Penelope Burke, President of the consulting firm, Cygnus Applied Research, has been researching donors for 25 years. Now, she is preparing to retire, but her career’s work will remain front and center for nonprofit leaders forever.
She championed the donor-centric fundraising strategy in the early 2000s before many for-profit companies turned their focus to consumer-centric or ‘customer obsessed’ operations. And this led to success for those who immersed themselves in this strategy. We are now living in a consumer-obsessed economy. Companies that fail to put the customer as their top priority do not last. The model is simply not sustainable in this market. The same is true for nonprofits.
In a recent interview with Burke, Emily Haynes of The Chronicle of Philanthropy asked about the biggest changes that Burke has seen in donor attitudes since Burke created her donor survey report in 2009. Burke explains that,
“The biggest overall change is their seriousness about their philanthropy, the degree to which they will do their research before giving for the first time or giving again. Fundraisers used to be able to say, ‘OK, here comes the appeal! I want you to give now, and this is why I want you to do it.’ They have to shift from gatekeeper to customer service agent. It’s much more like, ‘How can we give you what you need?’”
So, what do donors want, then? Based on her research and analysis, Burke saw that it was going to take much more than a template ‘thank you’ and a 3-month follow-up reminder to retain donors. “They want to be acknowledged promptly and in a gratifying and gracious way. The fundraiser’s job becomes: ‘How can I knock my donor’s socks off with the quality of the thank-you letter that I write?’
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With Gravyty, fundraisers are doing just this. Once a gift of any size is made, a fundraiser is prompted to reach out. Within the prompt, the fundraiser is given everything he or she needs in order to do so personally and efficiently:
- A background on the gift that was given.
- A bio of the donor. Telling the fundraiser everything he or she needs to know about this person.
- A unique, self-written first-draft email suggesting what the fundraiser might want to send in an email, say on the phone or write in a letter. This is designed to provide the fundraiser with a starting point from which he or she can make edits.
- Once the action is taken, it is logged back into the CRM as an action.
Because this prompt is given to fundraisers as soon as the gift is received, fundraisers are able to follow up quickly and personally - two crucial elements of stewardship that can highlight the importance of the donor's gift.
The interview with Burke is full of valuable data-backed findings from the past 10+ years. Prompt and personal gift recognition is simply one of the dimensions leading to a donor-centric strategy, and in my next post, I will be writing about how the bottom of your donor pyramid is actually where the most potential is waiting to be discovered.
Interested to see how prompt and personalized stewardship is possible at scale? See a Gravyty demo today and learn how AI makes it possible: