Declining Results? You Are Not Alone. Here Are 5 Things You Should Do.
In October, AFP released their Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP)* report on second quarter fundraising in the US. The report compares second quarter results this year with last and reported that the total number of donors between April and June 2022 had decreased by 7%. This can be attributed to declines in small (<$500 donor segments) as well as new donor acquisition and retention. The donor retention rate (the percentage of donors who gave in 2021 and then gave again in 2022) had decreased by 5.2%.
Did we anticipate this? Somewhat. Cautious fundraisers would have come into 2022 believing that 2021 was a great year and we couldn’t expect those high levels of donations to last. And I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. Those more optimistic fundraisers, or perhaps those fundraising in areas most affected by the pandemic like food banks, may have believed their fundraising hadn’t peaked (and maybe it hasn’t!) and thus had planned for 2022 being similar or better than the prior year.
Either way, right now you may be facing lots of questions from senior staff or the board about the success of this year’s program considering a dip in the number of donors combined with record-high inflation and the threat of a recession. Can we see these softening results as the canary in the coal mine, a leading indicator of what is to come? Unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball to see the future, but ST has years of historical data to help us help our clients raise more money, even in uncertain times. If you want to talk with us one-on-one, the team at ST is here for you.
Here’s what we’re advising our clients:
- Face the facts now if you must reforecast. Lead times for campaigns can be several months, and waiting to revisit your budget and your approach to fundraising will leave you with fewer options than if you had started now. Future-casting and scenario generation can help you understand what impact a slight or moderate decline in response or average gift will have on your program’s bottom line.
- Plan ahead. You don’t have to be a Scout to know that it helps to “Be Prepared” for the occasional bump in the road. Think now about the impact you can have on your program. Add additional channels like digital, radio or phone to ramp up your program in the face of a downturn. Think about how you can reduce costs and have the least impact on results and net return. Reach out to lapsed segments with meaningful messages. Are there ways you can be more efficient without disrupting your long-term goals?
- Be honest with your donors. If you believe your organization will truly struggle to meet its goals and mission this year, be forthright with your donors. True friends help true friends and the same goes for fundraising. Your most loyal donors will appreciate your openness, and those who can will give. A good place to start is by clearly explaining that “We’re not where we need to be…” and following with specific examples and/or rationale. Remember though, use shortfall messaging sparingly.
- Use agile testing with quick rollouts. These are relatively easy and quick tests that are low in cost but potentially high in value and get quick results. For example, start testing messages now in social media, digital ads or email so you can put your best foot forward for the all-important Giving Tuesday and year-end campaigns. Or test an upgraded gift matrix or highlight one gift to drive improvement of the average gift. These can be rolled out quickly at low cost. It sounds odd, but if something doesn’t work, we want to fail fast. (And from failure comes learnings, but that’s a topic for another time).
- Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Donors love to hear how grateful you are. Be quick, be thoughtful and tell the story of how their support has helped this year — from one friend to another.
And a bonus tip: Ask for help when you need it — and before it’s too late. Have questions or need advice? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team of fundraising and marketing experts are here for you.
Good luck, everyone. We’re on this rollercoaster together, so let’s enjoy the ride and make the most of the opportunities before it’s too late!
VP, Fundraising Strategy
* The Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) is described as “a collaboration among fundraising data providers, researchers, analysts, associations, and consultants to empower the sector to track and evaluate trends in giving. The project offers one of the only views of the current year’s fundraising data in aggregate to provide the most recent trends for guiding non-profit fundraising and donor engagement. The FEP is administered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Foundation for Philanthropy in collaboration with GivingTuesday.” You can find a link to the article and report from October here: https://afpglobal.org/donors-drop-7-dollars-62-buoyed-major-donors