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You Need To ‘Buy’ New Donors

“People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players,” said Peter Brand, a made-for-the-movie character in 2011’s film adaptation of the book Moneyball. “Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs.”

Jeff Stanger, author and fundraising consultant, looked to translate the same general concept that worked for the 2002 Oakland Athletics to fundraising during his presentation during the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals’ international fundraising conference in Boston. Rather than buying engagement and outreach through digital fundraising, Stanger encouraged attendees to think in terms of donors, subscribers and volunteers.

There is a sentiment that social media does not lead to fundraising, Stanger acknowledged, a belief with which he disagrees. All organizational communications have two audiences, he said, donors and clients – otherwise known as contributors and consumers. In that sense, social media can be considered part of the cultivation process.

Popular buzzwords of recent years include community, engagement, transparency, likes and followers. The first three are immeasurable and it is unclear how they impact clients and contributors, said Stanger. The latter two are untrustworthy given the presence of “slacktivism” — the tendency of some to “like” a post, but do nothing else to benefit the cause. Engagement is not the best way to measure social media efforts, Stanger added, likening it to picking the most valuable player at a sporting event based on crowd applause.

Permission is the single most important asset organizations have in fundraising. In social media, having someone “like” your organization gives permission to show up on that individual’s feed. Similarly, having somebody’s home or email address provides permission to send something to that individual.

If, for instance, an organization hosts a variety of different programs ranging from after-school care to shelter to meals, that organization can look at engagement related to specific content to see if certain followers respond to certain content more frequently. From there, organizations can work toward moving a follower along to another level of engagement such as an email list.

Means of taking that next step include:

* Developing a social media plan that includes regular, segmented messaging for each organizational goal;

* Using landing pages and free offers to gain subscribers; and,

* Creating sign-up for email list buttons and tweets.

“I’ve done two things, increased the level of permission and put you in a segment in which you are more likely to respond,” Stanger said.

A digital giving strategy should have goals that are easy to measure, easy to show return on investment and easy to show causation vs. correlation. General managers in baseball might have turned to on-base percentage over the past decade as a valuable statistic in predicting team success. Stanger offered three fundraising focuses to emphasize during his presentation. Increase the following:


  1. Email subscribers. Despite the rise in social media and texting, email is alive and kicking, Stanger said. Last year, three-quarters of social media users indicated that email is the best way for brands to contact them. Just less than half (42 percent) of heavy social media users check their email at least four times per day;


  1. Monthly donors. The renewal rate among monthly donors is 60 percent on average and such donors tend to give two or three additional times per year. Monthly donors have an average lifetime value twice that of single-gift donors, Stanger said. Organizations can jumpstart monthly giving programs by branding them with special communication efforts; and,


  1. Volunteers. Volunteerism is often the first rung of the giving ladder and a way to both kick the tires and build a deeper relationship. The most recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America report indicated that more than 79 percent of volunteers donate as compared to 40 percent of non-volunteers. One-quarter of volunteer hours are spent actively fundraising or selling goods, Stanger added.

Stanger used an example of securing 100 new volunteers for a campaign, each giving five hours of their time. The average value of a volunteer hour is about $22, making the service worth $11,000. Then, should about 80 percent of the volunteers make a modest gift of about $50, that’s another $4,000. Further, if 125 of those hours are spent fundraising, and 60 or so average gifts of $50 during that time, an organization can calculate a total benefit of $18,000 from a single campaign, Stanger said.

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