This post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.
Your guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Data Solutions & Implementations, Marijana Radić Boone. Marijana's career has been built on helping mission-driven organizations use technology to achieve new levels of success. A former Gravyty customer, Marijana understands first-hand how artificial intelligence transforms what's possible in fundraising.
Keeping Donors Engaged During The Great Resignation
With unprecedented labor shortages facing US employers, social impact organizations are no exception. Vox recently reported that “there are 3.6 million fewer people on payrolls than there had been pre-pandemic. Labor force participation rates — the share of the population that’s working or looking for work — are far below pre-pandemic levels.” Employers across the board are having to adjust - in addition to traditional HR offerings like higher wages and better benefit offerings, they are looking for ways to adjust to the “new normal.” The same is true for the social impact sector.
One big thing that goes in favor of donor-supported organizations is that donors support them because they care about the mission and the goals, not because of loyalty to any one employee. Of course, without a skilled fundraiser, they are not going to maximize the amount and/or the impact of their donations. And, as with any relationship, donors should never be taken for granted. If not cultivated and nurtured, an organization’s relationship with a donor can dissolve fairly quickly.
Here are some strategies organizations can employ to keep donors engaged during times of transition:
- Personalized stewardship outreach - while it may not be feasible to do this for every donor at every level, it’s important to identify those donors who should not be relegated to a form letter thank you note. If the remaining fundraisers don’t have the capacity to cover this pool, there may be others within the organization who can step in - organizations should consider deploying the executive assistant, for example, who is likely already a great communicator, or engaging their volunteers. While many volunteers are not comfortable soliciting donations, most will be happy to reach out and send a personalized email to say thank you for a gift to an organization about which they care deeply.
- Quarterly mission impact updates - stewardship is great, but it’s just as important to keep a cadence of regular communication going, so donors don’t feel like even that personalized outreach was a one-and-done thank you. Updates from the “corner office” are an obvious opportunity here, but this responsibility can easily be distributed across the organization. As mentioned earlier, donors give because they’re interested in the impact the organization has in the community, so, depending on their area of interest, this role could be fulfilled by a volunteer coordinator, program manager, or alumni engagement officer offering a brief personalized note about what they’re doing to further the mission.
- Scale your remaining operation’s outreach through digital channels - we are still in a pandemic, and donors are no different from the rest of us - they are used to digital channels serving as primary means of communication and having virtual meetings, whether it’s for business or family reunions. Digital communication cuts down not only on the cost of doing business in a switch from mail to email, for example, but can tremendously reduce the overhead of time for fundraisers and executives - each commute they cut out of their day is another meeting they can take with another donor, effectively doubling or tripling their capacity!
- Deploy your volunteers - already mentioned above, this one bears repeating. Volunteers are already committed to helping, and stewardship is a natural fit for them. Some volunteers may also be comfortable cultivating closer relationships with donors and even asking for donations - they may need some suggested language and prompting to stay on task, but their ability to relate to donors is tremendous (after all, they’re both “insiders from the outside”).
For social impact organizations, the Great Resignation simply exacerbated the long-present challenges of recruiting and retaining fundraiser talent. It is high time for them to take stock of their business practices and determine how they can adjust (supplement or wholesale replace) them to more easily “ride out” these periods of staff transition. This will be critical in their efforts to retain and continue to engage donors while they’re working on refilling their ranks.
If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, connect with Gravyty today.