UnionJackWithGuy 2013-Oct09
Ahhh… England.  Land of double-decker buses, Big Ben, passionate “football” fans, afternoon tea… and some bad fundraising advice.
Recently, our Veritus Group U.K director, Stephen Butler, sent me an article from Civil Society, written by a fundraising consultant, Richard Radcliffe, entitled, “Let’s Give Donors a Break.
I wanted to address this for two reasons: there are ton of Passionate Giving subscribers from the UK and Europe, and secondly, because I can’t let this slide by and allow him to screw up fundraising in the U.K and beyond.
The last sentence in his article reads like this: “Let’s give our donors a break and tell them we won’t ask for X months and see what happens.”
What does Radcliffe base this statement on?  A series of surveys/focus groups he’s conducted with his clients’ donors.  Yep… surveys/focus groups.
Here we go again.
Every time Richard and I read any opinion piece based on surveys/focus groups from donors we want to jump out of our skins and scream.
Radcliffe is telling his readers that donors don’t really want relationships with you.  He says,
As I listen to more donor stories every week in focus groups I am increasingly convinced that many donors do not want ‘a relationship’ – however that is defined.”
Hmm… let’s ask a donor sitting in a conference room with a bunch of other donors if she would like to get thanked for her giving.  One donor speaks up, “Gosh, I don’t need to be thanked for my gift.  They can just save the money and e-mail the receipt to me for my taxes.”  All the other donors start nodding their heads and say, “Yeah, you’re right, no need to be thanked, and I wish they would just stop sending so much mail and stuff to me.  I’ll give when I want to give.”  Never mind that when you actually stop sending that mail they don’t give.
Now, picture yourself viewing this conversation behind a window in a dark room.  You and your colleagues are witnessing this donor focus group, and in the emotion of it all you are convinced that donors don’t want to be bothered by your organization.
Yep, based on 10 donors being asked a question about being thanked, you take the group think (not the group DO) and are now convinced they don’t need it, nor do they want anything else from you.
This is absolutely nuts!  And, not true!
Of course all of the other research states that when specifically asked why they stopped giving to an organization, donors answer it was for two main reasons:

  1. They were never thanked, and
  2. No one told them how their gift made a difference.

Are donors just duplicitous?  Sort of.  Donors say one thing, but act in another way.  This is why forming donor strategy around survey/focus group information is a disaster.  Do not do this.
What Richard and I find dangerous with Radcliffe’s assertions as based on his personal surveys of his client donors, is that fundraising professionals, executive directors and board members are going to read this drivel and use it to justify leaving donors alone and not asking.
This will be a catastrophic mistake
There are a ton of non-profit leaders who would love to stop fundraising if they could.  They view fundraising as a necessary evil.  “Can’t we just tell donors how great they are? Do we even have to ask for gifts?  It’s so uncomfortable.”
Radcliffe is feeding into this sentiment… and there are many who are ready to eat it up.  This will be at the risk of your organization’s own demise if you do.
Now, there is one thing that Radcliffe does get right.  Most donors don’t want a deeper relationship with you.  That is a fact.  We know this, because when we help non-profits qualify their donors to become part of an MGO’s caseload, only 1/3 of those donors say yes.  This is based on doing this qualifying process with hundreds of different caseloads.
That’s awesome.  Why?  Because now you know which donors DO want a deeper relationship with your organization and you can focus your time, energy and resources on them. It’s an amazing thing that happens.  You ask a donor if he wants a relationship with your organization.  He says, “YES!”  You then feed and nurture that relationship and this donor will continue to partner with you with great gifts.
It’s an amazing thing to watch.
The problem with the Radcliffe article is that he throws the baby out with the bathwater. “Hey, a few donors say they don’t want a relationship… well, I guess all donors don’t want that.”
Don’t allow yourself or your organization to get sucked into that kind of thinking.  Steer clear of donor survey-think.  It’s NOT what donors say in a survey, it’s what they do with their resources, time and actions that actually matters, and that’s what you should pay attention to.