Donor Retention: Keeping Ice Bucket Challenge Donors from Evaporating
Opinions about the merits of a single-disease organization raising that much money so quickly are in no short supply, but there is another challenge the ALS Association faces: how to turn a one-time virtual event (most people won’t dump ice water on their head twice) into long-term awareness and advocacy. Turning just one percent of these first-time donors into volunteers would net 30,000 new advocates for the cause.
Most nonprofits will never face the challenge of integrating 3 million new donors into their communications and volunteer strategies, but even those with significantly smaller numbers of new donors should have a plan for moving donors from one-time investment to long-term involvement. This issue is different than retaining annual fund donors from one year to the next. It’s a question of creating opportunities for new donors to learn about and actively participate in the organization’s mission.
Pay attention to what brought the donor to the organization. Social media played a critical role in the spread of the Ice Bucket Challenge so social media should be the means of reminding people what they supported. The Ice Bucket Challenge will cool off, but this very visual campaign has an opportunity to continue using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep people aware of the cause and the impact of their gifts.
Respond to donors in the way that they originally reached out to the organization. Online givers provide email addresses. Send thank you letters, newsletters and other information about participating in the organization by email. For gifts that came in the mail, respond with information and opportunities through the mail. Let people operate within their own comfort zones.
National organizations with local chapters should provide the chapters with contact information of local donors so that they can keep these new donors aware of what’s going on in their area. Organizations with smaller geographic reaches should continually remind donors about the impact on their community, friends and neighbors.
Be vigilant in addressing misinformation about the organization. The ALS Association is currently fighting off a fake news article alleging that it spends only a small percentage of its funding on its mission. In a virtual world where information is passed quickly but not always tracked for truth, every nonprofit needs to know what is being said about it and reach out to correct bad information.
Few nonprofits will hit the viral campaign jackpot like the ALS Association. But every nonprofit needs to develop a plan that answers the question: How do we turn a first-time donor into a long-term advocate?
If you’d like to further discuss ways to improve your donor retention, please feel free to contact me at 816.237.1999 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Board Succession Planning
Mary Ellen Clark
Senior Vice President
Succeed: (suh k seed), “defined as 1) to thrive, prosper, grow; 2) to accomplish what is attempted or intended”. These are terms every Board leader hopes will be associated with his or her work with an organization. In order to assure that important projects will move forward and that the mission of the organization will be met, the important activity of Succession Planning must be implemented and considered a key element of planning.
Succession planning has been a serious part of organizations for the past decade. It allows for the organization to plan for the sudden change in personnel due to, for instance, staff members moving when the opportunity of a lifetime comes along, transferring or experiencing family changes... and you’re left with a large hole in your plan. We now see the strongest and most effective Boards doing the same: planning ahead for change.
The most forward-thinking boards consider skills and experience, not just titles. There are Board positions that must be filled by a sponsoring organization representative as stated in governance by-laws. These individuals and their talents should be considered in the complete make up of the Board. While Boardroom diversity progresses slowly in some organizations, striving for balance is key.
Director of Development
The trend in nonprofits of term limits for Board members (two or three years) may seem like a short period for a Director to make a real impact. New Board members can make a more immediate impact by participating in a detailed orientation program and a Board mentorship program. By teaming an experienced Board member with a new Board member, the result can be powerful. Organizations should also plan for ongoing Board education, either from an internal source or professional expert.
The trend in corporate director term limits over the past few years has changed, opting for longer terms to capitalize on experience and Board training. (Businessweek, May 2013) Board service by these corporate leaders to other organizations is also being limited, having an effect on securing strong volunteers for our nonprofit boards.
Lack of Board planning can lead to repeating the same programs year after year because they are a pet project of certain Board leadership or may result in ineffective fiscal oversight because “we’ve always done it this way”. If your Board has not considered term limits, Board composition evaluations, routine education programs and succession planning, imagine the even greater success you could find if they did.
If your Board is looking for a “Board composition matrix” to review and use to evaluate future Board members, contact our office at 816.237.1999 or email me at email@example.com.