Releasing a butterfly.

Today, we’re going to do something different on Veritus Group’s Passionate Giving Blog. We’re going to have a guest blogger. You probably already know him. If you don’t, you should. He’s one of the most brilliant fundraising minds in the business. Jeff Brooks, the author of the popular blog, “Future Fundraising Now” and several books, worked with Richard and I “back in the old days” at the Domain Group. He wrote the forward to our book. He’s a good friend of ours and he has some good stuff to say to you today.

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One of your most important jobs as a fundraiser is to foster and encourage your donors so they rise to the highest level of involvement that they can.

For most of your donors, that means you might move them from giving one donation of $25 a year to give two or three $25 gifts each year. That’s a big win!

But there are bigger wins: a few among your general donors have the capacity to give five- or six-figure gifts. They may not see your organization as deserving (or needing) their big giving. Your job is to show them that giving the big bucks to you is a great investment.

Here’s the “problem” with that: if you succeed at moving a high-capacity general donor into the major donor category, your general donor program “loses” one of its very best donors. They leave the program and take all that revenue with them. You no longer get credit for their excellent giving.

Of course, you aren’t losing anything at all, and it’s not a problem – it’s a major victory.

Yet I’ve seen many fundraisers say loudly, No way am I giving up my donors! And they fight like tigers to keep “their” donors from graduating out of “their” program.

The root of this problem is organizational silos that encourage the managers of each silo to focus on their own success, instead of working for the larger success of the organization. They have no incentive to think about the big picture. And that costs the organization a lot of lost revenue!

Great general donor programs are constantly “losing” their best donors to their major donor program. And they’re okay with that. They know it’s the best thing for their cause.

Managers of general donor programs should be evaluated not only on the amount of revenue they generate, but also on the number of donors they “graduate” into higher programs.

It’s like being a parent: You love your kids. You care for them and nurture them. And then they move away. It’s sad, almost heartbreaking when they leave. But it’s what being a parent is about, and it’s exactly what is supposed to happen. It’s the best thing for the kids, the parents, and society in general. So we learn to live with it, and even rejoice in the bittersweet loss that’s really a gain.

That’s how a great fundraising program works.

Jeff Brooks

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One Comment

  • Deidre says:

    It is all in the incentives for your staff. If a staff member is being measured on the overall growth of the # of donors in their program, there isn’t an incentive for them to give up any of their donors to another level. If that same staff member is instead measured on the # of donors graduating to the next level and the # of new donors coming into their program, you’ll be much better off. This also holds true for MGO portfolios.

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