Granny’s $5 birthday surprise won’t cut it any longer.

Granny’s $5 birthday surprise won’t cut it any longer.

I’m on the 3rd floor of a Michigan Avenue focus group facility with a group of healthcare donors. I’ve just finished describing the directions of one my go-to exercises. They’re being asked to allocate $100 how they please across the organization. A male baby-boomer, on the younger side of the boom, says something unexpected: “I can’t allocate $100… because I would be embarrassed to give this organization just $100.” What just happened? $100 is a decent gift for a direct mail donor right? $100 used to really mean something in this business! Not anymore. Not like it used to anyway. This particular focus group was 3 years ago. I’ve been following this trend through my other research since. In many settings we’ve validated that younger donors have higher first gift amounts in acquisition. But why? It’s the same reason granny sends $5 bills in birthday cards. Our perception of the value of a dollar is very different by generation. At least, that was my hypothesis. So, I tested this assumption on a survey of 300 donors. I asked, “What is the minimum gift you could make to an organization and actually make a difference?” This is an adaptation of the Van Westendorp’s Price Sensitivity Meter question: “At what price would you consider the product to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn’t be very good?” The results supported my hypothesis in a way a researchers only dreams about: Mean Response: Donors under 55: $171 Donors 55-70: $68 Donors 70+ $35 What does this mean? Well, in today’s world it means your low ask-strings in direct...
Fundraising Facts Over Fundraising Feelings

Fundraising Facts Over Fundraising Feelings

We have entered an interesting season in America. Seems like “facts” are being treated like just another opinion. And the consequence is that if facts and opinions are equals, then making your direct response fundraising decisions based on feelings is an equally valid approach. And that would be a mistake. A HUGE mistake. I was reminded of how feelings can misguide us. We completed one of our Offer Forecasting studies last month. Offer Forecasting leverages online surveys to predict whether donors will open a direct mail piece. It also measure donors’ likelihood to give to a certain offer. Before our latest Offer Forecasting study went into the field, everyone at Analytical Ones made friendly wagers on which of the nine offers we were testing would be rated the highest by the donors. Knowing the client and their donors as well as I do (I mean I’ve worked with the client for years, plus I have 20-more years of direct response experience) I was pretty confident that the offer I chose would win. And my pick came in dead last. In. Dead. Last. My business partner has a great saying when fundraising “experts” try to predict how donors will respond. She will say emphatically: “Repeat after me. YOU are not the target audience!” This why we at Analytical Ones always base our recommendations solidly on the facts. And though it may be trendy at the moment to go with your feelings, we implore you to use fundraising facts over fundraising feelings in...
Who Are Your Donors? Personas Can Tell You!

Who Are Your Donors? Personas Can Tell You!

I attended a conference in the Spring and went to several sessions on online marketing for nonprofits. There was a lot of discussion in the break-out sessions on Personas, and even a whole session dedicated to that topic. So, what is a Persona? Wikipedia defines a Persona as a “fictional character created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way.” It adds that “Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of brand buyers and users in order to help to guide decisions about a service or product such as features, interactions, and visual design of a website.” I’ve seen that Personas can be extremely useful when creating a marketing campaign or designing a website. They can help to make sure that the entire team can visualize the audience for the marketing effort. Hubspot even has this useful template for creating personas. But, the key to creating useful personas is good research. The Hubspot template says “Donor personas are created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. … You’ll collect data that is both qualitative and quantitative to paint a picture of who your ideal donor is, what inspires them, and how they can or cannot relate to your mission.” Has your organization used Personas? Were they helpful or not? As an article on Personas in The Guardian states, “Everyone thinks they know who their audience is but without data, it’s just a guessing...
Listening to Donors

Listening to Donors

We talk to – or talk “at” – our donors a lot, through our websites, our direct mail, our annual reports and other marketing and fundraising information, but how often do we actually LISTEN to our donors. Sure, we’ll listen IF they call or email or contact us on social media, and IF we are good fundraisers and IF we have good, trained donor service professionals who answer the phone. But, how often do we solicit thoughts, ideas and feedback from our donors? For most non-profits, not too often. We’re not having a conversation with our donors. We’re having a one-way stream (or barrage?) of information FROM us TO them. As donors grow more sophisticated about giving and more questioning of non-profits, that’s just not going to cut it anymore. Donors want interaction and input. A great way to get that feedback, those ideas, that interaction and input is through Donor Surveys. I’m not going to tell you why you shouldn’t design a survey yourself. My business partner Joe already did that. But, I am going to suggest if you’re not already doing it that you strongly consider doing a donor survey this year and that you continue to do regular, ongoing surveys. And I’d love to hear other ways that you are listening to donors. Whatever you’re doing over the next few days, stop talking. Listen to your...
To Have and To Hold

To Have and To Hold

Looking back over the past year, one of the most interesting things that I heard came from a very sharp client at a meeting at the beginning of December. We were talking about whether Direct Mail is still viable and valuable in today’s fundraising climate. She quoted to me the 7 P’s of Marketing and stated that Direct Mail is not dead because of the 7th P – Physical Evidence. Donors have more trust in an organization if they have something that they can touch and feel. Something that proves to them that the organization is real and does good work. A recent Agitator article also quoted a study from the Royal Mail saying that one of the biggest reasons that direct mail continues to work is… Touch! “Yes”, they said, “humans still like to touch stuff.” Based on these theories, Direct Mail will never go away. People still like to have something to hold in our hands, something tactile. Something that we can touch and feel and that proves to us that the organization is real and not on just our screen. Email, social media and other online communications – for all their benefits – will never be able provide...
Marketing / Anti-Marketing

Marketing / Anti-Marketing

This blog is a little different. Sometimes, even among us, we don’t agree on things. Here’s one example. Bill: If you ask 10 people to define marketing in the nonprofit space, chances are, you will get 10 different answers. Here’s the one answer I like, paraphrased from my marketing professor Dr. Bob Colby at Northern Arizona University: Marketing is finding offers that donors want to give to. In other words, offers should not be static. We should constantly be asking donors what they want to give to and adjust our programs to deliver what the donor wants. Far too often when we are doing offer development research for clients, and the immediate response to any new offer is, “We can’t use that offer. We’d have to change our programs.” Bingo. That’s not a marketing attitude. That’s an anti-marketing attitude that will lead an organization down the path of irrelevancy. Sumarie: Well, that’s very interesting and I don’t agree. When I worked at CARE – through testing – we knew that donors responded best to simple, straight-forward “feed a child”-type appeals. While occasionally programs would require that children are given nutritious food, most often the best way to help a child was to provide the parents with training and agricultural tools to provide ongoing sustenance to their families, and hopefully to make a living, too. A negative example of nonprofits changing their programs to meet a donor’s whim is when a major donor left a substantial bequest to a number of nonprofits. The donation was earmarked for programs that would change the core focus of the nonprofits away from social...