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...
Face-to-Face

Face-to-Face

Recently, I attended the Bridge Conference in Washington, D.C. While there, I was struck by two simple things. First of all, it sure can rain in the capital… I was in a meeting at one of the restaurants on the lower level of my hotel when one of the fountains began to flood somehow from the afternoon thunderstorm. I flashed back to the scene in the film “Titanic” when all the well-dressed people were running up the stairs to escape the water. It was quite remarkable! But more importantly, it just re-enforced for me the importance of being face-to-face with people. As an introvert, I absolutely love technologies like Google Duo, Facetime and ZOOM which allow you to have client meetings without leaving the office. Anything that helps avoid the hassle and expense of going to the airport is okay with me. However, nothing beats having the opportunity to sit down with another human being over coffee or a meal and just have a real human conversation. That’s true with your donors, too. And while it may be more difficult for some organizations, I think it’s absolutely necessary that you have some real face time (not the Apple kind) whenever possible. We humans (even us introverted ones) need this kind of interaction every now and...
Is Your BOD on Hopium?

Is Your BOD on Hopium?

I saw the term “hopium” for the first time in a recent blog by Victoria Christensen and immediately became fond of the term. As Ms. Christensen defines it: hopium is a false sense of positivity in the midst of dire, evidence-based scientific research. Now, while her context for using the term was not related to fundraising, I couldn’t help but think of all our nonprofit friends who are in the midst of finalizing their FY20 budgets. For our context, here’s an example of how to use the term “hopium”: If your BOD has asked you to increase revenue 10% next fiscal year without any increase in your development budget, they are on hopium. I don’t recall much from my Philosophy 100 class as a freshman in college, but I do remember the Latin term Ex Nilo Nil Fit coined by pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Parmenides: From Nothing, Nothing Comes. I believe there is a national hopium epidemic in our nonprofit board rooms today. Boards continue to ask development professionals to achieve lofty goals without adequately equipping them with the resources they need to get the job done. And we wonder why turnover in nonprofit development departments is so high… So, before you take your next development leadership role in a nonprofit organization, do some research to make sure the BOD isn’t on...
Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible

I recently visited with the Executive Director of a small nonprofit whose mission is mostly carried out by volunteers. And boy, was I impressed with all that they accomplish with such a lean staff. But I also wondered how much more they could do if they had just a little more budget to afford a few more paid staff. As any ED of a small nonprofit knows all too well, they end up diverting a lot of time on the important things that need attention today, rather than focusing on the big picture things that could take the organization to the next level. It leaves me conflicted honestly. On the one hand, this nonprofit organization is doing so many things right. It’s engaging its community of supporters, delivering on its mission and having a big impact on a small group of people. But on the other hand, because of its dependence on volunteers, it can’t scale its services to generate an impact on a bigger group of people. And to do that, the organization will have to change. But is bigger always...

Are My Response Rates Statistically Significant?

I’m taking a different approach in today’s blog to discuss a problem I continue to run into when I am working with clients. And that is testing whether the response rates in a direct mail test are meaningful. Now response rates are relatively uncomplicated to test. Anyone can do it. That’s because there are only two possible outcomes: Response or nonresponse. Here’s an online testing tool for you to use. After you click on the link, you will need to enter your data. The “base sizes” are the number of pieces mailed in each of your tests. The “proportions” are the number of responses for each test divided by the number of mailed. You can choose your confidence level (we recommend 90%), and then click calculate. Voila! I suggest using a 90% confidence level because it is a high standard. That means if you have this difference in 100 tests, in 90 of those tests the difference will be real. The “Results” box will state either “Significant” or “NOT Significant.” You don’t need to understand statistics to use this tool! Another helpful metric to know is your average gift size. Now, testing average gift size is more work to calculate, because the values you are testing can range from $0.01 to $1 million or more. That means you can’t use summary statistics (averages) to calculate significance. Instead, you need the entire gift distribution. Plus, you will need a more robust software tool than Excel to do this. We use SPSS. We suggest that you talk with your analytics people to have them help you through testing average gift size...

People First, CRM Second

A festering trend of the past decade is many of our clients have migrated from micro-computer based fundraising databases to CRM (Constituent Relationship Management) cloud-based databases. And for 10-years we continue to see too many of these organizations’ ability to leverage their data for insights decline. Rather than the CRM serving the nonprofit, it seems like the nonprofit now must serve the CRM. I still find this so ironic and frustrating. Databases don’t solve problems – people solve problems. I know it’s not any one CRM or any one client. I think most every organization underestimates the commitment of undertaking migrating to a CRM. They also underestimate the cultural change required to harness the power of CRM – which includes adding highly trained (and highly salaried) fundraising professionals to run it. Most organizations understand the need for CRM and are willing to swallow the expensive of the database infrastructure, but in my experience, too few organizations have been willing to cover the cost to train their people adequately or add CRM professionals who know fundraising to their payrolls. It’s like building a fancy new library, filling the library with books, magazines and periodicals, and then not hiring any librarians. A lot of clients come to us asking our opinion about what database they should choose. And the first question I ask is how are they leveraging the current data they already have? The better investment may be to make sure you have the right people who can use data to solve your...