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An Idea On How To Upgrade Mid- And Upper-Level Annual Fund Donors During This Recession

In previous articles about direct response fundraising during down economic times, we discussed two important precepts for stewarding donor relationships. The first was the importance of keeping your brand — your programs and your mission – in front of your donors.

Donors are likely to increasingly prioritize their philanthropy while the economy remains in recession. You must do everything in your power to remain a top priority of your donors. One way is to keep your message before them, with fundraising and other points of contact — regular reminders about how important their support is to both your organization and those you serve — how philanthropy is currently making such a big difference to those you serve.

The second priority is to make giving as easy as possible for your donors.

A way to accomplish this is to be flexible in providing options for your donors to make their gifts. Instead of insisting on traditional direct mail upgrades, driven by table driven arrays, we can show empathy to our donors for the difficult times that in some manner are shared by all, by making it increasingly easy to give.

Doing this can be a win-win proposition for both you and your donors. Here’s how

Consider allowing – even promoting — donors making their mid-size and upper-level gifts – in installments. And seeking upgrades a bit differently than in the past. Instead of asking a $100 donor for a lump sum upgrade to $150 or $250, provide an option for the donor to make his/her gifts in two, three or four installments.

That same $100 donor may be far more apt to commit to three “payments” of $50 or $75 than sending the equivalent in one check. By giving them this option, you may further cement your relationship.

Plus, the three gifts of $50 or $75 total a 50% and 125% upgrade, respectively. You have your upgrade and you have moved your single gift donor to a multiple donor. This added gift frequency could easily change the giving patterns of that donor into the future … making him/her much more likely to renew their support in the short and long term.

One way to accomplish this is to create a current year donor segment on your file and customize your approach to these donors at each point of subsequent contact. In each appeal, you can stimulate multiple gifts from donors in one or two of the following ways:

1. Adopt a year-to-date cumulative giving recognition program. Tell your current year donors how much they have given this year-to-date, and what the balance is to achieve recognition in the next giving level. Present these balances as a giving option for that appeal, in addition to a standard upgrade table. Giving levels provide another impetus to give again and to upgrade. And if you restrict the presentation of the “balance due” to upgrades over the last gift, many donors will choose to do so.

2. If you don’t want to utilize giving levels, simply soft code your gift files for the commitment the donor has made to make his/her gifts in increments. After the installment commitment is achieved, utilize subsequent appeals to present a variation of the message for current donors – presenting the balances “due” as the “ask” amount. Setting up a separate billing system can be inefficient and burdensome; this approach allows you to avoid that and yet still follow-up with your donors. Above and beyond the upgrade value, moving your single gift donors to multiple donors can double – even triple — your ability to retain their support in subsequent periods/campaigns.

3. Set up a monthly giving program. We’ll address monthly giving/sustainer programs in a separate Strategy Alert. However, monthly giving programs can provide significant upgrade income and drive much higher levels of long-term donor loyalty. Additionally, a majority of planned giving prospects usually come from the file of monthly sustainers.

One Response so far.

  1. Ruth says:

    You are definitely right. Philatrophists doubles on their charity work during times of recession. What a good way to gain more attention from them!

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