Early in my fundraising career, I specialized in corporate sponsorship. Negotiations with potential sponsors invariably came down to justifying the price for an alliance with my not-for-profit’s good name. I was often asked how I calculated the value of my organization’s brand. I was aware of companies that did brand valuation, but my budget could never bear that kind of expense. So, while my organization’s brand was my strength, my inability to put an evidence-based price on it weakened my position. Little did I know then, the value of my not-for-profit’s brand was hiding in plain sight all along — inside my database.
The strength of a not-for-profit’s brand or mission statement is largely responsible for success in donor acquisition. First-time donors will give you a chance based on your good name (if that name is well known) or your intriguing mission statement (if you are among the many not-for-profit’s whose names don’t immediately resonate with the public.) Among the minority of donors who gives again after acquisition, some respond positively to appeals for more generous contributions. But a larger number of donors gives more generously for awhile, but soon their contribution value hits a ceiling; they keep giving but gift value is now stubbornly immutable. That is the value they assign to your brand. Professionals in corporate sponsorship or affinity marketing can use this information to attach a value to their not-for-profit’s name.
But, Development Directors know that sponsorship alone cannot sustain a fundraising operation, and here is where those stalled donors offer a different and exciting opportunity.
There are significant differences in motivation among donors whose gift values keep rising and donors who get “stuck” at an amount that is, by their own admission, well below what they could be donating. In my recently published 2018 edition of The Burk Donor Survey, donors who gave more generously last year than the year before credited not-for-profits for inspiring their increased giving. For instance, 41% of these forward-moving donors said they were impressed with the results their chosen charities were accomplishing; 29% said they responded to a specific request to fund a compelling case that was an organizational priority. Many of these donors have inside information from volunteering or receiving services in the past; others receive good information about how their gifts are being used because fundraisers are offering that information to donors whose gift values keep rising.
In contrast, donors whose gift values have stalled are less connected with and influenced by the not-for-profits they continue to support. 55% referenced their own financial stability that allowed them to maintain, but not grow, their philanthropy; 41% said they tend to budget a similar amount for giving year after year. At the same time, only 12% said they are not open to giving more and 51% admitted they had more money to give last year but deliberately held their philanthropy back.
Of course, Development professionals are right to zero in on donors whose gift values are moving up, offering them more rewarding information and better stewardship. Fundraisers also notice donors who stop giving, reclassifying them as “lapsed” and urging them to come back. But that quiet, larger group of donors who value your brand but aren’t seeing your accomplishments — that’s where your biggest opportunity lies. It’s your move.