Jason Dick over @ A Small Change has asked for input about how the nonprofit world treats donors small versus major. [My answer at bottom.] First a caveat -- for the most part I think fundraisers and donors get treated pretty well by the major charities. As an active participant and fundraiser in recent National multiple sclerosis Society, LiveStrong and Habitat for Humanity events my donors and I have been treated well, but...there is plenty of room for improvement & thinking different.
Jason asks, "What if we treated all of our donors like major donors? What if instead of cultivating and personally soliciting donors we started treating them all as if they were major donors?....what is a major donor and why do we only personally cultivate donors at a specific level?"
So to answer Jason's question why do we (charities) only personally cultivate donors at (only) a specific level? Simply, they do what they can -- for most organizations it is just too expensive (time and money or both) to personally cultivate each fundraiser let alone each twenty or fifty buck give. That is too bad because these are the seedlings that become the grass roots! But in the major charity's defense it understandable -- it IS NOT economically feasible [certainly not in the traditional way we've always done it mode]. But...I actually think it can be done.
My experience (small) is with the active charity fundraiser segment; walkathons, cycling and running events. According to Run Walk Ride (study of top 30 active events like Relay for Life, Susan Komen Race for the Cure and JdRF Walk to Cure) in 2007 an astounding 12,094,000 people (fundraisers) participated and raised $1,640,636,458 yes that's with a B! Before you get too excited that's only $135.65 each! One can argue or spin those numbers but OK for kicks let's double it; that's still $270 each, small potatoes. The reality however is that SMALL is pretty darn BIG! Keep cultivating that next $5-10K donor but don't ignore the seedlings and here's why...
SMALL has the potential to be a lot, lot bigger & fast -- after all it's not that hard (is it?) to help a $135 fundraiser reach $200. So if 12 million people raised $65 more that would be $786 million more give or take -- gotta love the long tail!
Answer: First, every person in the NP world should read Made to Stick, NOW,TODAY! The answer/key (beautifully explained in MtS) is to help each individual fundraiser & donor tell their story and to make those stories an integrated & persistent theme of the NP's message "make their story part of your cause" not the other way around. Instead of asking donors to make your charity or event part of their life -- encourage and enable them to tell a story about why (who) your charity is part of their life! I know this is not new or particularly profound but IMHO it is not being done effectively or persistently. Telling their story, personalizing a cause. This is not your Father's Sally Struthers!
A few helpful tools and ideas:
- check out the March of Dimes Share you Story
- believe in and foster user forums, meaningful blogs, social media: Facebook, Zimbio et al (danger! read meatball sundae first) and...
- consider putting a face on fundraising one (photo) button a time.
Do whatever it takes to make their story part of your cause!