I’ve said for years that fundraising is never democratic – and it isn’t.

Let me share a little story to illustrate…

Many years ago, my wife, daughter and I attended Almonte United Church, just outside of Ottawa, Ontario. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t at all that committed to church life – but when I was asked to help out I tried to. One night I got a call inviting me to a fundraising meeting of the finance committee of the church. They said that they knew I was a fundraiser, and that they really needed help raising $70,000 to replace the roof on the church’s social hall. Of course, I agreed to go to this meeting.

At the meeting, the Treasurer kicked things off by saying that 23 families (out of 300 families in the church) were donating more than half the total money that the church raised in a year. Everyone thought this was terrible – and the conversation focused on raising money from the people who ‘weren’t doing their share’. They went on about this for quite a while. When the conversation cooled down a bit, I asked if we were meeting to discuss how to best raise $70,000 for a new roof. Everyone agreed that’s why we were there.

Well” I said “If you want my professional opinion about the best way to raise that $70,000, I’d say that you should go back to the 23 families who already give a lot and ask THEM to give more”. Of course, the all thought I was nuts – and I don’t believe I was invited back for a second meeting!

Let’s take this way of thinking and apply it to a direct response program.

The best way I can think of to double net revenue from a group of single-gift donors works like this. Note, it doesn’t matter if they give online, by mail or over the phone – the principle stays the same.

  • Get 10% of these donors two switch from making single transaction gifts to making monthly pledges.
  • Persuade about 3% of your donors to stretch their giving up to the $500 or $1,000 level.
  • Persuade about another 5% of your donors to include you in their wills. (Note that a lot of this group will also be in one of the two groups already listed.)

If you accomplish what’s listed in the three bullets above, you’ll double net revenues from the same group of donors in about 5-10 years’ time.

And the important thing to keep in mind is that only about 15% of your donor file made this doubling happen!

So, to grow your fundraising program, it’s incredibly important to be strategic and consistent about segmenting your donors and asking them to give the right amounts in the right ways for the right reasons.

If you do this well, you’ll become a philanthropy superstar. I promise.