Success Stories

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This is the first post in a 3-part guest series by Steven Screen of The Better Fundraising Company.

If you’ve ever had Analytical Ones analyze your nonprofit’s donor data, you’ve heard them say this:

“Every donor data file has a story to tell.”

I always thought that was a powerful idea: that your donors as a group, through their giving and their lack of giving, are telling your organization a story.

And as a fundraiser, I know that the story your donors are telling is mostly a response to the story that your organization is telling. Right? Your organization sends out your donor communications – the tactics and content that make up your organization’s story – and your donors either give or they don’t.

The better your story, the more money you raise.

So I got to wondering; was there a certain kind of story that lead 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?

And I work mostly with small- to medium- nonprofits, so I was specifically curious about the ‘success stories’ for organizations with three characteristics:
1. Organizations without a built-in advantage. For instance, if you’re the national organization that works on a common type of cancer, thousands of people are diagnosed each day. Those new patients, and their friends and families, are immediately potential donors for your organization. That’s a built-in advantage that most nonprofits don’t have.
2. Organizations that weren’t too big. I didn’t precisely define a number, but we all know that there are some organizations that are so big they can afford to have a robust social media strategy that loses money. I didn’t want to be paying attention to what those folks do.
3. Organizations that had both short term and long-term success. Retention rates really matter. We wanted to isolate the ‘story’ that builds relationships and revenue. Because we know that just maximizing revenue is a recipe for short-term success.

It turned out 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.

Join us next for the second blog in this series: Simplicity Before Complexity

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