Reminding Fundraisers of the Donor’s Perspective

A great post reminding fundraisers of the donor’s perspective, and further supported by some shocking statistics from the AFP’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project.  Go forth and broker love !

Stop Treating Your Donors Like a Cash Cow

Meet the typical donor, as charities see the beast: a cash cow. Biddable. Milkable. And — oh, yes — mythical.

Because literally the last thing a donor thinks about, when making a gift, is money. Money is merely a constraint: “What can I afford?”

Yet, for charities, money is so damn often all that matters. Charities are dairy farmers. Donors are cows: interchangeable, indistinguishable members of a herd of “resource suppliers.”

I’m a donor. I suspect you’re a donor. Should we all just learn to say “Moo”?

Well, no. What we’ve learned to say is “Goodbye.” Jay Love ran the numbers. The average American donor stays with a charity for just a meager, pathetic, disgraceful 1.9 years, as the data from the 2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Project of AFP and The Urban Institute showed.

Not a misprint (I asked Jay to check his math): you can expect new donors to stay with your organization on average less than 2 years. Which means (since it can cost $2 to raise $1 in new charity) you’re probably breaking even at best on acquisition. I’m not too good with numbers, but I know this will never add up: “Every 100 donors gained in 2012 was offset by 105 donors lost through attrition.” View the troubling infographic.

“Fundraising is not about money!”… keynoter Alan Clayton proclaimed. He was speaking this October at the 4th annual Slovak Czech Fundraising Conference, in Bratislava, with a Scottish accent soft as kindness.

“Fundraising,” he explained, “is about giving people more time with the people they love.”

The specific reference: why give to cancer research? Why was such a thing worth doing for Alan personally?

Because both his mom and dad developed cancer when he was a young man.

Yet, thanks to advances made through donor-funded research, their cancers were not quickly fatal. By his own count, cancer research gave him “19,442 extra days of love together.” Cancer research gave him on average an extra 26.6 years per parent: certainly worth a gift or three.

Quotations from Chairman Alan

I could live for years on the advice I heard tumble from Alan Clayton’s busy mind. Advice like:

  • Donors need to feel part of a movement.” Alan is a champion fundraiser. But he sees himself as a leader, really. He gets people organized to DO something. “I don’t beg. I lead!”
  • Behave badly. “When I got angry and emotional, I’d raise loads of money. When I was ‘professional,’ I didn’t raise money.” As he pointed out to his rapt Bratislava audience, “All charities were set up by enthusiastic amateurs who got really angry and said, ‘Something’s got to be done!’”
  • Be moody. “Did any donor ever give money to keep things the same?” The question answered itself. “Donors don’t want education. They want action. Be moody. Your mood changes others’ moods.” Alan cited the example of Rosa Parks. “She refused to move on the bus. And she made 20 million other people stubborn.”
  • Emotions work immediately.” This is Alan’s mantra. It neatly captures the essence of Canadian neurologist, Donald Calne’s, famous observation: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” If you want people to THINK about your cause, remain rational. If you want people to JOIN your cause NOW, stick with emotions.
  • “People give to make a bad feeling go away … and to get a good feeling.”

Alan’s final slide, explaining how he sees himself as a fundraiser:

I am a broker of LOVE

This post originally appeared in the Ahern Donor Communications Newsletter