Categories
Case Study Donor Participation Project

W&M’s Successful Donor Participation Strategy

Video only available to Donor Participation Project members.

This session has passed. DPP members can access a video recording, slides, and other materials shared by the presenter. We also hold a small group discussion the week after every presentation for further discussion and networking! Make sure to sign up here to get access.

Matthew Lambert, CEO, William & Mary Foundation, and Dan Frezza,  Associate Vice President for Strategic Operations & Annual Giving guided a Donor Participation Project session on the details of their successful alumni giving participation strategy during their last campaign.

Some interesting takeaways were:

  • Every donor interaction mentioned the three campaign goals of increasing alumni engagement, increasing alumni giving participation, and reaching the campaign’s dollar goal.
  • They exploded their alumni engagement from about 10,000 touchpoints with alumni per year at the start of the campaign to over 30,000 by the last year of the campaign.
  • They grew their Class Ambassadors program from 200 to over 800 volunteers.
  • Their Giving Day also grew exponentially, and they viewed it as both an engagement and giving participation opportunity.
  • Leadership (President, Board, VP Advancement) must make participation a priority.
  • It is not a matter of either raising given dollar amounts OR achieving a participation goal, it has to be seen as giving AND participation.
  • Success requires a broad-based focus, across campus.
  • Diversification of the donor base is key (i.e. women in philanthropy, underrepresented populations).
  • The main indicators of giving habits are: giving history, consistency, frequency, and gift amount.
  • You must choose one among these three high-level goals: Retention, Reactivation, Acquisition. It will most likely be Retention.
  • With Reactivation, time is not on your side. After 5 years, donors are as likely to come back as a non-donor.
  • In the Acquisition bucket, newly graduated students were an important source of growth.
  • Key drivers of their success were: increased retention (year over year giving), increased gift frequency (within a year), stewardship of good behavior (i.e. consecutive giving society).

Learn more about the Donor Participation Project and sign up here.

Categories
Donor Participation Project Resources

Monthly Giving: All or Nothing

Nicole Stern, membership director at WDSE WRPT Public Television joined the Donor Participation Project to share her knowledge of monthly giving fundraising.

Monthly Giving with Nicole Stern, membership director at WDSE WRPT Public Television

What is monthly giving?

Monthly giving, also called sustainer giving or recurring giving, consists of setting up an automatically renewing monthly gift to a nonprofit. It is the equivalent of a subscription.

What are the benefits of monthly giving for nonprofits?

Monthly donors have both a higher retention rate as well as a higher lifetime value. Over time, these two facts compound to create important positive effects on the revenue available to fulfill your mission as well as your donor engagement efforts.

How can I start a monthly giving program?

You must embrace monthly giving as a new of doing business for your annual fund.

Simply adding a checkbox under an existing online form is not enough. You must make it clear in all your outreach efforts (digital, mail, phone) that monthly giving is the default and best way to make a gift to your organization.

Won’t monthly giving preclude me from requesting higher gifts from loyal donors?

On the contrary, monthly donors are especially receptive to upgrade asks as well as to planned giving conversations. An established monthly giving program also frees up resources that you can invest in improved stewardship and more donor engagement.

How hard is it to start a monthly giving program?

These are the areas you need to pay attention to if you want to start a monthly giving program:

  • Executive buy-in. Use the data in the presentation above to make your case. A full re-orientation of your annual fund to monthly giving will require changes in all your operations and in your cash flow.
  • Gift processing. Monthly gifts turn one gift processing transaction into twelve. Fields may need to be added to code the gifts. For example, storing the credit card expiration date in your CRM can help you get ahead of credit card renewals.
  • Digital communications. Your main gift form will need to make it clear that monthly giving is the default and most convenient way to give.
  • Branding the program. Many organizations give a name to their monthly giving program (Sustainer Circle, Evergreen, etc.) to make it clear that this is something special.

Categories
Donor Participation Project

10/14/20 Lunch Analysis: Sustainer Giving, All or Nothing

As part of the Donor Participation Project, this Lunch Analysis session will be guided by Nicole Stern, Membership Director at WDSE WRPT Public Television.

Recurring (sustainer) giving has numerous advantages for your organization including predictable long-term revenue, increased donor loyalty, higher donor retention and lifetime value, and incredible upgrade potential. We’ll explore how to prepare your fundraising shop to implement a sustainer program, how to create and execute fundraising strategies to take advantage of this transformational way of giving, and how to avoid any potential pitfalls.

Nicole was featured in an article on sustainer giving in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which is included in the Required Preparation section below.

Brainstorm and Discuss this Topic With Peers During our October 14 Lunch Analysis

Lunch Analysis is a 45-minute meeting that is a part study group, part scholarly discussion, part brainstorming session, and part support group. Participation is open to all who fundraise or have fundraised at a nonprofit.

Each Lunch Analysis covers a specific topic in donor participation and has required preparation and discussion. This one will be on October 14, 2020 at noon EST.

Required Preparation

Read the following three articles:

BehavioralScientist.org

Explore the PBS Sustainer Learning Center

Jot down the answers to these questions:

  • Have you attempted to implement a sustainer giving program?
  • What results have you seen?
  • What internal or external resistance have you encountered?

Sign Up

    I verify that all participants are from a legitimate nonprofit fundraising organization.

    Past Sessions

    8/19/20 Lunch Analysis: How We Gather (Millenial engagement, community-building)

    9/16/20 Lunch Analysis: Growing Engagement Among Underrepresented Groups

    Categories
    Donor Participation Project Resources

    Growing Donor Engagement Among Underrepresented Groups

    Our second Donor Participation Project meeting was about increasing representation and diversity in our donor populations.

    Guided by Patrick Powell, CFRE, MBA, we had a lively conversation and learned a lot.

    You can read and contribute to the session notes in this Google Doc.

    Additional insights:

    There was a common preconception in the industry: “It is going to take you so much longer to get a gift from a non-white donor.”

    As soon as I made it my intention to build relationships with Black donors, in that same year I raised close to $250k from 2-3 donors.

    It was about: 1) Getting in front of them to let them know that they were important to the institution, regardless of race or color, and that we recognize that they are making an impact and are making a difference as graduates; 2) Letting them know that we want to connect them and get them involved in whatever way is important to them; and 3) Asking them how do they want to put their stamp on an institution where, if they didn’t feel connected, we have a whole group of students who we don’t want to go through the same experience. Tell them, “You have the ability to change that.”

    Join the Conversation

    Sign Up

    Sign up to join the Donor Participation Project learning sessions or to contribute to any of our docs:

      We will only use your email for information about the Donor Participation Project and will never share your information with anyone else.

      Categories
      Resources

      Dealing with Conflict

      Situations of conflict with our donors and community members can lead to positive outcomes as long as appropriate conflict resolution skills are utilized. And yet, fundraisers and nonprofit organizations tend to avoid them.

      As an experienced fundraiser once told me:

      I’ll take a strong reaction, even if it is negative, over apathy any day.

      Major Gifts Fundraiser

      Lead with Active Listening and Empathy

      Who are the experts in de-escalating highly agitated situations and lead them to constructive and safe outcomes? Even if your community members are probably not going to be physically violent, the techniques and research generated by the FBI can be helpful.

      The Behavior Change Stairway Model was developed by the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit. This model offers five steps to get other people to see your point of view and change their behavior.

      You can read the full paper here:

      From Stanford’s Game Design Thinking blog

      Behavioral Change Stairway Model

      1. Active Listening: Truly listen and make the other party aware that you’re listening.
      2. Empathy: Understand their position not only intellectually, but also emotionally. What are they feeling?
      3. Rapport: One the other party starts to feel that you understand them. Trust starts to build here.
      4. Influence: At this point, you can start to work on problem-solving with them. They may listen to your recommended course of action.
      5. Behavioral Change: They act.

      Common Errors

      Typically, people try to start directly with #4 (Influence) and expect #5 (Behavioral Change) to happen. This often leads to failure.

      Going into a conflict-laden conversation saying “these are the reasons why your position is wrong” is unlikely to cause any behavioral change because human beings are primarily emotional.

      Pretending that most people are completely rational will, more often than not, make your conversation fail.

      Active Listening Techniques

      General tips from Eric Barker’s blog:

      1. Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
      2. Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
      3. Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
      4. Inquire. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.

      Additional techniques used by FBI negotiators:

      1. Ask open-ended questions
        You don’t want yes-no answers, you want them to open up.
      1. Effective pauses
        Pausing is powerful. Use it for emphasis, to encourage someone to keep talking or to defuse things when people get emotional.
      1. Minimal encouragers
        Brief statements to let the person know you’re listening and to keep them talking.
      1. Mirroring
        Repeating the last word or phrase the person said to show you’re listening and engaged. Yes, it’s that simple — just repeat the last word or two:
      1. Paraphrasing
        Repeating what the other person is saying back to them in your own words. This powerfully shows you really do understand and aren’t merely parroting.
      1. Emotional labeling
        Give their feelings a name. It shows you’re identifying with how they feel. Don’t comment on the validity of the feelings — they could be totally crazy — but show them you understand.

      Donor Conflict Resources

      Never Split the Difference, book by Chris Voss

      Vecchi, Gregory M. “Conflict & crisis communication: a methodology for influencing and persuading behavioral change.” Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, vol. 12, no. 1, Spring 2009, p. 34+. Accessed 12 Sept. 2020.

      Vecchi, G.M., Van Hasselt, V.B. and Romano, S.J., 2005. Crisis (hostage) negotiation: Current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution. Aggression and Violent Behavior10(5), pp.533-551.

      Categories
      Donor Participation Project

      9/16/20 Lunch Analysis: Growing Engagement Among Underrepresented Groups

      This session has passed. Read the summary and takeaway points here.

      How have you tried to broaden your donor base and make it more representative? What has worked for you? What backfired?

      As part of the Donor Participation Project, this Lunch Analysis session will be guided by Patrick Powell, AVP of Volunteer Engagement and Donor Philanthropy at Morehouse School of Medicine.

      An expert in donor engagement and community-building, Patrick is part of one of the fastest-growing institutions in the country at Morehouse School of Medicine.

      Brainstorm and Discuss this Topic With Peers During our September 16 Lunch Analysis

      Lunch Analysis is a 45-minute meeting that is a part study group, part scholarly discussion, part brainstorming session, and part support group. Participation is open to all who fundraise or have fundraised at a nonprofit.

      Each Lunch Analysis covers a specific topic in donor participation and has required preparation and discussion. This one will be on September 16, 2020 at noon EST.

      Required Preparation

      Take a moment to jot down the answer to the following questions:

      • What is the percentage of alumni giving/participation for your Black and or Latino donors?
      • Has leadership placed an emphasis on engaging donors of color at your institution?
        • If yes, what are the strategies or best practices you’re utilizing to identify and cultivate this constituent group(s)?
        • If no, what do you perceive the barriers are to these discussions? 
      • How has that impacted your desire to cultivate these specific groups if at all?
      • Have you experienced any success or rejection as a result? 

      Sign Up

        I verify that all participants are from a legitimate nonprofit fundraising organization.

        Past Sessions

        8/19/20 Lunch Analysis: How We Gather (Millenial engagement, community-building)

        Participants

        Adrian Annette Owen, CFRE, AVP for Advancement Services at LSU Foundation

        Allison Kerivan, Director Of Annual Giving at Bentley University

        Benjamin Osterhaut, Director of Annual Giving at Elizabethtown College

        Billie Handa, Director of the Annual Fund, Denison University

        Cameron Hall, Senior Director of Annual Giving at Texas Tech University

        Hawken Brackett, Executive Director of Strategic Engagement at The University of Alabama

        James Barnard, Executive Director of Annual Giving and Integrated Marketing at University of Cincinnati Foundation

        Jayanne Sevast, Director of Development, Annual Campaigns at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

        Miriam McLean, Director of Development, University Initiatives at Tufts University

        Patrick Powell, MBA, CFRE, Senior Development Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

        Sean Devendorf, Senior Director of Annual Giving, University Advancement at Tufts University

        Sierra Rosen, Executive Director of Planned Giving at Brown University

        Categories
        Donor Participation Project Resources

        Donor Participation Project Kickoff: How We Gather Report

        Angie Thurston of Sacred Design joined a group of fundraisers as part of the Donor Participation Project to discuss the implications of the How We Gather report for nonprofit engagement and donor participation.

        The document below summarizes the main points discussed:

        • The sector also needs a reliable way to know what is working well in the areas of donor engagement. In the current pandemic environment, especially in the area of digital engagement.
        • Angie shared a great thought:

        People come for [the workout/artistic self-expression/having dinner with like-minded individuals/something else] but they stay for the community.

        • Donor participation as it is sometimes defined can become a superficial numbers game. A deeper definition of authentic donor engagement is seen as necessary.
        • It is important that there is wide representation among donor constituencies. The current trend toward fewer donors making larger gifts feels undemocratic.

        Q: What are the common threads among the organizations in your report that have been able to grow large communities?

        “Community” is a word that is frequently used in an empty way, but we its true that we found a hunger for authentic community. This is different from something like “networking,” which can be valuable in its own right.

        Q: Larger, more established nonprofits include a broad variety of interests under their umbrella. How can we connect with and leverage those communities?

        In larger nonprofits, like universities, communities develop organically around different issues. Sometimes these communities have a separate identity from the main organization. How do we have those communities embrace the values of the “mothership”?

        Angie: This reminds me of meetup.com. There are thousands of communities made possible by this platform but its members identify with each other not with meetup.com. Some suggestions:

        Q: How do we message the values of the organization, especially to sub-communities that have their own values?

        Angie: Messaging about values depends on the extent to which the “real thing” is happening. Naming “values” is more effective if they match what is already going on. Otherwise, they come across as empty.

        People should testify to the values of their community, based on their experience.

        This connection between what is really happening and the official “values” can break down as organizations scale and grow. Some organizations are so reliant on the founder for these values that they fall apart when he or she is not there. We’ve all been guilty of this: “Developing Leaders for the 21st Century” sounds empty.

        The statement of values is less important than the lived experience.

        Among Millenials, there is a noticeable search for community, accountability, and an authentic voice. Communities must engage their constituents to be active, be purposeful, and demonstrate value to their members.

        Angie: What we found striking is that lot of people (especially Millenials) are looking for deep community. But they are hesitant to talk about it in those terms (there is still a stigma for “loneliness”). People are wary of hyperbole. What they find appealing is “come play live music for one hour.” In other words, they want to hear the unexagerated reality of what the offering is.

        Messaging should come from this lense. What are you actually doing? In real-life terms? Why have you made the decision to do that? Corporate messaging has exploited the word community and other concepts so much that people are hungry for a sense of reality.

        Participants:

        Khadija Hill
        James Barnard
        Hawken Brackett
        Franklin Guerrero
        Cathy Dodge-Miller
        Patrick Powell
        Ivan Alekhin
        Angel Terol
        Joanna Schofield
        Sierra Rosen
        Tilghman Moyer
        Patrick Powell
        Michael Spicer
        Rebekkah Brown
        Louis Diez

        Categories
        Resources

        Should we have suggested donation amounts?

        Question from a reader:

        This discussion came up, and I was hoping you may be able to direct me to some resources I can share with her to make the internal case for ask amounts in appeals. Thanks for anything you can pass along!

        I have a difficult time convincing that specific ask amounts work. Am I completely off base?

        Including a suggested ask amount is considered a fundraising best practice. As such, it’s included in the fundraising letter checklist.

        There is scientific research that shows that including a suggested donation amount gets more people to give. They also tend to give the amount you suggest.

        References:

        Edwards, J. T., & List, J. A. (2014). Toward an understanding of why suggestions work in charitable fundraising: Theory and evidence from a natural field experiment. Journal of Public Economics114, 1-13.

        Goswami, I., & Urminsky, O. (2016). When should the ask be a nudge? The effect of default amounts on charitable donations. Journal of Marketing Research53(5), 829-846.

        Reiley, D., & Samek, A. (2017). Round giving: A field experiment on suggested charitable donation amounts in public television. University of Southern California working paper.

        Categories
        Donor Participation Project Resources

        How to Grow Giving Participation

        I recently shared a list of US higher ed institutions with a high growth rate. Specifically, alumni giving participation growth between 2009 and 2019.

        My team and I have been interviewing the top 10 in the nation. This varied list includes Ellon University, Villanova University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Princeton University. Here is what we’re learning:

        Donor growth is (one of) the VPs personal priorities

        Growing organizations have the unit in charge of growing this metric (typically “Annual Giving” or “Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement”) reporting directly to them.

        They act like “community incubators”

        A “community incubator” is a term I created to describe organizations that are constantly generating different engagement opportunities for their donor base. “It’s a volume business,” one of the growing org VPs shared with us.

        None of the schools told us that they had just grown and grown their existing engagement opportunities (i.e. reunion program, alumni board) to reach their ambitious growth goals.

        Instead, they told us that they were constantly innovating and finding new segments and designing engagement opportunities for these constituencies: primary care physicians, alumni business owner marketplace, athletics-focused groups, the list goes on and on.

        They do not shy away from transactional exchanges

        All the growing schools embraced the fact that, at times, people will just “give to get.”

        What they get can vary from access (“dinner with the president”) to simple incentives and promo items in the public radio-style, or simply satisfaction (“the 100th gift will unlock $10,000 to a specific program!”). Often, this is done to promote first, second, and third gifts.

        Intensive use of incentives, challenges, and matches are an integral part of all of these programs.

        They make recurring gifts easy and emphasize this way of giving wherever possible

        They all have robust offerings and streamlined systems for monthly giving and multi-year pledges that you can make online, on the phone, or by mail.

        They experiment and change their org chart based on priorities and team strengths

        If they’re convinced that annual giving and engagement are two parts of the same coin, they will put them together in the same department. If they believe that a certain area needs more attention, they will have it report directly to the VP. If they believe that this is no longer the case, they will change the org chart again.

        Stagnation and rigidity are not part of the vocabulary at any of these organizations.

        Categories
        Resources

        Emotion-Based Fundraising May Not Work In the Long Run

        This article is not about fundraising and yet it answers some good fundraising questions.

        An article on behavioralscientist.org on why behaviors based on emotions do not last.

        Why giving days and other giving events work and why they sometimes struggle to retain the new donors they generate.

        Why the design of your gift form (online or paper) is more important than you think.

        Why we should think about defaulting to monthly giving.

        Why we should consider the global effect on fundraising capacity of our decisions, not just how many dollars the next letter will raise.

        Recommended read.