There’s an old saying that perfect planning prevents poor performance. It’s true, but planning for fundraising success requires patience and a desire to focus on the bigger picture or long-term value. I prefer the term ‘long-term value’ over ‘life-time value’, because we know supporters often continue to change the world long after their loved ones are forced to say goodbye.
Few charities operate without a detailed fundraising and marketing plan, but for the most part they fall victim to two things: the one-year budget cycle, and what I call ‘right now fundraising’, or RNF for short.
The budget cycle trap will be familiar to most professional fundraisers. You’re under pressure to improve immediate net, so you cut your bequest budget, knowing the associated revenue won’t appear in the same year. It really is fool’s gold because while your immediate financial position is improved, the potential for much larger revenue in future years is put in jeopardy.
The RNF trap is worse. Fundraising for immediate wins rather than the long term doesn’t work. The data tells us that the benefit of acquiring a new supporter starts in year two, possibly even year three, and grows substantially over time if your onboarding and retention strategies are executed perfectly.
The only exception might be peer-to-peer or challenge-style events where the immediate impact is great, but because it’s connected to a friend or relative, it’s usually not driven by cause or brand. It often means the number of people who never make a second gift can be very high.
Planning is everything. Should you acquire cash donors today without a refined regular giving proposition or a mid-level donor program? Of course not, but it’s a path that’s often taken. Everyone would like to acquire more donors, but without the right systems in place it’s skydiving without a parachute.
Synergy Fundraising recently had the pleasure of working on some projects with Erica Martin, the CEO of the Humane Society International Australia, and her Fundraising Manager, Rosie Lempriere. Over 12 months we worked together to give HSI’s supporters an impeccable journey from the point of acquisition right through to a gift in their will.
I’m biased, of course, but their new communications are some of the best produced pieces I’ve ever seen. They are all beautifully branded, have consistent messaging throughout and come together to build a suite of communications that people love to receive.
HSI Australia would probably admit that they needed to do more to make certain the fundraising team is truly focused on long-term value, so they are embracing a strategy reset of sorts that will allow them to carefully steward acquired donors through an engaging and rewarding experience for each and every supporter.
The most impressive thing is that all of their work is being done before a single cent has been invested in acquisition. They are living proof that planning can guarantee the absolute best bang for your acquisition buck and long-term value.
Another example comes from the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Queensland. Rather than dedicate a single ask or single push for a confirmed bequest, we worked together to produce four mail packs to promote leaving a gift to the RFDS.
Each pack comes from a different viewpoint, but all highlight the need and outcomes of adding a gift in your will. RFDS QLD receive an average of $70,000 for each bequest, so it makes absolute sense to utilise direct mail to that audience four times in the space of two years, rather than a single mailing with only one opportunity for a response.
If you’ve segmented and scored the right prospects, the energy and expense of four communications versus the potential outcomes are almost insignificant. Smarter still, to retain all the donors that converted to a confirmed bequest we’re now working on retention pieces that re-engage and constantly remind RFDS QLD supporters of the impact a gift in their will can make.
None of this has an impact in a single day, but the long-term revenue will be tens of millions of dollars. Isn’t that something to strive for?
Adam Drinan is the Founder of Synergy Fundraising.
If you’re interested in more strategies around planning for long-term value, please get in touch directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website and receive Synergy Fundraising’s top 10 tips for maximising long-term value.