Even intelligent, hardworking, well-intentioned fundraisers make mistakes from time to time.
We all do.
Here are four big ones to watch out for:
Mistake #1: Treating All Donors the Same
Do you wish that donors would treat your organization like the most important charity? If so, you should be treating them like your most important donor. That doesn’t mean sending generic form letters (either appeals or thank yous).
How can you treat your donors as individuals?
- Segment and personalize as much as possible. Have different letters for first time donors, for board members, for repeat donors, and for lapsed donors. Write personal notes whenever possible.
- Have a VIP, red-carpet plan for your best donors. Contact them (by email, phone, hand-written note, and in-person) with updates throughout the year. Invite them to your events and on tours.
- Find out why your best donors give to your organization. Try to understand their motivations for giving to your specific cause.
Mistake #2: Ignoring Lapsed Donors
Lapsed donors are former donors. They might have lapsed by one, two, or three years. It’s important to try to renew them as soon as possible. The longer they lapse, the more difficult it will be to get them to give again.
Once a donor lapses for a year or two, many organizations write them off. If you can, contact them to try to find out why they lapsed. If they moved out of the area or are no longer interested in your cause, you can take them off your list.
Often, reaching out to lapsed donors will result in another gift. Securing donations from lapsed donors is much easier than starting from scratch with non-donors. This is because lapsed donors have a history with your organization and already have a familiarity with your programs and services.
If you have a huge number of lapsed donors to deal with, select the ones who have lapsed for the least amount of time (two years or less), and/or those who have given several times in the past (not just one-time donors).
Mistake #3: Not Knowing Key Fundraising Stats
Specifically, this means not knowing your donor acquisition, donor attrition and donor retention rates.
Donor acquisition is the number of new donors you attract. Donor attrition measures the number of donors you lose each year (become lapsed). And donor retention is the number of donors you keep from year-to-year.
There are many fundraising statistics to keep track of. However, donor acquisition, attrition and retention are three of the most important stats. It’s crucial to know how many new donors you attract, how many donors you lost, and how many you kept on an annual basis. Without knowing these three things, you won’t know if your fundraising program is growing or shrinking.
So if you haven’t been tracking these things, today is a perfect day to start.
Mistake #4: Relying Too Heavily on Your Board
Do you rely on your board members to bring in most of your new donors?
You may wish for board members to constantly funnel names of wealthy, prospective donors your way, but too often it doesn’t happen that way. Don’t mope about it — instead, spend your time doing your part to attract new donors.
How do you attract new donors?
There are many simple things you personally can do to bring in new donors.
I (along with eleven other leading fundraising experts) was recently asked for several out-of-the-box ways you could get 100 new donors in just three months. All twelve of these recorded conversations have been combined with detailed action guides into a program called 100 Donors in 90 Days.
To give you an idea of how helpful thes simple strategies can be, Tom Ahern (one of the fundraising experts) presented a case study based on a letter written by a volunteer for a small town library. She was a novice fundraiser who had never written a direct mail appeal before in her life. But she had taken one of Tom’s workshops — one very similar to the first week’s session of 100 Donors in 90 Days.
She raised $56,000 in a matter of weeks with that one letter.
Tom’s teleseminar and action guide alone are worth the price of 100 Donors in 90 Days. Take a few minutes to check it out and see what it’s all about. I think you’ll be very impressed!