the survey you filled out, you believe in saving wombats from spreading urbanization.

And for some of your higher value donors, you literally repeat back to them what they wrote to your question about why it’s important. Like this:

I believe you’ll be thrilled to support our Kookaburra Habitat Campaign this year, because, as you told us in the survey, “I really care about wombats because my father was a wombat conservation activist.”

And that’s fundraising magic. Telling donors you know what they care about is a powerful thing. It meaningfully improves future results.

But that’s not all. You’ll uncover some highly valuable donors by asking:

  • A question about bequests.
  • A question about being a high-level donor.
  • A question about being a monthly donor.

This uncovers an almost unbelievable amount of valuable information about donors who are ready to do more! You still have to connect with them and cultivate them, but that first step of finding them is the beauty of it.

A Supporter Connection Survey looks almost exactly like other kinds of surveys, so let me show you what it is not:

It’s not a research survey

You are not going to get useful, statistically valid findings about your donor file with a Supporter Connection Survey! In fact, you will almost surely lead yourself astray if you try to use it to get valid research. (Real research is hard. If you need to do some research, get professional help if you want to do it right!)

It’s not a fundraising “push” survey

That’s the type of survey more widely used in fundraising. This type of survey is also not for research. In fact, you don’t get any usable information from a push survey.

If you were the Australian Animals Alliance and you did a push survey, your questions would be like this: Do you support conserving the unique wildlife of Australia? (Yes or no.) The goal of a push survey is to build a sort of momentum of YES, so saying “yes” to making a donation is easy and natural.

Push surveys work quite well in many areas of fundraising, especially those that have an advocacy flavor, like the environment and civil liberties. They are a mainstay of political fundraising.

But they’re not at all like Supporter Connection Surveys.

Supporter Connection Surveys are all about creating two-way communication between organizations and donors. Done right, they are virtual magic.

Okay, that’s what I said a couple of months ago. Since then, I’ve walked alongside an organization as they created and launched a Supporter Connection Survey. They got more donor interest, more bequest leads, and more major donor leads than our most optimistic projections. A lot more! So many more that they are looking at a future with many times the revenue they get today.

This single survey (and you can bet they’ll be doing it again) will transform the life of the organization. They’ll be able to do more of their good work than they’ve dreamed possible — until now. And they’re dreaming!

Thus the reason I’m telling you this.

Interested in learning more about this amazing tool?

Check out our online course about supporter connection surveys. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab and will show you how to raise more funds for your cause from every channel!

Jeff Brooks

CFRE Points:
Sean Cartooned
FundraisingDonor Love

The Most Powerful Communication Tool: The Supporter Connection Survey

A proven method for increasing revenue, uncovering legacy donors and improving donor-centricity.

With data-led fundraising guru Sean Triner

Do you have lots of lovely donors supporting your work?  Do you have a direct mail program?  Or an online fundraising program?

Well, if you haven’t got a ‘Supporter Connection Survey’ in your communications plan your cause is missing out.

Potentially, missing out on millions.

This kind of survey is absolutely fundamental to knowing your donors.  And knowing them is fundamental to ANY planned giving, bequest, mid or major donor campaign.

I’ve seen time and time again the power of the Supporter Connection Survey. It is the single biggest way you can uncover legacy leads, increase mid and major donor income, advance your appeal performance, and improve your donor care and stewardship. Quite simply, Supporter Connection Surveys are amazing.

As our Fundraisingologist Jeff Brooks says:

“I don’t lightly use the word “magic” to describe even the strongest tactics. But this type of survey’s simple power is, well, magical. It can power your organisation’s fundraising growth for years to come and transform the way you communicate with your donors.”

Introducing the Supporter Connection Survey

My name is Sean Triner, and I co-founded Moceanic with a big idea to connect smart fundraisers like you with the best fundraising experts in the world.  It is no accident that for charities I think that the Supporter Connection Survey is the place to start.

Roger Craver describes me as a true data-led fundraiser. That means I take a data-driven approach whenever I help fundraisers. Don’t let that scare you off, though. Most people I work with find my approach refreshing and authentic.

And like the rest of the Moceanic Team, I also understand that great fundraising comes from the heart. Maybe that’s why I value supporter connection surveys so much – truly donor focused fundraising combined with using the important data we collect in the survey. I’m pretty sure you’ll love these surveys as much as I do…

First off, I should explain what I mean by a ‘Supporter Connection Survey’.

I’m not talking about the appeal disguised as a survey: You may have seen these before.  These ‘fake’ surveys ask the donor a series of leading questions to get the donor repeating ‘yes’ until they are asked ‘Will you please donate $50 to help right now?’  I’ve seen these surveys work really well for charities.

But the Supporter Connection Survey is NOT a fake survey designed to elicit a donation.

Nor am I talking about Quantitative research: Those surveys ask questions that will be analysed. For example, ‘75% of our supporters think…’

They don’t contain leading questions, are not ‘warm’ in how they communicate.  They don’t cheat by having questions strategically placed to give a little nudge on the next answer.  And the objective of those surveys is to find out about donors as a ‘group’.

But the Supporter Connection Survey is NOT quantitative research.

I’m talking about the REAL Supporter Connection Survey – this survey is all about the donor.

It is about that individual who received the survey and completed it.

  • This survey helps the charity and its staff to be extremely donor-centric.  In fact, I can’t imagine how it is possible to be truly donor-centric if you don’t know what each donor wants!
  • This survey helps the fundraisers and senior managers to truly know their donors.
  • This survey allows for superbly tailored communications that increase loyalty and response.
  • This survey identifies potential major donors.  A completed survey can even be used as a prop and case for support on your next visit or conversation with your key supporter!
  • This survey identifies potential bequestors (legators).

Charities in Australia have had huge success with these surveys, and most see it as an essential and significant part of any planned giving or bequest (legacy) program.

Nearly all donors in Australia, who have told charities they put the charity in their Will, did so because of this type of survey. Well over half of all legacy leads are identified by these surveys. That’s a huge volume of potential income that an organisation may otherwise be missing out on.

How to get your own Supporter Connection Survey

Moceanic doesn’t do things for you.  We teach you how to do them, and how to do them right.

There is a right way to do this type of survey – and many, many wrong ways…

But that’s what we’re here to help guide you through!

We’ve done the research.  We’ve looked at test results. We’ve analysed the results.  We’ve applied the learnings. We know the best approach to take, and we will share it all with you.  We’ll hold nothing back.

But we won’t just tell you how to do it, and we won’t do it for you. We’ll do it with you.

Our courses are designed to help charity people who want to build their internal knowledge and capacity, grow their staff, and achieve more. We’ll help you rise to a new level of expertise so you can eliminate the guess work and get straight to producing the best survey and strategy for your organisation.

Throughout the course, we will provide you with great examples, worksheets, checklists and cheat sheets galore – so whether you’re developing it yourself or briefing externally, you will have all the tools you need to get your Supporter Connection Survey out the door.

How Your Supporter Connection Survey Will Happen

I have been ‘doing’ Supporter Connection Surveys for decades.  As a direct marketing fundraiser in the UK in the ‘90s they were always part of my program.

When I was the boss, they made all my teams’ jobs easier – whether they were in direct mail, events, planned giving, major donors or monthly giving.

From 2003 Pareto Fundraising, a company I co-founded, has been working with charities to produce hundreds and hundreds of surveys.  So much so that they are seen as essential for any Australian or New Zealand fundraiser serious about bequests, major donors or boosting direct mail and digital results.

I worked hard to get these surveys right.  And I am still working hard to make them better and better.

In six to ten weeks from now (I mean the course launch date), your cause could have an absolute wealth of information on key donors that will boost income.  This is how it will work.

What Topics Does the Course Cover?
This course covers four main topics – each of these is a “module”.

Module 1. Planning for Your Supporter Connection Survey

The right planning and preparation is the crucial first step.

In this module, I’ll take you through everything you’ll need to consider and plan for before you start on the development of your survey.

  • You’ll uncover what the purpose of the survey is and how it fits with your fundraising goals
  • You’ll understand the best approach for targeting and timing so you can select who you’ll mail, and when
  • I’ll take you through the pros and con’s for asking for a donation with the survey – and you can decide which approach you prefer
  • You’ll be able to work out how much budget you’ll require and how much resource you’ll need to complete the project.
Module 2. The Questions

The most important part of the survey – what are we going to ask?!

This module will provide you with the do’s and don’ts of survey questions so you can get started on writing your own.

  • You’ll find out what the four types of questions are – and the best way to write them.
  • You’ll find out what four questions NOT to ask!
  • You’ll discover the four questions to ask YOURSELF. Every time you write a question, you need to answer these special questions first!
  • You’ll master the fundraising questions – the heart of the survey! These include the bequest/legacy question, understanding the individual donor’s commitment, and much more.
  • You’ll also discover what the key elements of a good cover letter/email are.

Following this module, you’ll have all the tools and information to put together your survey questions and even write your cover letter. You’ll have checklists, worksheets, and more videos to help you.

Module 3. Getting the survey out of the door

Now your questions are written, it’s time to get your survey into production and out the door! In this module I’ll give you all the tools you’ll need.

  • You’ll find out how to use design to make your survey look good! Whether out-sourced or in-house, I’ll give you the tools to brief the designer.
  • You’ll discover the basic rules of testing, what to bother with, and how to avoid time-wasting.
  • You’ll learn how to schedule and keep everything moving, as well as be provided with useful checklists for production so nothing slips through the cracks.
Module 4. Making it all count. Handling responses and communicating with your supporters

Now your survey is well into production, it’s time to plan what to do with the responses.

In this last module, I’ll take you through the donor journeys you need to consider and which ones to prioritise.

  • You’ll uncover the different ways to feedback to your donors – how, when and to whom.
  • You’ll get great advice on how to manage complaints and questions from donors.
  • You’ll find out how to use survey responses to plan your donor-centric super-charged communications.
  • You’ll know what to plan for next year to ensure you have the budget to do the survey again!

The skills and strategies you’ll learn throughout this course have helped charities raise millions of dollars to fund great causes. They’ll work for you too!

7 More Things You’ll Learn in this Course 

  • Why Francis Bacon was right in 1597 when he wrote “Ipsa scientia potestas est”
  • How these surveys can be used as a prop when visiting major donors
  • What never, ever, to ask in a survey
  • How to position questions to maximise response
  • When to ask for donations in surveys like this
  • What the Latin “Ipsa scientia potestas est” means in English!
  • Just HOW much potential GOOD your donors are willing to do!

Course Details: Here Is What You Will Get

(and there’s a lot more we’re working on, too)

Here is what your course will include:

  • Full access to The Supporter Connection Survey Course (4 modules)
  • Access to a replay of the introductory webinar
  • Four modules, including Q&A
  • A bonus video all about these surveys
  • Roger Craver on Donor commitment – a great video!
  • Jeff and Sean discussing asking for money in surveys to help you decide
  • Slide presentation downloads
  • Access to all these things for 12 months through Moceanic’s easy-to-use online course website
  • Bonuses – the Moceanic team and I promise there will be even more, including video interviews with special guests and video answers to FAQs from other students

How will you watch it? Immediately after purchasing, you’ll be sent a private link where you can jump in and start the course immediately. You’ll get an introductory video to start with, and then each week you’ll get access to the live session (recorded for you to view anytime after the live session you want if you can’t attend the live sessions). You could literally be watching the first introductory session 5 minutes from now (I mean 5 mins after the course is actually launched!)

How Much Do You Need to Invest?

The entire Supporter Connection Survey course is broken into four modules to ensure that you fully absorb it all and become one of the fundraisers who get used to succeeding.

You can get access to the full course, all the bonuses, plus all of our other courses when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.


There’s nothing to lose with our 30-day money back. NO questions asked*.

If this course doesn’t help you, just ask for your money back (*actually, we will ask a few questions to work out what we can do better! Moceanic aims to help smart fundraisers get even smarter, so we want to know how we can improve our courses all the time!)

Is this course really worth it?

Here’s what others have to say about Sean’s webinars and online courses:

“Sean was well versed, interesting, and exciting!” Julia, Preservation Pennsylvania 

 “Great, usable content.  Goes right to the heart of the issue” Ted, AmeriCares

 “Insightful information presented in a simple and easily adaptable format to immediately have an impact on our organization. Time well spent!” Mary, New Reach

 “Sean gives you the ABC’s of effective fundraising. Excellent and informative.” Vivienne, American Foundation for the Blind

 “Sean has a clarity of thought and depth of knowledge that is invaluable… but his real skill is that he keeps it simple and cuts through all the fluff and fakery!” Sarah, Cancer Society, New Zealand

We’ll also provide you with examples of great survey’s, cover letter examples, simple targeting budgeting and planning tools, and a whole range of briefing forms and checklists to help you get your survey out the door!

Questions you might have… 

Is this course for beginners or experienced fundraisers?

It’s great for fundraisers of any level provided they have a desire to know their donors better and produce a Supporter Connection Survey soon. You’ll learn something new no matter where you are in your career.

I’ve read lots of your blogs and articles, Sean. They’re great and I’ve learned a lot and even put a lot into practice. Why should I do the course?

Thanks for reading my material! You might see some familiar material in this course if you’ve read my stuff.  But this course is carefully structured to take you on a journey that takes you beyond just additional information.  At the end of the course you will have produced a Supporter Connection Survey!  Not only that, but the course is interactive, so you can zoom in on how these things apply specifically to your challenges.

I already work with a vendor, supplier or agency. How will this course help me?

That works brilliantly and the course has got all your bases covered. We thoroughly recommend in most of our courses that third party experts are engaged to implement much of the work.

Our goal is to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the who, what, when where and why for any project.

One of the biggest barriers for all fundraisers is time. Using great suppliers increases your time. Often doing things in house hides costs and may actually be less effective. So this course is for you if you’re doing it in house yourself, briefing a supplier or working with a full-service vendor or agency.

We even have specific bonus resources that you can use to brief your external team!

How much time will this take?

Great question! The course itself is being designed to go through in under 2 hours per week.

You’ll also need to set some time aside each week to do some project work after each module to ensure your survey development stays on track.

Four weeks should be about right to go through everything, but you’ll need at least six weeks, more likely eight weeks between starting and getting your survey out.  Within four weeks from that you will have most of your responses and can get on with using the information to make the world a better place!

How often SHOULD I work on it?

See above. We recommend each week you try to join the live video webinar. If you can’t make it then schedule some time in your diary to watch the recording the next day!   

Get access to the FULL course when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
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TrendsMonthly Giving

What is Essential Data to Capture and Why?

It’s called “rage giving” — impulsive donations to organisations seen as resisting the agenda of US President Trump.

It has resulted in an astounding outpouring of philanthropy for some organisations:

The American Civil Liberties Union has raised more than $80 million. Planned Parenthood has gained more than 600,000 new donors. Many other organizations — environmental, poverty, educational, and more — have received influxes of rage donations.

A friend in New York asked me a simple question: What information do we need to capture to be able to build the best relationship with a “rage donor”?

In my experience, the key information (here in order of importance, but not in order of how you gather it) is this:

  1. Full name.
  2. Their transactional information with you. That is, what did they do? Take part in x event, sign y petition, volunteer, collect or donate.
  3. Phone number. Using the phone is usually the second most effective way of converting single donors, petition signers, event goers, and others to monthly giving or larger gifts.
  4. Postal address. About 50% of the value of gifts comes from just 5% of donors. If someone gives higher than average then address (and therefore location) is very important.
  5. Age. After the actual amount someone has given, this is the best indicator of the capacity to give. It also allows you to predict lifetime value, including monthly giving retention, much better.
  6. Email. Of all digital channels, most one-off donors or people who sign petitions or surveys and then choose to become monthly givers will come from email. It is also the channel most likely to generate second gifts from one-off donors.
  7. Facebook. This social channel accounts for more than 80% of leads generated by proactive campaigns, and two-thirds of donations. Non-Facebook social accounts for less than 10%, with search and display ads less than 10% too.

That’s the basics.

I also believe we should build relationships with donors, so going beyond these basics will be very useful in the future. To gather more data — your supporter preferences, etc, we need to use the Supporter Connection Survey. Get instant access when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points: