A Check Up From the Neck Up

over time, fundraising procedures stacked one on top of another, can place an organization in a box that it cannot get out of.

Roy C. Jones, CFRE

I am always amazed at the professionals in fundraising who fall prey to their own methodologies.  They build a fundraising program and processes over years and year of hard work.   They develop a work-around, solutions, and new procedures every time they are confronted with a new problem.

In most cases, the policy or process they have developed is a work of art (and science), something to truly be proud of.  However, when you start to layer on these types of decisions one on top of another, sometimes over decades, it can clog up a fundraising program.  The organization can become clunky and hard for donors to stay involved in.

Fundraising programs are so unique to each organization, it is often impossible to tell when it is time for a “check up”.  What tends to happen over time is that organizations (especially those that have had some turn over in the development area) institute policies and procedures which have outlived their effectiveness.  Nearly always they were the right decision at the time they were instituted, but over time these fundraising procedures stacked one on top of another can place an organization in a box that they cannot get out of.

Donations often dip because a charity or non-profit has not changed with the times and updated their techniques and strategy.

I encourage organizations every year to take a step back and look at where their organization results are today and compare them with what is going on nationally.  If you see specific areas that are off kilter, begin focus on those areas first.  A triage approach is critical to improving results.

Is it time for you to compare your fundraising program with trends nationally.  Here is a quick list of industry standards that should help you with your check up:

  • WEBSITE GIFTS: 25 TO 50% of all donations are transacted via the organization’s website; regardless of the channel solicited (mail, email, phone, event, TV, radio, FSI, SS are all using the web to process their gift). Note: Direct mail is not dying, the reply device is simply changing.
  • WHITE MAIL: White mail (the donor’s own envelope) is more pronounced as average gifts exceed $100.  Most organizations are seeing 15 to 25% of all donations arrive via white mail (coded reply devices are still important for instructions on how to give, but donor sophistication is making them a thing of the past). The mail is not “dying”… the reply device is changing.  The RD’s are now choked full of instructions for ways to give in addition to the supplied reply envelope.
  • MULTI-CHANNEL: 80% of all donors are multi-channel givers nationally today.  The old adage that if a donor is acquired by the mail they can only be renewed by the mail is no longer true.
  • RENEWAL GIFT AMOUNTS: 50% of all donors are renewing at their previous highest gift level
  • RENEWAL UPGRADES: 15% of all donors are upgrading their giving level over the previous year
  • DONOR LIFE CYLCLE: 5 to 7 years is the average life time of a donor on a specific file
  • LTDV: Long Term Donor Value spikes dramatically after 5 years, renewal donors will renew between 80 to 90%
  • AVERAGE GIFTS: Renewal gifts should be higher than the initial gift; most charities see renewal gift amounts increase by 50% after the first year


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