Simplicity Before Complexity

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This is the second blog post in a guest series by Steven Screen of The Better Fundraising Company.

Last time we asked the question: is there a certain kind of story that leads to fundraising success? For the donor files that Analytical Ones showed were doing really well, were there any commonalities in the “stories” those organizations were telling their donors?

What we found was that the organizations that outperformed their niche tended to follow a similar pattern. And it was so simple I could summarize it in just 4 words:

Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat

These organizations tended to do four things really well:
1. They were very good at the art of Asking their donors for gifts
2. They Thanked their donors promptly and emotionally
3. They Reported to their donors on what their gift had accomplished
4. They Repeated the Ask, Thank, Report rhythm multiple times each year, and they repeated the same ideas and offers throughout the year.

Mastering the Basics

Now, of course it’s more complex than that. If you read this blog you know that.

But you also know that a LOT of nonprofits chase shiny things instead of mastering the basics. And I’m here to tell you that it’s the basics of Asking, Thanking and Reporting that seemed to propel the successful organizations.

Whenever I or my co-founder, Jim Shapiro, speak at conferences we ask the audience if their organizations are good at Reporting to donors on what their gifts accomplish.

Usually about 15% to 20% of the hands go up. That means 4 out of 5 organizations are not good at telling donors that their gifts made a difference.

In a competitive marketplace, if a donor doesn’t know that her gift made a difference, can we reasonably expect her to give another gift?

And we wonder why our industry has a donor retention problem?

So, of course second gift strategies and mid-donor segmentation and donor engagement strategies matter. But in our experience, being great at Asking, Thanking well, and Reporting well matter more.

The Virtuous Circle

A virtuous circle is “a complex chain of events that reinforce itself through a feedback loop.” Sounds kind of like fundraising, doesn’t it?

And a virtuous circle has favorable results, while a vicious circle has negative results.

We came up with the Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat graphic to explain what we were seeing. Start at the Ask (like almost all donors do) and go clockwise from there . . .

The organizations that take their donors through this circle multiple times tend to build relationships and revenue over time. Because by building trust you increase your chances of getting another gift.

But when most organizations zoom out to 40,000 feet to look at their communications, they find that they do this:

Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask, e-news, Ask, Ask, Annual Report, Ask

Or this:

Ask, Ask, Brag, Ask, Ask

Many smaller organizations just see this:

Ask, Event

What does your organization do?

Join us next for the last blog post in this series: Prescriptive for Majors, Approximate for Mass

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