6 danger signs for your fundraising program

I once had a job at a grocery store that involved driving a beat-up old pickup truck to bring food from the warehouse to the store. One day as I drove along, the truck suddenly stopped running.

What I didn’t know was that the gas gauge had stopped working. It showed a full tank when actually the tank was empty.

The problem with the truck was invisible to me.

That can happen in your fundraising. You can be running on fumes, but you have no idea because you aren’t looking at the right gauges.

Here’s a post from the GroupThinkers Blog that can help you: 6 clues in your donor file that could spell trouble ahead

  1. Not enough digital revenue. Little by little, donors are giving more online. We need to be there with them. If your digital revenue is less than 15 to 20% of total revenue, you are probably falling behind. Work to capture donors’ (and others’) email addresses. Integrate your traditional channels with email. Keep it up.

  2. Not enough sustainers. Strive to move 10% of your donors to monthly giving. This may be a stretch for you, but they value of sustainers is so high, you need to make it a priority. Use direct mail, telephone, and digital channels to convert single-gift donors into sustainers. And keep at it.

  3. Mid-major donor proportion isn’t up to par. The Pareto Principle is a useful guide: 80% of revenue coming from 20% of donors. Being way above that, with more revenue coming from fewer donors, is comfortable for the short-term but risky for the long-term. Being way below likely indicates that your donor upgrade pipeline isn’t working well.

  4. Losing too much to attrition. This is the most common problem for weak or unsustainable fundraising programs. The way to fight attrition is to build relationships with donors: Beside to thank them well, report back the impact of their giving regularly, and ask often enough that you don’t fall off their radar.

  5. Not acquiring the right donors. If you have poor new-donor retention and/or donors are starting out with very small gifts, you may be getting the wrong people … or building the relationship wrong. Work to improve average gift at the point of acquisition, and make sure you track retention by acquisition source.

  6. Negative trend line for core donors. Core donors are those who have given each year for three or more years. They are your most profitable donors, and most likely to upgrade their giving and put you in their wills. If you’re losing people from this group faster than it’s growing, you are heading for trouble. Treat these donors like the special people they are, with excellent thanking and reporting back.


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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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