Goodbye Donor Pyramid, Hello Donor Lifecycle Map!

Do you ever read something and lightbulbs start flashing in your head like your brain just went to Vegas? This was my experience when I recently read about the Donor Lifecycle Map. Talk about changing the paradigm! The donor pyramid focuses on the organization and how many donors you have at which levels right now. The Donor Lifecycle Map focuses on the DONOR and where they are in the lifecycle of giving.

This gets my brain excited. I know, I’m weird to get this excited about fundraising! But this simple illustration does something very important: it helps you focus on retention. Going back to the donor pyramid – you know what this looks like, right? It has a bunch of donors who give a small amount at the bottom, and a small amount of donors who give a large amount at the top. For years I have talked about moving donors up the pyramid, but what the pyramid assumes is that as long as you have enough donors in each level, you’ll be okay. On the other hand, the Donor Lifecycle Map is focused on how long the same person has been a donor to your organization. The longer they have been a donor, the more committed they tend to be.

I heard about this brilliant map in an article I read in AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy. The article highlighted a book written by Deborah Kaplan Polivy called The Donor Lifecycle Map: A Model for Fundraising Success. I have ordered my copy and can’t wait to read it! I believe this shift in thinking will help my clients to really understand cultivation and retention in a whole new way.

There are two ways to use the Donor Lifecycle Map. One is to plot where a specific donor is on the map to gauge their engagement with your organization. Another is to plot your donors as a group on the map to see where you are losing donors in the lifecycle. What percentage of your donors do you lose after one gift? How about after two gifts? What percentage of your donors are multi-year active givers? This illustration doesn’t show lapsed givers, but what percentage of your list would fit this category? How can you engage those donors to get them back on the Donor Lifecycle?

Ding! Ding! Ding! Jackpot! This is where the money is. Active cultivation of your current donors. Focusing on what donors who have already shown interest in your organization might need to stay engaged over time — instead of always starting over with someone brand new. See, pretty exciting, huh? I hope lightbulbs are flashing for you now too!

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy, Individual Giving, Learning Opportunities, Uncategorized

Are you changing the world? Or just passing the time?

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.Joel A. Barker

I had a walking meeting with one of my favorite clients the other day (we walk and talk instead of sitting in a coffee shop – it’s great!) and I came across this engraved stone. I was struck by this simple statement and snapped a photo. When I googled it later, I found out it was the middle of the full quote listed above. So much is said in those simple words. I had to break it down to one sentence at a time to process it fully.

Vision without action is merely a dream.
If you have a vision statement, but don’t do anything to achieve it, you’re just dreaming.
Maybe you have thought about starting a new fundraiser or a new program, but the thought of it is as far you have gotten. Just thinking about it or talking about it won’t make it happen.

Action without vision just passes the time.
We have all been there. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in the status quo and just do what you have done before. You think, “It’s about time to start planning the gala… or sending out the appeal letters.” But before you start planning or start writing, it’s crucial to stop and think about your vision. Your strategy. Otherwise, you’re just passing the time. When we just keep doing what we have always done, we can’t expect for the results to improve.

Vision with action can change the world.
This is what we do. Nonprofits help change the world. When we combine vision AND action, it’s powerful. This is when you start to feel like you’re really making a difference, because you are. Getting your organization to agree on a clear vision statement can make all of your activity more focused. Vision can help you evaluate your activities. Are they just keeping us busy, or are they moving us closer to achieving the vision?

Fall is a great time of year for reflection. What have you done well this year? What lessons have you learned? What can you do better next time? If you have a strategic plan, use it. If you don’t have a strategic plan, create one. Update (or create) your fundraising plan for 2018. All of these things can help you make sure you have both vision and action. After all, we don’t want to just dream or just pass the time. We want to change the world.

Posted in Why Fundraising?

Your Silent Auction Q & A

Gala season is upon us and that means many of you are worried about silent auction items. How many do you need? What do people bid on? Your silent auction questions answered here:

How many silent auction items do we need?
Fewer than you think. A good rule of thumb is no more than one item for every 5 guests. Many people attend these events as a couple, so you have fewer bidders than you have guests. And the way you raise money at an auction is by having competition. When you have too many auction items, you not only reduce competition, but you also can overwhelm your guests. If they feel like “shopping” the silent auction is work, they might not even look.

What do people bid on?
You want to fill your silent auction with the things people love to buy. The most popular items are often alcohol, restaurants, staycations, and anything that pulls their heartstrings and connects to your mission. Of course, that begs the question – what doesn’t sell? Some of the worst items for a silent auction include art, jewelry, and photography. The problem is that these items are very subjective and you lose a huge number of bidders because they have different taste, making these items much less competitive.

Is two better than one?
No! Not in a silent auction. I frequently see silent auctions with multiples of the same item, like a restaurant gift card, right next to each other. This kills the competition and almost guarantees those items will each go for well under value. Instead, group those items together into one larger package. Or in some cases you can even go to the runner up bidder and offer the item to them for the winning bid price to double your money.

What should I do with donated items I didn’t want?
Inevitably, you will end up with some donated miscellaneous items that you don’t think will sell. So take all these items, and make it a game. Guests are frequently willing to donate a small amount for the chance to win a mystery gift, which could be worth a lot. There are many ways to do this – balloon pop, mystery envelopes, bean bag toss, putting game…you name it. Just be sure each donor wins an item worth at least as much as they donated.

What makes a silent auction successful?
Make the silent auction fun to shop, and make sure it’s easy to bid and easy to check out. Know your audience, and seek donated items they will want. Follow these tips, and you’ll add valuable cash to your event’s bottom line. And if you need more help, let me know. I enjoy helping nonprofits raise more money at their special events.

Posted in Fundraising Events