Timothy Burcham, chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, talks about how to synchronize diverse giving programs by putting the donor at the center of your fundraising efforts.
How can nonprofit organizations integrate their various fundraising programs?
On many occasions, a charity’s first idea is to examine its own activities when trying to integrate different fundraising efforts, as if there is some magical balance of activities that will automatically make development run smoothly and attract donors.
But no matter what approaches are used, every donor will react differently. So instead of focusing on itself, a charity should begin by taking a holistic view of its donors.
Far too often, development offices get siloed: The annual giving people don’t work with the major gifts people, and so on. In fact, most donors make multiple gifts in multiple ways.
Meet the donor’s needs first
Successful fundraising focuses on meeting the needs of the donor before those of the organization. This requires good research and a good relationship with the donor.
Knowing the various motivations that drive a prospective donor makes a fundraiser better able to do his job.
Through research, a development officer may be able to tell that a donor is a candidate for annual gifts and also for major gifts later on.
Invest in sophisticated research tools
The more you understand about a donor’s interests, preferences and values, the more you are able to integrate your programs to satisfy his or her needs.
Once you have gathered that information, you must have a system for maintaining it.
A common database that all staff members contribute to is usually best, though it takes a fairly sophisticated database to juggle such a variety of information and inputs.
Conduct a pre-proposal process
A good step is to have a generalist on staff who is capable of coordinating your development office’s contacts with a given donor from the beginning.
As someone who oversees 16 different colleges with 16 development offices spread across the state of Kentucky, I very often find donor prospects who cut across the geographic locations of our constituent colleges.
A good way to encourage cooperation in such situations is to set up pre-proposal meetings with a potential donor.
When I conduct these meetings, what I’m looking for is alignment between what the donor is trying to accomplish and what we’re trying to accomplish.
Then it’s easier to decide which college or group of colleges might interest them in terms of making an investment.
For example, the head of a Kentucky bank with branches statewide made it very clear that while she wanted only one proposal, she was willing to consider allowing her one commitment that to be allocated among seven different colleges within our system, according to the market share her company had in each particular area.
This removes the competition factor from development officers, each of whom may feel they should have gotten all of the bank’s contribution.
The key is to ask the donor; they will tell you what they want to do.
Stewardship and recognition
Donor recognition programs need to be more comprehensive in their approach, building on each other rather than pigeonholing a donor into one particular category.
Good stewardship and “donor-centric” fundraising means ethical fundraising. Donors should be treated with respect and according to the highest level of ethical standards.
The AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards addresses the issue of stewardship and donor relations, and charities should abide by those standards.
A gift should always be gratefully received and donors should be appropriately thanked. At the same time, the organization must respect the donor’s wishes as to how public they wish their gift to be.
“Anonymous,” for example, does not mean a donor doesn’t expect any recognition. While they may not want a lot of public hoopla about their gift, they may still want the attention of the organization’s staff.
How you steward a $10 annual gift determines whether you will ever receive payments on that $5,000 planned gift.
— Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd
Timothy R. Burcham is chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He also serves as vice president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.