Does asking too often burn out donors? The eyeballs have the answer.

16 Oct


Last week, while watching my Twitter feed go by in a moment where I took a break from creating copy, I saw a tweet from Blackbaud suggesting that it’s a myth in fundraising that asking too often burns out donors and makes them give up supporting nonprofits. I made a mental note and came back to that tweet this week and read the article.

In the article, it was stated that DonorVoice had done a study in 2012 that pinpointed “Engagement” as the highest key dimension in donor commitment. Donors want to be engaged by nonprofits they support. Engagement leads to volunteering, advocacy and giving.

In the back of my mind I had always been told that the reason donors left is that they feel like they are just an ATM to the nonprofits they choose to support. My sense is this is in response to nonprofits who only engage when they need money and not at other times.

So I got to wondering just what’s going on with engagement, retention and giving. Which position is right? Can mobile help with answering this question?

Engagement can take many forms and the selection of channel is important. Today, and forever going forward, engagement centers on person-to-person and social media (not just the usual suspects but text messaging and email too).

The 2013 Millennial Impact Report tells us that millennials go to the website of a nonprofit to “check you out” and then head to social media to follow you, share with you and see what others are saying.

So for this population it’s all about social media and will be for a long, long time. All nonprofits need to be on social media. In the vacuum of not being there your existence is questioned, no one can find you and certainly no one can share you with their network.

For an older population not using social media, direct mail is still used although what I hear is that it’s mostly a break even endeavor so I’m not real sure why it’s still used by some. Some say it’s a brand exercise. I hear donors say they worry their direct mail gift begets more direct mail which is a turn off for them.

Left to me, if I were the head of a nonprofit, I would go all in with social media for engagement for one main reason: the ability for my message to go very, very far in no time. Who shares direct mail pieces? If I had a great time at your gala or shot a 68 at your golf event how’s that help you engage others?

Here’s a great post from Third Sector Today about using social media to propel your mission.

Retention is the quest to stay relevant in the mind of your supporters and to keep a nonprofit donor informed and satisfied of your appreciation of their support.

When I think about retention and mobile I think of one thing: eyeballs.

If your donors’ eyeballs are so glued to their mobile phone they are willing to risk car accidents, break social mores around where, when and how loud they speak on their phone and put up with rotten service from their carrier, you have to, I repeat, have to figure out how to let them stay there when you engage with them. Don’t ask them to put the phone down and read your letter or go to their laptop. This article refers to Facebook saying users of it’s mobile app are “obsessive” about using it.

Guess what? Other nonprofits let them stay on their mobile and with their eyeballs glued to it they will win in a world of picky donors facing increasingly tough economic times.

Lastly, we turn to what makes the repeated engagement and the hard work at retention pay off: a donor makes a gift.

Does mobile help with this? Of course and I would say above all other channels for getting gifts, mobile is the best.

Yes, I know…..I work at RAZ Mobile and have to say this. Not really.

I can make gifts to any cause on our platform that I want to give to in 20 seconds and it feels GOOD!

I get a Thank you right away and it feels GOOD!

I get to act on my impulse when I see a message that spurs me to make a gift and it feels GOOD!

I follow nonprofits I like on my mobile phone via Twitter and it feels GOOD!

The mobile phone is an impulse release device connected to the internet. That’s a GOOD thing!

My advice to causes that think they will burn out donors by asking to much is to forget the overt ask. Start engaging via social media, stop asking your supporters to tear their eyeballs away from their phones and give them the option to make a mobile donation in the moment when they feel the impulse to give.

3 Responses to “Does asking too often burn out donors? The eyeballs have the answer.”

  1. creativemusiclessons April 10, 2014 at 7:18 PM #

    Good points and arguments for social and mobile fundraising. I disagree about direct mail though. It’s still a really relevant communications channel for fundraising.

    I think it’s something like 80% of gifts are from people 55yrs+. Most major gifts (90% of donation revenue) are being cultivated in person, by phone, and with mail.

    Sure social media and mobile are an important piece to communications and fundraising, but the good old fashioned mail box is a really important part of the equation. Today i received 200 email messages, but only received 3 pieces of mail – I think digital clutter and overload is something relevant for most people, and a nonprofits asks can get easily lost in that shuffle.

    You should look into Tom Ahern’s work in Direct Mail, it’s really good, convincing, and proven.

    Eye balls matter, but in regards to donor demographics – not all eye balls are equal.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Kristian Hochreiter, MBA
    Nonprofit Communications & Development

    • daleknoop April 10, 2014 at 8:01 PM #

      There’s only one giving channel that’s growing and that’s online and it’s headed to a mobile-centric experience with 1 in 4 being mobile only. What happens to a nonprofit when 1 in 3 are mobile only on the internet? Direct mail won’t disappear but neglecting mobile will turn your nonprofit into Nokia.

      • creativemusiclessons April 10, 2014 at 11:26 PM #

        Ok, but “growing” doesn’t necessarily mean “most relevant” for all donors or supporters, or most important for every nonprofit development plan.

        When discussing “retention”, acquisition costs versus renewal costs should be explored. When you take it all into consideration, direct mail is very effective in terms of ROI. Very effective.

        I think there are a good number of nonprofits that would still thrive without mobile bidding, without mobile/responsive optimization, without hashtags, etc. I personally believe in keeping pace with technology, and meeting people where their eye balls are. I have a background in fundraising technology/software, so I understand where you are coming from . . . But, to say that a nonprofit becomes irrelevant or unsuccessful by not placing emphasis on mobile seems a bit reductive. I think nonprofit communucations and development is a more complex journey than that, and it’s not one-size-fits-all.

        Have you surveyed nonprofit staff, donors, volunteers, to get a good number of perspectives on this?

        What do the nonprofit consultants out there think?

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