Retiring the Term “Donor Engagement”

Retiring the Term “Donor Engagement”

I woke up this morning with the need to cease using the term donor engagement. It needs to be laid to rest. This is a serious personal drag because it now means I need to remove all those blogs we have written on the topic. But nonetheless, I am retiring the word from my vocabulary. I think you should too. Here’s why:  It’s a top down word. You’d never here a donor say: “I’m going to engage with my favorite nonprofit organization today.” Donor engagement is an institutional term. And if we are truly to be donor-central, then we must retire the words and ways that don’t support that goal. The term is a euphemism. When development people say donor engagement they really mean is “let’s engage the donor with the hope that they give us more money.” Let’s be honest: donor engagement has become synonymous with donor cultivation. Language is important. I believe donors want their nonprofits to sound like real people who are working in great movements to change the world for the better. I think we need a new term, and it needs to be honest. What do you...
The Power of Anonymity

The Power of Anonymity

I have a daughter graduating from high school this month. Her class is heading for a mission trip to serve an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for a week. For her to go on this trip, she had to raise her own support of $1,500, or pay for it out of her savings. Honestly, I was hoping that she could raise half of the money, and then we’d kick in the other half. So, she started her own GoFundMe campaign, and to my utter shock, in the first day she hit her fundraising goal. Apparently, there were a couple of anonymous donors who made some big gifts. I don’t know who these people are, but I am grateful to them. And because I don’t know who these people are (they might even be reading this blog) I am motivated to be grateful to everyone I talk to. Because, I just don’t know. That got me thinking. In my line of work, we go to great lengths to segment donors based on their past or potential giving. And while I have oodles of data that show this is an effective utilitarian approach, I wonder if this approach does cause us to curtail our gratitude? I take these kinds of questions seriously. It’s one of the reasons I love fundraising. We are always struggling to optimize fundraising with a balance of art and science. And while we at Analytical Ones always think your decision should be anchored in the data, they must also be anchored in...
A heartfelt thank you can come from the most surprising places

A heartfelt thank you can come from the most surprising places

Penelope Burk’s research confirms there is nothing more important than the donor acknowledgement letter. “Our research confirms that a beautifully crafted acknowledgement letter, promptly received, is all that it takes to make donors want to give again,” stated Burk. But, if as a fundraiser, you are feeling, well a bit uninspired, and can’t get the creative juices flowing to craft that beautiful acknowledgement letter than I have a suggestion for you. Try hosting a thank you letter writing contest with all your coworkers (and even volunteers) and you might find that the most heartfelt thank you letter can come from the most surprising places. Sometimes it comes from those individuals delivering service for your organization or you might be surprised when someone in your finance department crafts a letter that moves you to tears. This idea came from our fundraising friends over at Mile High United Way. They kicked off the contest by providing staff members with an overview of Penelope’s “20 Characteristics of a Great Thank You Letter” in order to give letter writers some guidance. You can offer prizes for the best letters but of course the greatest reward is an acknowledgement letter that provokes donors to give again to your...