I know you’re busy with 4th Quarter madness so I’ll do the bottomline first: if you want to improve your net income, think like a donor. For our “for profit” friends, think like your customer to improve your net income. Simple as that. Now you can go back to putting the finishing touches on your 4th Quarter contact strategy or whatever is next on your list…or keep reading.
Hoots and I gave a gift to a local animal organization last year. I’ll leave it vague to protect them but let’s just say they are a small, regional nonprofit helping animals. Exactly who they are isn’t as important as what happened. I’ll call them “Animal Helpers” which is NOT their name.
We gave a $25 gift. We were first-time givers to Animal Helpers. We gave only because a friend asked that instead of gifts for her birthday, we give to her charity of choice. So we made a gift in honor of her. We made that clear.
We received a nice hand-written thank you and acknowledgment from the Executive Director of Animal Helpers. Really nice. And at this point, they “knew” why we gave.
And then we received a direct-mail appeal from Animal Helpers. No real surprise there, but the assumption was (and we know how bad assumptions are) that we were donors. While we’d given a gift we really weren’t donors. We love our friend and gave because she asked us to. We really didn’t know anything about Animal Helpers before or after we gave our gift. And they really didn’t make the case for why we should give again. So we didn’t.
Then a few months later, Animal Helpers invited us to a Tea. That was sort of cool, I don’t get invited to many Teas. We had the option to reserve seats for $30 a person or we could just buy the whole table for $210 (that’s for 8 seats so the quantity discount is helpful). It did sound like I could wear my tux which was a plus, but there was no information telling us what tea was about…or why I might want to go (other than getting to go to a tea in my tux). So we didn’t respond.
That was a month or so ago.
Over the weekend, Animal Helpers sent us our “2011 Membership Materials” in a big, heavy 9X12 business envelope. Wow! I didn’t know I was a member! It was excellent. Full color 2011 calendar with photos of animals helped. Rather nicely done. Not cheap in anyway. The letter began with a salutation (our names were nearly right) and thanked us for being members of Animal Helpers! Good letter. Good response device. Beautiful, big full-color calendar…but we’re not members. At least, we don’t think we’re members. But they did offer me the chance to make a $1,000 gift to be on a special council. A $1,000 gift? Where did that come from?
Which takes me to thinking like a donor. I know I’m not the average donor, but most people are going to wonder what’s going on with Animal Helpers.
I can tell you that Animal Helpers has spent at least $10 of my $25 donation so far trying to get me to give, rather than building a relationship. And if they don’t get good pricing on their print work or have small quantities, then they have spent more than half of my donation…and haven’t tried to build a relationship. They’ve assumed a relationship.
I can also tell you that Animal Helpers isn’t thinking like a donor.
If you think like a donor you won’t assume that a gift in honor of a person is a “real” donation.
If you think like a donor you won’t invite me to a tea which costs more than my first gift and never tells me why I HAVE to come in order to help animals.
If you think like a donor you won’t assume my membership and ask me for a $1,000 gift when my first gift was $25.
I don’t want to beat up Animal Helpers, they’re probably good people…they do have a great calendar. What I do want to do is remind you as you go into the 4th Quarter is that you have to think like your donors.
- Don’t confuse people on your mailing list with donors. Or even assume that all donors are the same–either in giving pattern or in motivation.
- Don’t confuse donors with single largest gifts (SLGs) above $250.00 with donors with SLGs of $15.00 and vice versa.
- Don’t assume they will give because you mail them a letter.
- Don’t suggest gift amounts that are unconnected to past giving.
- Don’t treat first-time time donors as real-live donors. They’re not. There is still a lot of wooing and relationship building necessary before a first-time donor becomes a donor.
Whew. That’s enough for now. I hope your 4th Quarter is shaping up well and that you’re blessed with the income you need. Think like a donor and income will be better. I promise.
So what about you, how do you “think like a donor”? Have you ever had the same experience of watching an organization’s strategy unfold and wonder “what are they thinking?” I love hearing what you’re thinking.
(photo credit: Liv Unni Sødem)