5 New Year Resolutions Every Fundraiser Should Make

You know what takes a lot of inspiration and a truck load of guts?  Fundraising.

I learned this the hard way when I started a nonprofit in the living room of my apartment with just $500 and a credit card.  There were days when I second guessed myself but ten years later we raised over 10 million dollars and have been featured on Oprah, CNN and the Today show.  Last year, Girlstart turned 20.  I’ve learned a lot since then, including how to get the absolute best fundraising results in the shortest possible time using scientifically proven methods.

So what tips do I have for you to make 2018 your best year ever?  Lots!  Are you ready to ring in the new year raising more?  Here are 5 New Year resolutions I want EVERY fundraiser to make:

     1. Resolve to learn more about your donors. 

Why did they give to your organization – what connected to them? What programs do they care about?  What motivated them to give in the first place?  What was the best gift they ever gave and why?  Of all the organizations they support which one does the best job engaging them?  What are their top three philanthropic priorities?  What do they love about what they do?  How do they prefer to be communicated with?  You can ask some of these questions when you call them to thank them just for being a donor and others in a visually rich donor survey.

     2. Resolve to learn from your data.  

Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you don’t know how you’re currently performing, setting goals to improve is meaningless.  yoYou can examine retention overall or narrow it down to first time donors and/or major donors.  You can calculate retention by the number of donors or gift value.  I personally recommend examining by gift value so you know exactly what your retention rate is costing your organization.  To run your numbers, decide on your 12 month date range (a calendar year or your fiscal year) and add the donor gift amounts by annual “class” i.e. the class of major donors giving $1,000 or more in 2017 (or the class of all 1st time donors in 2017) and then divide that amount by what those same donors gave to you the previous year, in 2016.  In other words, if you had 1,000 first time donors in 2016 and only 200 of those made another gift in 2017 your new donor retention rate would be 20%.  Why does retention matter so much?  Acquiring those donors cost you money, time and effort.  As Roger Craver, author of Retention Fundraising, advises, “Taking actionable steps to reduce donor losses is the least expensive way to increase your fundraising income.”

    3. Resolve to make your donors FEEL something.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves in fundraising.  Giving is such a joyous experience but so much of our communications can feel bland and lifeless.  Does your appeal or acknowledgement make your donor feel great about themselves?  It should.  What we feel is irrelevant.  What our donors feel is the only thing that matters.  While we’re busy trying to educate our donors, or boasting about how awesome our programs are, our donor might be tossing our letter in the trash.  Communicate in a warm, friendly, personable tone.  Make the donor feel like gushing over what they made possible.  If your autoresponders sound like a robot wrote them, it’s time for a rewrite in 2018!

     4. Set a revenue goal for every donor in your portfolio.

Base your appeal goals on your donor’s capacity, inclination, prior giving and interests.  Now you’re ready for your best fundraising year ever!  What’s more, when your CEO walks in and tells you about a budget shortfall you’ve got solid ground to push back on unrealistic goals.

     5. Resolve to dedicate 30 minutes a day to call and personally thank donors.

Don’t start with the biggest and then fall off the wagon on this goal come February.  If you can, include new donors to your call list.  Be prepared with a few great discovery questions and opportunities for them to engage with you deeper.  Before you know it, your lower level donors will be major gift prospects.  The secret is you have to STICK WITH IT.  Put it on your calendar as a recurring appointment when your energy levels are at their peak.  Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking or leaving a message.

I’d love to share more of my secrets with you – join me on the NFG Masterclass Webinar Fundraising Strategy Series with “The Secrets of High Performing Fundraisers”  Wednesday January 10th 1 pm EST.  Register here for free. Want more help?  I have OODLES of guides to make your fundraising EASIER.

Here’s to 2018!

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