Finding the balance - Energy Vs Outcomes

There’s often a need for balance in fundraising. This article covers the balance between a supporter’s capacity to give and the connection to your cause.

But it also serves as a guide to the balance between your energy invested and the potential outcomes.

Every fundraiser we speak to is CRAZY busy. So who and what are you spending most of your time on?

This is segmenting in its MOST basic form but it’s a good starting point regardless of your size or how many donors you have.

Let’s dive in and split donors into the 3 groups and then we can cover what you can and can’t realistically achieve in all three scenarios.

  • Donor A: Strong connection to the cause but low capacity to give
  • Donor B: Weak connection to the cause but high capacity to give
  • Donor C: Strong connection to the cause AND high capacity to give

Now some you might be saying right now – wait a second.

What about the donor with a low connection to the cause and a low capacity to give?

I haven’t called that person Donor D because they are far more likely to be a non-responder or a weak prospect at best, so unless you’re already doing everything you possibly can for Donor A, B and C. I wouldn’t worry too much about Donor D!

 Donor A

Is likely to be your classic lower value but very loyal donor. Donor A is probably a little older or an elderly couple that have a connection to your cause but probably have a limited income.

 What’s your best course of action?

Be respectful and make sure the donor knows that every gift counts.

Chances are they’re probably giving what they can and then some. While it’s fine to try and upgrade donors or ask for a little more sometimes a donors previous giving can tell you it’s time to play it safe and concentrate on retention rather than value. If you’ve received $25 or $50 like clockwork 3-4 times a year for 3-4 years, chances are that’s what you’ll get unless you don’t pay the donor the respect they deserve.

If you lose their respect, you’ll end up with 100% of nothing.

By constantly asking for more you could appear as greedy or ungrateful and you’re also highlighting the fact that you’re not paying attention to their giving patterns.

The other thing to consider here is that things can change. There are several scenario’s where Donor A can VERY quickly become C. Keep your eyes and ears open because life and circumstances can change quickly.

Donor B

Has a greater capacity to give, great! But that doesn’t mean they want to, right?

We’ve all had that conversation where someone (usually someone VERY senior like a board member) has said “Hey – why aren’t we chasing Gina Rinehart or Bill Gates?”

The answer is simple but for the sake of your employment you quickly change the subject. The truth is this. Gina and Bill don’t know anything about you. They don’t know anything about your mission, your cause, or the challenges you face.

Now assume that they did know something about you, chances are, it still wouldn’t matter. 

Gina for example tends to gravitate towards one cause (and has a preferred charity or two) and Bill focuses all his efforts on healthcare and education*

*Watch “Inside Bill’s Brain” on Netflix for his determination to provide low-cost sanitation around the world. It’s inspiring even in times of failure!

I’m not saying you’re absolutely no chance but the engagement level between you and Bill for example is practically zero.

 What’s your best course of action?

Forget the money in the short term.

You know Donor B has the money to make a real impact, but money isn’t the issue. It’s the lack of connection to you and the desire to help you make change.

Build the relationship and the engagement to your cause first and foremost. In time if the engagement levels increase so do your chances of receiving a BIG gift.

It’s a bit like relationships. You can’t ask an attractive stranger to marry you – it won’t work and nor will asking Donor B for a gift out of the blue!

Donor C

The Unicorn of supporters. Chances are you don’t have many of these and too many charities take Donor C for granted.

I can prove that to you right now if you answer one question honestly. Ask yourself – how much time and energy do you spend on your best 10 donors.

In most cases people say “Oh, I don’t need to do much, and they don’t want a fuss” and I understand it can feel that way but guess what?

There’s another organisation that sees your Donor C as a Donor B – and they’re courting them with every ounce of energy they have.

See the risk now?

What’s your best course of action?

Don’t make assumptions that you can do very little to retain the support forever. Find new and innovative ways to make your supporter feel connected and appreciated.

One way of making sure you do, is setting a target around the effort and investment you’re willing to make.

Let’s say for this example you have one donor that gives you two million dollars a year. Compare that to what you’re actively investing to retain them. I’ve spoken to people that have done the math and figure out they’re spending less than a few hundred dollars each on their best donors per year.

A few hundred dollars investment on your part, $2 million on their part.

You must give more attention and invest more in what you can’t afford to lose. I’d strongly suggest budgeting both actual expenses and the time and energy to constantly surprise and impress your very best donors.

If you don’t, I promise someone else will.

What’s the secret?

Like a lot of things in life, it’s about balance and moderation.

  • Your “A donors” will help keep your doors open.
  • Your “B donors” provide your best opportunity for real growth.
  • Your “C donors” take care of those bigger projects that couldn’t go ahead without them!

In the long term though you’ll have your bases covered. You’ll have a group of engaged loyal supporters. You’ll have a constant stream of donors that are getting close to becoming major donors and you’ll have a small group of “unicorns” that really can make your organisations goals become reality!

Isn’t that too simple?

Of course it is, but this is just one method of segmentation and I wouldn’t recommend using it as the “be all and end all”.

All we’re really talking about here is the ability to give and the desire to give.

You still need to focus on things like recency, timing, copy, creative, donor insights, and a swag of other factors that lead to success, but even basic segmenting can make some basic decisions for you especially if you’re under resourced or part of a small team.

Things like who should we try and upgrade, who you should steward and who should we target for a capital campaign etc, can all become straightforward with a little segmenting!