The myth that our donors are unique and special snowflakes

Charitable people do charitable things.

Things, plural.

There’s a reason that most of the outside lists and people that you pursue to be donors to your organization aren’t from a cohort of magazine subscribers or motorcycle enthusiasts or even a political party.  They are from other nonprofits: charitable people do charitable things.

Russ Reid’s Heart of the Donor survey indicates that the average donor gives to six different nonprofits.  If anything, my experience would say that this number is a bit low.  I once modeled a list of walkers and it indicates than the median walker gave to nine other nonprofits.  It’s the same reason multis are the most profitable donors to acquire.

Charitable people do charitable things.

Yes, it’s a tautology.  But it’s one we often forget when we make our policies around fundraising, especially when we put up walls around our donors internally.

We must accept that our donors will be charitably promiscuous.  Personally, I’ve been impacted by or had family and friends impacted by Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer, depression, heart disease, kidney disease, MS, sexual assault, suicide, and more.  That’s life.  And people who give will give.

We are in that competitive environment.  And the way to differentiate ourselves is to build closer ties to our donors, not to try to build walls around them.  As French playwright Andre Gide said, “It is not enough to be loved — I wish to be preferred.”*

So why do we:

Eschew list cooperatives?  This is a way to take other organizations’ best donors and build models that allow you to get the best of the best.  If you are doing a good job of focusing on your donors, you will be able to steal them away.  If you are doing a bad job, you were going to lose those donors anyway.  You didn’t deserve them.

Not try to get donors who are uniquely tied to us?  This sounds like it contradicts the entire rest of the post.  But if you are worried about fishing in overfished waters (and you should be), you are then looking at how to bring people into your organization who may not have given to nonprofits before.  That starts with content marketing and with lead generation tools, especially online.  This is when it pays to have a strong vision of your donor and constituent journeys.

Try to protect our event donors from becoming organizational donors?  This confounds me, because a quality direct marketing program can help increase both event and non-event giving.  Moreover, you get people who are more connected to the organization.  And when these people are already giving to 6-9 other organizations, usually through direct marketing, unilateral disarmament doesn’t seem the wisest approach.

We’ll talk more about the data on this tomorrow.

 

* No, I haven’t ever read any of Andre Gide’s plays or really know who he is.  He was quoted in I’m With Stupid, a book that while not on the same intellectual level, is waaaaay funnier.

The myth that our donors are unique and special snowflakes

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