Notes From Engagement: How to Cultivate Donors

Notes by Eric Rubin on June 3, 2011

The basic premise of the conversation was:  how do we cultivate long term buy-in and engagement from our donor community.  Some basic themes included:
1) strategies for grabbing immediate interest;
2) short-term campaigns versus long term “keep the lights on” fundraising
3) moving folks up the engagement ladder


-Strategies for connecting with donors:
-comment: getting folks to donate is EASY (i.e. $5) its getting deeper buy in from volunteers and volunteer leaders that is the real challenge
-make it tangible – they are buying a single goat/microloan, not throwing cash into a pot
-example:  US Association for UNHCR blue key campaign; you’re buying a key, not making a simple donation
-creating donor “bling” that donors can wear around like a badge of honor
-importance of excellent reporting, regularly demonstrating the impact the dollars are having
-creating a two way conversation between donors and fund recipient communities
-engaging donors through a campaigns approach – where their dollars are tied to helping complete an action or campaign (i.e. get a bill passed, etc)
-lowering barriers to entry with simple asks (sign a petition, vote for a bumper sticker slogan, tell us in a few words why you support us, etc)

-Other types of buy-in
-i.e. crisis commons where folks are donating all kinds of personal abilities, time, physical space etc.  They consciously avoided individual fundraising and instead cashed in on large foundation grants given their successes mobilizing a mostly volunteer labor force

-Issues of scalability
-the Kiva example, is direct earmarking really feasible with scale – it was exposed publicly that they donor funds were not translating directly to individual loans as per their marketing/branding indicated
-Red Cross example:  in Haiti they were fundraising to recoup much of the funding that had already gone out the door in the early days of the crisis.  They had to be very honest in their asks – to fund “this emergency in Haiti and others like it.” or to include a earmark click box on their donation form for “where the money is most urgently needed.” – which may translate to paying rent.
-some organizations do successful “help keep the lights on” fundraising campaigns.
-do we NEED to scale up as a non-profit, or can we find a new model that’s not based on the capitalist construct of economies of scale?