The Mikuska Group  

Getting people to give in June

I’ve been annoyed whenever I see social impact organizations asking me on social media or in emails to vote for them to compete for $10,000 (or whatever the amount). They’re not engaging donors this way, and not even raising money.

However, The Great Canadian Giving Challenge has helped organizations use the power of their networks to encourage donors to give. In June – one of the slowest times of the year in fundraising.

In 2016, in its second year, the results were impressive. According to givingchallenge.ca:

52,000 Canadians participated, donating more than $8 million to over 8,600 charities, representing a 48% increase in donations compared to June 2014 and a 28% increase compared to 2015. Charities involved in #GivingChallengeCa for 2 years in a row earned 164% more vs. the 28% average increase.

It works like this: During June, donors give either through givingchallenge.ca or CanadaHelps.org. Every dollar donated to a registered charitable organization gives one entry into the contest for that organization.  (Minimum donation of $3).

Organizations have access to a toolkit to help them create customized campaigns, with logos and strategies. The hashtag #GivingChallengeCA helps keep people up to date and gives them a chance to share.

The draw for the $10,000 is July 1. Now go work your social media!

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

What’s the cost of a lost opportunity?

We often hear people talk about the return on investment related to particular fundraising activities. (We often hear people never talking about ROI, but that’s for a different post!). But how many consider the opportunity costs of their decisions?

In other words, what are you not able to do if you do something else? Consider:

  • Spending time at board meetings reading routine reports means lost opportunities to talk about board members’ roles in connecting with donors. (Hint: use a consent agenda.)
  • Planning events that bring in little money means you’re not out building relationships with donors that may lead to larger gifts over a long period of time.
  • Spending your time on internal reports means less time meeting with donors.
  • Not sending a donor newsletter means you’re losing out on the revenue generated from that mailing.

Maximize your time and opportunities to meet donors, thank donors and ask people for gifts. Measure your activities against opportunity costs. Always ask yourself: do you need to do something or is it time to move on to a different activity with higher potential?

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

It pays to keep your donors

We hear all the time from organizations about getting new donors. Yes, it’s important to bring new donors in, but it’s even more important to keep the donors you have.

The 2017 edition of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project results was recently published. Here are some of the sobering findings from 10,829 non-profit organizations:

  • Every $100 gained in 2016 was offset by $95 in losses.
  • Every 100 donors gained in 2016 was offset by 99 donors not giving again.
  • The greatest gains were in new donors.
  • The greatest losses were in new donors not giving again.
  • The average donor retention rate was 45%.
  • The average dollar retention rate was 48%.

(Gains are gifts by new donors + recaptured lapsed donors + increases in gift amounts. Losses are decreases in gift amounts + lost gifts by lapsed new and lapsed repeat donors.)

What does this tell us? Organizations do a poor job at keeping their donors, and as a result, they are continually chasing new donors, at great expense.

It’s much more cost-effective to keep the donors you have than to continually chase new donors.

The results vary by size of organization. Smaller organizations fare much poorly that larger organizations, which means resources dedicated to retaining donors make a difference.

The FEP site has tools to help you analyze your data so you can make decisions on where to put your time and money in keeping your donors engaged. It’s not just about the bottom line of how much comes in. You need to know who your donors are.

Don’t treat all your donors the same. Heap more love on your loyal donors and ask them to give more. But do make sure new donors know they are valued and welcome, and chances are some will give again and again.

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

Silos hold grain, not donors

Have you encountered these scenarios?

  • You want to get a receipt to a donor within a couple of days, but your finance department batches receipts and sends them out once a month.
  • You want to create a donor-focused newsletter but the communications staff insist on making it a marketing piece instead.
  • Your donor wants a meeting with program staff and when you try to set it up, staff are suspicious of the donor’s motives and say no.

In all of these cases, staff are working in silos. They are protecting their turf because they don’t see how it’s in their interest to open their processes and departments to be donor-focused.

What can you do to knock down the silo walls?

  • Talk about why and how donors are so important to your organization – revenue and engagement.
  • Help staff learn about why donors give, why they give again and why they don’t.
  • Tell staff why their actions or inactions affect donor loyalty.
  • Share the 7 Principles of Donor Love. (with thanks to Agents of Good.)

And don’t keep your donors in your own silo. Share stories of joyful giving with others to show them that donors care.

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

Ask how to communicate with donors

I recently made a donation in memoriam to honour a friend who had passed away. I made it to an organization that I wouldn’t ordinarily support as I have little interest in their mission, but because the family had asked for donations for that organization, I honoured their wishes.

Imagine my surprise when the very next day, I received their email newsletter! I haven’t even received a receipt, yet they feel they know me sufficiently to further communicate with me. Plus the e-news has three separate asks to give, give and give again.

This organization made the mistake of assuming it knows how a donor wants to receive communications. They didn’t ask me, and I believe they have a default setting that automatically sends their e-news to anyone with an email address. I would have been pleased to be offered a choice about how they could keep in touch with me, or not.

Perhaps you’re scratching your head about how many of your donors don’t give again. Making one small change to how you engage with your donors will make them feel appreciated and part of the organizational family.

Ask. You may be surprised at the response.

Laura Mikuska

  ·  

Thank you never gets old

I recently received a call from the chair of the board of a museum I support, thanking me for my monthly gift and giving me an update on the new executive director.

It was a delightful call and it made my day. I felt appreciated and close to the museum and its people.

A few days later I was invited to attend a fundraising tea for another organization I support, to raise money for a scholarship in memory of the founder’s mother. As I was not going to be able to attend, I sent my regrets and made a gift online through their website.

Almost as soon as I hit “submit,” my phone rang and I got a heartfelt thank you from the development director. Wow! Talk about making me feel good about giving!

It didn’t stop there. After the tea was held, I received a package with two packages of tea (pina colada and African chai!), a handwritten thank you from the founder and a response card for me to send back to wish the scholarship recipient well.

It’s important to say thank you, over and over. It really never gets old.

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

The RFP shake-down

Why do charitable organizations think it’s appropriate to ask for a donation or pro-bono work in an RFP?

Not that we have any intention of responding to a request for proposal, but my blood still boils when I read an often used clause that goes something like this:

“X Organization is a registered charity which provides funds for research, programs and other activities which promote and advance the health of all members of the community. Our organization is able to engage the citizens of the province in philanthropy by working with donors and partner suppliers. As such, we ask that you please indicate your company’s interest in supporting our organization through philanthropy or sponsorship: e.g. direct discount, no-charge services, etc.”

I call it the RFP shakedown. Where else do you see the beginning of a business relationship where you’re already being asked to do free work (ok, I know graphic designers get this all the time, too) or give money back?

Consulting work is similar to philanthropy in that both are based on trusted relationships. When you engage a consultant, you’re making an investment in your organization. In turn, we provide guidance based on our experience and expertise, and we are fairly compensated for the value we bring.

If, in the course of our relationship, we are moved to make a donation, we may do so, and we often do. But don’t ask us to make that part of any proposal or contract.

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

Hits and misses from annual appeals

It’s that time of year again when I reflect on appeals received over the past year. As in the past, there were some good ones, some just okay and others truly awful.

Let’s start with what didn’t work:

Being too abstract. It’s really hard to get excited about inclusion and diversity. Or advancing learning and creativity. Or re-imagining our role as a museum. The problem is, I just can’t see myself in these concepts. I need stories and problems to solve.

The problem is too big. How can I “bring help and hope to millions of people living with drought”?   Yikes, how will my $10/month solve that?

The ask is to buy a calendar, become a member and help achieve the same goal as last year. No appeal to my heart or my desire to a make a difference in the world. And no, I’m not buying calendars for my friends and family. And I don’t care about helping you raise $6,000.

Using statistics to show impact. “We give away over 190,000 bowls of soup and 240,000 cups of coffee each year.” Interesting statistic – is that good or bad? What’s the problem to be solved and how can I, as one person, make a difference? Better to tell me a story about someone who comes for soup and coffee.

Telling a story but failing to tell me I’m the hero. A few organizations have jumped on the storytelling bandwagon without closing the loop and putting the donor in the story as the one who’s making any success possible. Remember – the story is the vehicle to tell donors about the difference they’re making in the world. Not the difference the organization is making.

And now with what did work:

Liberal sprinkling of YOU throughout the letter. Key to getting my attention!

  • We can all be proud of our museum and what the future holds, thanks to you.
  • Your support is the wind (and wind-machine!) beneath our wings – we could not enjoy our success without you.
  • You know that something so simple – learning to cook – can be life-changing.

Strong calls to action.

  • You can help. Join me, with a monthly gift of $10, $15 or $25.
  • Click here to donate now.
  • I am asking you to join me and once again give your most generous donation. A gift of $50, $75, $100 or any amount you can give would be greatly appreciated.

There’s still a lot more that you can do in your appeals. Tug at my heartstrings, make me mad, make me sad – get a reaction!

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

Stop trying to educate donors

I’ve seen it too often. An earnest letter from an executive director trying to educate me into giving.

It’s not working. The more information you shovel at me, the more distant I become. It’s usually full of jargon, too, which puts me off at the first acronym or org-speak. What you, the organization, knows does not “convince” me.

Examples of meaningless jargon (at least to me): barriers to employment, food insecurity, creating opportunities, changing social conditions, culturally focused service model, community economic development. Abstract words without context are not convincing.

I encourage story-telling. But only tell me success stories where I have had a hand in that success. Me, through my donation. Don’t tell stories just for the sake of a story – you need conflict and the means of resolving the problem – me!

What donors need is the pull of emotion – anger, despair, love, joy. Put away your organizational binders and write a heartfelt appeal to your donor.

You’ll be glad you did.

Julie Mikuska.

  ·  

More than storytelling

I’ve talked a lot about storytelling as essential to show donors the impact of your organizations’ activities. But stories alone don’t involve the donor.

You musn’t let a story merely infer that you’re asking for a donor to give. You must have a strong call to action for a donor to know that a) there’s a problem and b) she can help solve it.

I recently received an appeal letter that told the story of another donor and how great she was, how her philanthropic nature was learned from her parents. This passive example of generosity was likely meant to move me to give but “so what?” was my response. It also had no call to action, only a “Thank you for your kind support.”

Another recent appeal was written from the perspective of a CEO who shared a story of a young man helped by her organization. She also shared that she, too, had gone through some of the same life experiences as the young man, as had a relative of hers. But she didn’t connect the problem to be solved with me, the donor. She said only, “I hope you give generously.”

Donors need to understand what you want them to do. They need to know you can’t do it without them and because of them someone’s life changed. Say Because of you and Thanks to you.

Be direct:

  • Give $25, $50 or $75 today to make sure Jenny can stay in school.
  • Go to our website now to make your gift online.
  • Join me and sign up for monthly giving.

Tell stories, yes. But also tell the donor what the problem is and how she is going to be part of the solution.

Julie Mikuska.

 

  ·  

Blog Archives

Articles By Category