The Hard Work of Volunteering

Seems like one of the constant topics in the nonprofit blogosphere is this idea of growing your donor base through providing volunteer opportunities. My personal experience has been quite the opposite really. Being an introverted analyst, I am always hesitant to volunteer for anything because that likely means some type of social interaction with strangers will be part of the experience. But last fall, I found a local organization that I was really interested in. I reached out to them, and they said they needed a long-term volunteer with a very particular skill set, one that I had and was excited to share. They were excited too. Three-times I followed up with them to set a time to get started. And each time I heard the same thing: Someone will get right back to you. And no one ever did. Sadly, I don’t think my experience is that unique. One has to be very persistent to become a volunteer. Now, I understand that people at nonprofits have a lot on their plates. I get that. But by not following through, I went from someone who was super interested in the organization to “forget them” in three short calls. So, rather than volunteering being a path to becoming a donor, if an organization is not careful, it will became a shortcut to becoming a lapsed...

My Fall In-Box

I don’t know about you, but I received far fewer direct mail appeals this fall (between October 1st and December 31st.) Last year, I received an even 50 direct mail appeals. This year, I received only 30. That’s a 40% decrease in volume, which is significant. During the last week of the year, I received 99 e-mail appeals (this is the first year I have tracked this metric). Half of those came on the final two days of the year. Here is a recap of the direct mail I received this year, and the insights I noted: Of the 30 pieces of direct mail, 15 mailings were appeals from 8 organizations I have previously supported, while 15 pieces were new donor acquisition kits from 11 organizations. Once again, I received the most pieces from The Salvation Army (7) – though four of the mailings were duplicates. I have supported The Army in two different Divisions, both of which sent me identical appeals. I contacted one Division about this issue last year, but the message must not have reached the right people. World Vision and World Wild Life Found sent me the two catalogs I received I did not receive any newsletters.For acquisition, I received three premium packages. One was from St. Jude with address labels and a notepad, and I received two handbags from Doctors Without Borders. My team and I are looking forward to analyzing all the end of year data these fall appeals have generated. We’re looking forward to seeing your data,...

A Cautionary Tale of Stopping New Donor Acquisition

As I’ve shared before, one of our most common analyses, sadly, is projecting what happens to a donor file’s active counts if an organization decides to discontinue new donor acquisition – after all, new donor acquisition is just too expensive. Well, today’s graph is not a projection . . . but a real-life example of what happens to donor file when an organization stops acquiring new donors for just two years. Figure 1: Active Donor Counts Not sure I need to say anything else. What a total unmitigated disaster. In just two years of not acquiring new donors, this organization’s active donor counts were cut in half. This organization now faces the dim prospect of having to invest more in new donor acquisition over the next several years just to get back to where they were in FY17. So unnecessary. If you (or your client) is considering such a decision, please, please, show them this...
Fall Forecast

Fall Forecast

Not to be a Negative Nelly, but do y’all remember last December? Last December we had the triple-downer of: a sharp stock market decline;a government shutdown; andgeneral political divisiveness. The net effect was one of the poorest performing fundraising Decembers of the past decade. If you’ve read the news lately, among the headlines are topics such as: stock market nervousness over the China trade-war (and September/October historically tends to be a common month for crashes);concern of a government shutdown on September 30 over the Administration’s plan to cutoff of international aid; andgeneral political divisiveness. In times of economic uncertainty, donors are hesitant to add new organizations to their giving portfolios. This could mean a rough acquisition season. However, your most loyal donors tend to step up their giving during adverse economic environments. Hopefully I’m wrong and we’ll have a stellar fall acquisition season where the money just rolls in. But on the chance that my concerns are justified, it might be good to start planning for a CYE telemarketing campaign to your best donors to fill the potential gap. I know a lot of organizations (more correctly, their BODs) hate TM. But may I suggest one piece of advice: get over it. TM works. And in economic adverse times, your organization needs to utilize all the tools available to secure the funds you need to fulfill your...
O.I. = Success

O.I. = Success

In a blog last month, I challenged you peruse the A.I. articles in your LinkedIn account, and I predicted that the articles would fall into two categories: A.I. will save us!A.I. will doom us! Anyone who has read my blogs knows that I tend to Andy Rooney like on new technologies. I think it comes with age. During my career I have heard so many promises of how technologies will make our lives better, only to experience the disappointment of experiencing no improvement. Or in some cases, the horror of a new technology leaving us worse off. But here’s the thing, A.I. will rely on your organization’s O.I. (Organic Intelligence). Without the O.I., you will not be able to leverage the A.I. And really, you don’t need to be chasing A.I. yet. There is plenty of low-hanging fruit harnessing the data you already have on your database. That is, if you get your organization’s O.I. right. Start...