Going to market with a new fundraising product? John De Rango has some points for you to consider.

Going to market with a new fundraising product? John De Rango has some points for you to consider. ‘Products’ are the new ‘programs’

Type the words ‘fundraising products’ into Google …

… and you’ll find yourself trawling through page after page of websites promoting nonprofit fundraising products, from chocolates and cookies to raffle tickets, bricks and pavers, t-shirts – and everyone’s favourite, the wristband!

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, many nonprofits raise much-needed funds through promoting and selling these types of fundraising products.

However, these days when the word ‘product’ is talked about by marketing and fundraising professionals, you can bet your bottom-dollar they are not referring to a box of chocolates.

What is a fundraising product?

Fundraisers are now referring to their fundraising programs as ‘products’. While it’s not the most alluring term, think about your current offerings to individual donors. I’m sure there’s a mix of regular giving programs, one-off donor appeals, emergency giving, bequest programs, and upgrade or cross-sell programs.

They are all, in essence, ways for donors to support the work of your organisation. Each of these products need to attract donors to give, to become engaged and informed, as well as make donors feel as though their support is making a difference to a cause.

Therefore, fundraising products need to have clear elements – not too dissimilar to general product marketing theory and practice with considerations such as:

Product name Positioning Price Aims/objectives Experience Servicing What’s in a name?

Just a few product names in the Australian marketplace for nonprofits promoting regular giving programs include: Aware (Oxfam); Miracle Club (Fred Hollows); Imagine (Save the Children); Animal Ambassador (RSPCA); Puppy Sponsor (Guide Dogs) and Wilderness Defender (The Wilderness Society).

As a very good starting point to the donor’s product experience, product names should be inclusive of the donor and immediately evoke a sense of belonging. It is important that the name has a sense of power and change about it, as though the funds are already making a difference. A product name should be positive and provide a feeling of achievement rather than a feeling of guilt.

The classic nonprofit conundrum

It would be fair to say that almost all nonprofits would like their donors to feel a close connection to their organisation. It is true that some donors support a charitable cause due to direct experience with that organisation, such as using their health services. But for many donors and causes that’s not the case.

So how can nonprofits possibly become donor-centric organisations when fundraising products are primarily structured on the need, purpose and/or program budgetary requirements of the nonprofit?

Building a portfolio of products for current and potential donors is always a challenge when the starting premise is what we want to sell … rather than what and/or how the donor wants to support.

Reviewing your fundraising product mix

‘The Business Dictionary’ defines a product mix as “a range of associated products which yield larger sales revenue when marketed together than if they are marketed individually or in isolation of others”.

Reviewing your organisation’s fundraising product mix by mapping your existing individual donor product offerings can be a good exercise. A quick and effective way to get a clear snapshot of how your fundraising products are currently positioned is to perform a simple three-step approach.

Step 1: List all the products your organisation offers to current and prospective individual donors. Determine which products are classified as regular giving, one-off giving or both.

Step 2: Rate each product on a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the following:

Level of restrictions on how/where funds are utilised by the organisation
Funds raised for specific projects are considered to be the least flexible (most restricted). Many nonprofits raise unrestricted funds via seasonal appeal mailings.

The financial commitment by the donor
How varied are the price points for each product? Does your organisation have high and low ‘ask’ products?

Level of donor engagement with/towards the product
Does the product elicit a high or low level of donor engagement and/or interaction between the donor and the organisation or project? The higher the level of knowledge as to where funds are being spent, the more likely the donor will feel engaged at a higher level.

Cost of donor engagement (materials etc)

Number of current active donors and/or the level of gross income to the organisation

As you start comparing your products based on these key parameters, you will soon begin forming your own clear benchmarks as to what constitutes a high or low rating, and you may see clear trends emerging.

Step 3: Now it’s time to paint the picture by charting your ratings (Figure A). The ideal product space is when a product has high donation value and high flexibility.

Figure A: The ideal product space

It’s more than just acquisition

More and more, donors want to give and engage – not give and forget! Product connection extends far beyond the donor’s experience at point of recruitment. Therefore, an integrated and personalised donor engagement program for each fundraising product is critical.

Donor connection to the product

When developing communication touch-points for your fundraising product, break down your plan into four key areas:

Recruitment Initial retention Ongoing retention and development Reactivation When does the communication take place? Why is the communication happening?

What information is provided? How does the dialogue happen? These questions will assist to audit any current or future communication materials.

Designing and distributing messages for key donor moments will help to increase donor engagement, especially during periods where attrition is most likely.

Case study: Mind Australia

Mind Australia, an organisation that supports people with mental illness, recently developed and implemented a new fundraising product. Named ‘iMind’, the product was established to raise important unrestricted funds through regular giving.

As face-to-face fundraising would be the principle acquisition methodology, the product needed to resonate across a number of internal and external stakeholders, including frontline fundraisers/advocates; potential donors and supporters; Mind’s clients; the board and staff.

Mind wanted to create a product that improved organisation name recognition. The name ‘iMind’ fit the bill, as well as providing advocates and donors with a simple and clear premise: “I mind – and that’s why I give”.

Examples of how donor funds would make a difference were clear and supported by the welcome and retention materials sent to new donors. These materials were developed and ready prior to product launch, ensuring initial attrition was kept to a minimum.

Since its launch over a year ago, more than 4,000 donors have joined iMind’s regular giving program with excellent retention rates. Monthly unrestricted income is exceeding Mind’s initial expectations.

Know what you’re offering

It’s important to know exactly what you are offering donors. Take a good look at your full product mix and ensure there is a balance between low and high value giving programs, and restricted and unrestricted income.

From point-of-sale messages through to ongoing knowledge sharing communications, you must map your products, plan your key donor engagement moments and have processes in place to enable proper management of the entire product experience program through your donor database. It goes a long way to increasing retention rates, donor loyalty and contributions.