Distance Not Making Donors’ Hearts Grow Fonder

Some 80 percent of Food for the Poor’s lapsed donors stopped giving because they felt distanced from the organization. “Every time we had a meeting, we said the donor is king, but we weren’t acting like the donor was king,” said Angel Aloma, executive director of the Coconut Creek, Fla.-based organization. During the next three years, Aloma said his organization internalized what it meant to make the donor king, starting at the top.

Aloma shared tips on engaging audience and making your organization donor-centric during the recent Fundraising Day in New York, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals New York City chapter.

He said shifting from an organization-centric view to a donor-centric view took three years of hard work. “Culture eats innovation for lunch,” said Aloma. He looked at every piece of copy and sent back to the creative team any that didn’t fit a donor-centric outlook. “Finally we are getting truly donor-centric copy,” he said.

Food for the Poor mails a lot: It used to be 24 pieces a year. “We had a ton of people saying, ‘Take me off your list,’” said Aloma. “When we started getting donor-centric, we actually added mailings and we get about 60 to 70 percent (fewer donors) asking to be removed. We are making the donor feel good about herself.”

To truly be donor-centric, you must answer the question: What does your organization give to its donors? For Food for the Poor, a Christian organization, it’s prayer. It has a prayer app, where users send a prayer request and get a callback with a prayer during business hours. That’s part of Food for the Poor’s unique selling proposition, or USP. Another is, “Nobody ships food as well as we do,” said Aloma. “Tell those stories well, and make them filled with emotion.”

Aloma believes that monthly donors are some of the best prospects for upgrading. Not only do they last on your file on average twice as long as other donors (7 years as opposed to 3.5), but they don’t often think of their yearly value. If a donor gives $10 per month, that’s $120 per year, but the donor is only thinking of the $10 per month. “If you say, ‘Give us $2 more,’ they don’t think $24, they think $2,” said Aloma.

Aggressive ask strings can also upgrade donors. Food for the Poor has dynamic ask arrays based on the appeal. If it’s a food appeal, the string is — last gift, lowest lifetime gift, stretch gift and other. For a housing appeal, it’s: greatest lifetime gift, lowest lifetime gift, stretch gift and other.

If you’re seeking to upgrade younger donors, don’t neglect direct mail. Some donors will receive your mail piece and then go online to make a gift. “Young people are still receptive, if not for response then for triggers,” said Aloma.