Thursday, March 20, 2014

Back to the Future

Roger Craver, one of the founders of the fundraising agency Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co, currently provides insights through his fundraising blog, The Agitator. Back in 2011 he posted an article titled The Future of Fundraising. It was based upon Blackbaud’s recently released report Growing Philanthropy in the U.S.  The report contained reams of helpful recommendations and insights. A lot has happened since 2011. Osama Bin Laden is off’d, Occupy Wall Street begins, Muammar Gaddafi is killed, the Sandy Hook massacre takes place, the Japan tsunami wrecks havoc, Prince William and Kate Middleton marry, and NASA’s Mars rover detects evidence liquid water once flowed on the red planet. Where stands fundraising? Were the Blackbaud recommendations heeded? You be the judge.

Here are a few of the top takeaways from the report and Craver’s analysis (minus some of his entertaining but salty language):

     Redefine Relationships. Stop being selfish. Focus on giving for giving’s sake.

     Re-orient toward longer-term measures of fundraising performance. Immediate measure of ‘success’ (response rates, immediate ROI, giving totals for the year) doom us. Look at long-term values.

     Enhance focus on retention and building supporter loyalty.  Listen up! With retention rates in the dumper too few nonprofits really understand that a 10% improvement in retention results in a 200% improvement in lifetime value.  Time to get real.

     Develop a more integrated approach to fundraising. It’s not the method, stupid, it’s the message. And the message must focus on the donor’s concerns, not yours.

     Break down organizational silos and encourage greater collaboration between teams. The authors are too kind to say it, but you should be ashamed of your territoriality.

     Give supporters greater control over the relationship. Ken Burnett, The Agitator, DonorVoice and scores more have been preaching this for years. This is the arena where you can quickly add the most value.

     Tackle high turnover rates in the fundraising profession. Face it. It’s not the pay it’s the lack of respect from CEOs and board members that drives folks out of this trade. We have an identity crisis and have to deal with it.

  Educate all stakeholders about the necessity of a longer term and integrated approach. I know, I know, it’s like playing Mozart to a cow, but we have to do it. It’s a real challenge, but we must not allow Boards to be stupid about fundraising, stewardship and philanthropy.

     Empower the regulators to enforce 100 percent filing of Forms 990 to increase their utility. Hey, I know this seems picky, but the fact is that some organizations don’t file, some lie, some don’t.  Transparency is key to the future of philanthropy. Get with it.

     Blow the whistle on organizations claiming to have zero costs of fundraising. As long as watchdog organizations reward ‘zero’ costs, organizations will lie. It’s time to call out the phonies in the watchdog groups and blast the nonprofits that play this game. There simply ain’t no thing as ‘zero’ fundraising costs.

     Encourage nonprofits to develop complaints schemes. Anyone who knows anything about donor retention and commitment is familiar with the importance of feedback. (See  This report reminds us of the absolute necessity to provide multiple methods for donor feedback.

     Develop new and more appropriate measures of performance.  Efficiency and cost of fundraising sucks as a measurement of anything.  There are far more appropriate measures.

     Develop the self-regulation of fundraising. Ethics be damned.  There’s a whole host of scumbags out there. But, we can do something about them.

     Encourage the adoption of monthly giving. Serious Monthly Giving or Sustainer programs produce 600% – 800% more revenue. Get to it. Now!

     Encourage and promote best practices in social media.  Importance of social media isn’t $, it goes to building loyalty and commitment.

     Encourage asset-based giving. The Report claims that 93% of a person’s giving potential is realized with a bequest or other planned gift.  Get at it!

     Improve the quality of bequest fundraising practice. Death is our friend. But, with at least 8% of our donors willing to make a bequest, this just has to be taken out of the incompetent (marketing-wise) hands of planned giving officers and placed in the hands of those capable of selling.

     Redesign the system of professional development and certification for fundraisers. Important stuff here. Knowledge and understanding of donor behavior is key for the future, not the number of AFP merit badges.

     Educate board members about the intricacies of fundraising.  Among all the barriers to successful fundraising and philanthropy, the ‘board’ is the mightiest barrier and pain. This report rightly targets the boards for education and improvement.

I’d say all of these would make the list of priorities for 2014.  What say you?

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