The nonprofit media recently confronted us with the news that, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, giving fell in the fourth quarter of 2022 by almost 2%. That does not seem like much, but it is millions of dollars in real money. This is the first time it has fallen since 2012. That is a bit scary.
The decline was most notable with donors who gave under $500. This is not surprising because nonprofits have been bleeding smaller donors for a couple of years.
Why am I still optimistic? First, because I am an old-fashioned fundraiser. It is not an age thing; it is an attitude born of experience. I believe in planning and building relationships. I believe simple, authentic stewardship is the absolute best way to retain donors.
There are many ways to raise money. Eventually, people need to communicate with people through personal conversations. We are still a long way from raising enough money to support and grow the mission of the average nonprofit organization through digital fundraising.
I am encouraged because I believe that most professional fundraisers are anxious and excited about embracing their donors. The following concept lays out a modest way to review and approach your organization’s 2023 fundraising goals and to be strategic. It is not too late to turn things around and finish with a strong year.
When 2023 started some of your fundraising goals may have looked like this:
Acquire more individual donors
Convince first-time individual donors to make a second gift
Convert individual annual donors into monthly donors
Upgrade individual donors under $500 to make gifts between $500 and $1,000 using donor giving circles
Secure more individual major gifts
All of these are terrific goals to raise more money. What they are lacking are measurable numbers. For example, if you had 100 first time donors in 2022, your goal might be to retain 80% of them in 2023. Considering that retention of first time donors is currently about 20%, retaining 80% would be pretty awesome.
Goal: “retain 80% of 2022 first-time individual donors”
To meet the goal of retaining 80% of first-time individual donors, you must know how many first-time individual donors you had in 2022. The same is true of all the other goals. Know Your Numbers. Then know the names of the individuals represented by the numbers. Know Your Donors.
The planning process has three steps:
1) First, analyze your data. Run a few simple analytics. Know your numbers. This cannot be stressed enough. In the example, you had 100 first-time individual donors in 2022. You MUST know the numbers for each goal.
2) Set measurable goals. Again, in the example, a goal of 80% was established. Taking the average gift of your 2022 first-time individual donors and multiplying it by 80 will give you a measurable dollar goal. You can stretch the dollar goal by adding 10-20%. You have two goals – the percentage of first-time donors retained and a dollar goal to raise from these donors. Remember that you cannot project the life-time value of a donor if they never make a second gift.
3) Create strategies with action steps and timelines to reach the goal. In the case of the first-time donors, possible strategies might be:
Have board members write handwritten notes expressing the gratitude of the organization.
Connect and engage your 2022 first-time individual donors by inviting them for coffee and bagels to meet the executive director and learn more about how their gifts were used to support the organization’s programs and services.
Following the creation of the strategies, write an action plan with a timeline and indicate who is responsible. Accountability is key to bringing the goal to fruition.
Keep in mind that the goal is the result you want to see. The goal must be based upon data analyzed from the organization’s database. The goal must be measurable. You can always make it a stretch goal, but it must be based upon actual data.
The strategies for each goal are the methods you will use to achieve the goal. The strategies require a list of the tasks you will undertake to reach the goal. The strategies also state when the tasks will be completed and who is responsible.
If your strategy is to have board members write hand-written notes, you will have to gather note cards, envelopes, lists, and set aside time at a board meeting.
The results of this three-step process will constitute the core of your fundraising plan. Your organization will want to include goals for grants, events, and corporate asks.
With intentional, focused planning, the decline at the end of 2022 can be erased and robust goals met and surpassed in 2023. Despite the nay-sayers, this could be a great year for fundraising. Do not expect a golf tournament or Mackenzie Scott to save the day. Plan and KNOW YOUR NUMBERS, KNOW YOUR DONORS®.