I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Adrian Sargeant of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at the recent AFP Conference in Boston. We spoke about a variety of topics that relate to donors and training.
Interview Highlights (Transcript)
Here are some highlights from our interview. Watch the complete interview above.
The Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy
AE: Tell us a little about the Centre for Sustainable for Philanthropy.
AS: We created two years ago something called the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy with a very particular goal.
There are many institutions around the world who see their role as measuring philanthropy, tracking and changes in philanthropy, and they do a very good job of it. What we want to do is GROW philanthropy, and to grow it in a very particular way by enhancing the quality of the donor experience so that it becomes sustainable. People give because they enjoy giving and get a lot out of it.
Why training is so important for development professionals
AE: I’m excited to be part of it. One of the things we’ve done together is a research project on major gifts and small shops. What were the highlights for you from that project?
AS: It was the first time anyone had looked as major gifts at smaller organizations. The question we asked really was under what circumstances allow success to emerge. We were able to correlate a whole range of factors.
One of the most interesting is the relationship between training and development and success in major gifts. For every incremental form of training that seems to be correlated with around a $37,000 increase.
AE: That is amazing, isn’t it? For going to a conference or becoming a CFRE, it means an additional $37,000 in major gift revenue on average.
AS: It’s a very good answer to those organizations that don’t invest in training. Because they say we can’t do that because they’ll move on. They’ll train them up and then they’ll leave. What this tells us is that’s not where the risk is. The risk is that they’ll stay, and you’ll never see the incremental increase your ability to raise money.
AE: It’s such validation for your training budget. We even found that something as small as a webinar shows an increase in results. Any kind of training makes a difference.
AS: The strongest correlations are with the most in-depth trainings, but everything makes a difference. I encourage boards to allow members of their team to participate.
What you can do to improve your donor retention rates
AE: One of the things you’re known for is donor loyalty and retention. What’s going on with loyalty and retention these days?
AS: In a sense, not much has changed in 20 years. We weren’t very good at it 20 years ago and we’re terrible at it today. There’s lots of new data coming out, including the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. It does give us some depressing statistics on things like first year retention. It means that organizations are wasting money on people who aren’t necessarily going to give again.
One thing we do know is that even small improvements in retention rates translate to whopping improvements in the lifetime value of the fundraising database. So 10% increase in loyalty now can lead to 200% increase. The effect compounds over time.
AE: What are one or two drivers of donor loyalty and things people can do to increase their retention numbers?
AS: We know quite a lot about things that drive loyalty and retention. The big driver of loyalty is how satisfied donors are with the quality of service they are getting from the fundraising team. It’s quite entertaining to ask at conferences, “How many of you are measuring?” When I started this work no one put their hand up, but now I get one or two.
Satisfaction is key. Commitment is another big driver. Also trust in the organization. Those are the three big drivers.
AE: I think the reason small organizations don’t measure it is because they don’t know how. What are some simple ways a small organization might be able to measure this?
AS: It’s a matter really of constructing a little survey and sending it out to donors. These are short surveys. They don’t take more than a few minutes to complete. You should always have an opportunity to raise any concerns they have.
AE: Yes, the importance of follow up is key. IF someone raises an issue, you need to follow up with them.
AS: It’s the service recovery paradox. If people have had an issue and they tell you about it and you fix it, they are a heck of a lot more loyal than if they never had an issue in the first place.
Watch the full interview for more on this topic.
Two new diploma opportunities now available at AFP
AE: Let’s wrap up by talking about the new fundraising diploma programs you’re working on with AFP.
AS: We wanted to create something people could take when they come into the profession. Something that would give them a detailed understanding of the science of donor behavior and the practice of different forms of fundraising.
Then we created something for those who have been in the field for around 7, 8 or 10 years to take on being a director of development for a substantive organization.
The Advanced Diploma isn’t about doing the fundraising. It’s about managing the organization to release fundraising’s potential. The final unit is about how we bring about a change in Philanthropy in the nation. Thinking about the wider role of the fundraiser.