Slow down to go faster

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have a great new project you take on and you eagerly

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have a great new project you take on and you eagerly start implementing it but fail to plan every little details because, you, know, we’ll figure it as we go along.

Next thing you know, you’re well into the implementation and realize there’s a few things you could have done at the inception of the project that would have made your life easier today. Yikes, epic facepalm moment!

Yeah, I’ve been there a few times.

Fundraisers often ask me how they can their legacy program off the ground if they have 30 other priorities to attend to. It’s difficult, I get it.

My answer is but not easy to implement: slow down so you can go faster.

What I mean by this is take the time to plan and to think through what you will need in the future so you can build the infrastructure correctly right from the beginning. Let me elaborate.

Fundraising expert and sector Agitator, Roger Craver, wrote a brilliant blog that talked about how we need to rethink how we acquire new donors. In his post, he refers to a white paper entitled “What no one else will tell you” that argues that:

… marrying donor identity with valuable content focused on identity increases, click-through rates, decreases costs and acquires donors at costs that can pay back within the first 12 months.

Donor identity refers to personas – basically characteristics of your average donor(s).

Smart and simple, right?

It got me thinking … what if our organizations did exactly what the author of the white paper is suggesting, wouldn’t that improve not only our acquisition numbers but also the experience we offer donors?

Imagine when our donors reach the engagement level and the age to consider a gift in their will, how much easier and more fun and fulfilling the experience will be? I mean both for the donor and for us!

Get started

Ok I can hear it already: but how can we do this? My (boss, team, board, take your pick) will not go for it.

Look, I know, change is hard. Not everyone embraces change or fresh new ideas. But you’re a fundraiser. Your main job is to inspire donors, right? So can we also harness that skill to influence and inspire our colleagues? I think so.

Build that social capital of yours and talk with your colleagues in data insights and marketing. Work together to build a special project to get insights on your donors so you can build personas.

Information you need

Key demographic information you will need to build those personas are:

  • Geographic location
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Education level
  • Marital status
  • Income
  • Giving history/behaviour
  • Activities

For instance, you may have determined that a typical persona for your organization would look like this:

  • Female
  • Married with no children
  • Mid-40s
  • Completed a masters degree
  • Works full-time
  • Average annual income is $65,000 CDN
  • Volunteers 2 hours per week at her local soup kitchen
  • Has a dog

Armed with this image, you will work with your team to design a personalized journey that will take this woman through a series of engagement opportunities that will inspire her to get involved either as a donor or a volunteer, or both.

The possibilities are endless!

So the big question you need answered is: what personalized donor journeys can we develop for each of our personas so we can keep our donors engaged for the long haul and eventually get a legacy gift?

Basically it’s a form of mind mapping. The key point is this: KEEP AN OPEN MIND!

There is no wrong answer because guess what? You can test some journeys and if it doesn’t work, test another and another and another!

One last thing

My point at the beginning was that by doing this exercise at the beginning of the donor journey – at the acquisition stage – it can help build a stronger overall fundraising program. If you’re too far gone or it’s difficulty for you to get the green light, don’t worry, not everything is lost.

You can still do this exercise specifically for your legacy donors.

First: dig up all the gifts in wills you’ve received in the last 5-10 years.

Second: pull data and insights based on who the donors were and their past giving behaviour, in addition to the demographic information mentioned above.

When you’ve designed personas for your average legacy donors, you can then start building your engagement plan.

It won’t happen overnight

This is a big shift in the way we operate and change won’t happen overnight. We need to start moving the needle towards more tailored content if we are going to improve the huge problem we have with donor acquisition and retention.

Because at the end of the day, can we afford not to?

As always, if you have questions or comments, write to me in the section below and I’ll be happy to respond.

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