The biggest threat to your fundraising revenue

Who is the biggest threat to your organization?

Let me suggest that it’s a certain person on your staff who thinks your fundraising is lame and who has a much better idea that goes like this: Take a group of high-performing donors and move them into a major donor category. That way you can stop sending that annoying, ineffective direct mail and instead cultivate them with some kind of major donor strategy.

In theory, this could be a smart move. After all, high-touch fundraising can raise a lot of money at a superb ROI.

But that’s not what happens.

Nothing happens.

The group of valuable donors falls between the cracks. They no longer get the old fundraising that helped them rise to their present value, and they’re assigned to already-busy major donor reps who simply can’t give them the attention it takes to keep them giving.

And so the months go by, and the valuable source of revenue is mysteriously shut off. Worse yet, after a year of no cultivation, the donors drop off the list. Instead of around 20% of them lapsing, as one might expect, 90% of them lapse. And once they’re lapsed, most will never come back.

The revenue loss, depending on the size of the group, can easily be hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars every year for the next several years.

You might think this hypothetical situation I’m throwing out is much too specific. There’s a reason for that: I’ve seen this precise thing happen dozens of times. It’s not a freak accident; it’s a common occurrence.

The person who makes that decision is a mortal enemy to your fundraising revenue. They should not be making decisions of that magnitude. Chances are, they shouldn’t be making any decisions.

Don’t move donors out of your direct mail program unless you have a specific plan for each one you remove.


Comments

8 responses to “The biggest threat to your fundraising revenue”

  1. You are so right. And I have been guilty of doing this myself.
    Fortunately I knew enough to stop a client from making this same mistake this spring!

  2. You are so right. And I have been guilty of doing this myself.
    Fortunately I knew enough to stop a client from making this same mistake this spring!

  3. YES! Gotta remember that nurturing major donors takes so much more than direct marketing to them.
    I always recommend taking one or two at a time to develop closer relationships with, continue to include them on the general dm campaigns and, only when certain criteria are met (that are clearly defined–and agreed on–before the shift)

  4. YES! Gotta remember that nurturing major donors takes so much more than direct marketing to them.
    I always recommend taking one or two at a time to develop closer relationships with, continue to include them on the general dm campaigns and, only when certain criteria are met (that are clearly defined–and agreed on–before the shift)

  5. Amen to that Jeff. Brilliant post. Thanks, Lisa

  6. Amen to that Jeff. Brilliant post. Thanks, Lisa

  7. I have a client who sends their major donors a special letter each month as well as the general appeal from the organization. What do you think of sending higher performing donors their own DM package instead of dropping them from the mailing list?

  8. I have a client who sends their major donors a special letter each month as well as the general appeal from the organization. What do you think of sending higher performing donors their own DM package instead of dropping them from the mailing list?

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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