In my last post, we covered one of the biggest changes in donor attitudes since 2009: “the desire to be acknowledged promptly and in a gratifying and gracious way.”
In her recent interview with Penelope Burke, Emily Haynes of The Chronicle of Philanthropy asked about the biggest change that needs to be made from the fundraiser’s strategic approach. Burke explains,
“Most of that stuff that causes a high level of donor attrition very early happens at the bottom of the giving pyramid. It’s a huge shame because donors are quite deliberate when they decide to support a not-for-profit for the first time.”
With a record number of first-time donors during 2020, attrition is a real fear for many NPOs. We cannot afford to throw up our hands and say “there is no way that we can personally communicate with all of these donors.” Unfortunately, the default in fundraising is to focus on the top of the donor pyramid because these individuals are giving the most.
But failing to engage those at the bottom of the pyramid could have devastating consequences. Burke explains that, “If you treat your donors at the bottom poorly and shake your finger at them and expect them to somehow get to a higher gift value and then you’re going to be nice to them, then you’ve got it backward.”
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Towson University is using Gravyty’s AI tools to execute a donor-centric strategy by providing personal, relationship-building engagement to their young alumni base. Many of these individuals are at the bottom of the donor pyramid right now, but fundraising leaders at Towson understand that their fundraisers now have the capacity to do this with the help of Gravyty. So, as time progresses, these relationships with the bottom of the pyramid donors will be critical in advancing these donors up the pyramid in a seamless way.
It all goes back to personal communications. As Burke explains, “If a donor gets back what they feel is a good response then they’re ready to give again and to give more generously next time. The stunning rate of donor attrition between the first gift and the second appeal, which is over 65 percent and getting worse all the time, is absolute proof that the fundraising industry is not donor-centered.”
"The stunning rate of donor attrition between the first gift and the second appeal, which is over 65 percent and getting worse all the time, is absolute proof that the fundraising industry is not donor-centered.”
So, we have an industry in which the status quo is to establish a comfortable overdependence on the top donors with the understanding that there is not enough time or human capital to personally engage with the rest. Unfortunately, this is not sustainable. Without individual attention, donor affinity will wane despite having the capacity to give at a greater level, and the organizations that are engaging with all of their donors will create a sustainable pipeline through which full potential is recognized as donor affinity grows.
If you want to learn how your existing fundraising staff can personally reach more donors without working longer days or having to learn a new piece of software, see a Gravyty demo today and see for yourself how AI is empowering fundraisers everywhere to cover more of the donor pyramid: