This Season of Giving, there’s reason for hope! (And more money for your mission.)

As we head into the holidays, we can all agree on one thing: this year has been tough for fundraisers. With commercial companies tightening their belts, and inflation and higher living costs for the average North American, you may be feeling like it’s harder than ever to raise more money to achieve your mission.

Industry reports published in the spring about 2022 results indicated that the number of donors dropped when compared to the year prior, mostly because of softness in two key areas: Acquisition and Donor Retention. That said, in annual giving, lower response rates in acquisition (under 0.9% according to one report) were somewhat offset by higher average gifts.

Online-specific reports indicate a high level of engagement in the digital channel, and the conversion from engagement to donations continuing to grow incrementally (though perhaps it’s not as high as we’d like to see it). Since online giving is growing overall as a percentage of charitable gifts, there is reason for hope and to believe that integrated campaigns (fundraising in more than one channel) are elevating online donations. And that’s good news.

So, shake off any negative mindset you may have, and remember that with a smart and strategic fundraising plan, you can plug your leaky bucket and regain some of the ground you might have lost in your individual giving program in the last year.

6 tips for keeping & growing your donor base in the coming months:

  1. Test Asks and Offers to improve renewal. Now’s the time to bring in all the tried-and-true fundraising techniques: gift match and goal setting are just two examples. Also review your case for support. Is it as compelling as it could be?
  2. Keep donors in the boat with thoughtful stewardship: Think about what you’re doing to demonstrate impact. Surprise and delight donors. And send updates frequently to them so they understand that their dollars are being spent wisely.
  3. Remember, donors are giving more! That doesn’t mean you should shy away from a testing gift matrix to continue to improve average gift. Use your donor history to inspire more giving or try using AI technology to make online donation forms more dynamic.
  4. Drive to monthly. What’s your case for support to inspire sustained giving? At ST, we know monthly donors are worth more than 6X the long-term revenue of a single donor, so spending some time reinvigorating this side of your program is well worth the effort.
  5. Love those lapses! Find success by renewing recently lapsed donors, especially at this time of year. With a little more love and a motivating call-to-action, you can lift response from this segment.
  6. Be where your donors are. Supporters have diverse preferences for how they engage with organizations. Some prefer online giving, while others respond better to personal calls, in-person events or direct mail campaigns. Be where they are. Integrated fundraising means whether the donor is at their mailbox, answering their phone or checking their inbox, they’re getting your message and being asked to give. When ST’s clients agree to an integrated strategy, they see a lift in response.

5 (not-so-well-kept) secrets for more effective Acquisition:

  1. Develop a year-round digital strategy. Consider Giving Tuesday, December and year-end so that donors hear from you during peak giving season. And continue to test your digital approach during other times of year, so you’ll be in a stronger position for year-end.
  2. Look for ways to save in your direct mail program without sacrificing response or quality. Try bulk printing some components. Test different paper stocks and try more cost-effective sizes and formats for package components.
  3. Explore and test new lists, external and internal. Ask yourself if you can make use of event participants, newsletter recipients or other warm prospects.
  4. Test strategically within your appeals to optimize response or average gift.
  5. Invest in brand-new acquisition ideas. At ST, we call them speedboats – smart ideas that don’t sacrifice the main ship. As technology evolves, new fundraising channels and tools become available. Being open to adopting emerging technologies and techniques can keep your organization competitive and relevant in the fundraising landscape.

As you can see, there are many ways to drive individual giving that will produce immediate improvement in your program. Play with a ‘long game’ mindset and look at more recession-proof techniques. Lean into monthly giving for a steady stream of revenue (and remember, those people make great prospects for mid and legacy giving).

Let’s keep a positive outlook and put our energy into planning. Take strategic action to get that year-end revenue coming in. Your individual giving program has never been more important, and there’s never been a better time to make the most of it.

Liz Attfield

Liz Attfield

Liz is a member of ST’s leadership team and a long-time fundraiser, with nearly 20 years of experience in key areas such as strategic planning, database analytics, integrated account management, and mid-level and legacy marketing. As the leader of our Strategic Services team, Liz provides our clients with strategic insight that will engage donors, connect them to the cause, and drive revenue.