I recently listened to a webcast presented by a well-known consultant in the fundraising field. He talked about donor retention and discussed five methods to retain donors. Four of the methods were spot-on: thank donors, provide great customer service, give donors an opportunity for feedback, and pick up the phone to talk with donors. These are all solid practices that will definitely help retain your donor base. Donor retention is fundamental in the fundraising world.
The last tactic offered was to “keep it boring.” It personally made me cringe. He went on to say that organizations sometimes feel the need to “jazz” things up. He warned that this was not a good idea because donors need to see a consistent message. He believes that even if the people inside an organization are tired of presenting the same message year after year, the donor is not bored.
While the underlying wisdom of keeping messaging consistent is valid, some may walk away with the misguided idea that it’s okay to be complacent, sit back, and never revisit what donors are receiving.
Don’t settle for the mediocre when communicating with your donors. With so much competition for donor dollars, your communications need to be engaging and worth the donor’s time.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy published a related article about why updating your organization is more important than ever. The author, Heather Joslyn says, “Charities sometimes need a makeover as time passes.” She featured case studies on three groups that made the decision to renovate and rework their operations and sparked new growth as a result.
Here are the six key takeaways from Joslyn’s article:
1. Embrace the role of thought leader. Speak up on issues that are related to your mission. Use your website and newsletter to convey your stand.
2. Focus on your most popular and profitable programs making sure they align with your mission. Eliminate programs that do not support your mission.
3. Know your audience. Take the time and effort to know who is using your services. All content and messaging should be targeted to them.
4. Review and rethink everything about how you operate. Analyze your metrics and key indicators. See what’s working and what’s not working. Your key metrics could be money raised, number of donors, number of new members, increases or decreases from last year.
5. Listen to the people you serve, your staff, your volunteers, and your affiliates. They may alert you to emerging problems or opportunities.
6. Invite alumni to stay involved. This is a group that is already aware of the good you do and wants to feel connected.
These actions will breathe new life into your organization and keep the passion showing. Always a good thing.
Here is another insight that should get the attention of any charitable organization or cause. Brian Sooy, the author of Raise Your Voice, says, “On average, profits are 25 percent higher for companies with a design focus, depending on the industry.” Paying attention to the quality of your messaging and materials could bring in more money. That’s more money for your programs and those you serve.
If “keep it boring” means “be trustworthy,” great. If it means “never change,” I disagree. There’s always a time and place to renovate and rejuvenate.