We live in the best time to fundraise! No longer are we at the mercy of the latest anecdote. Now we have a growing body of solid research into how to best help donors to invest in what matters to them most!
Take this as an example: for over a year, the folks at Rogare, the fundraising think tank of The Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, have been rigorously studying relationship fundraising. They've examined theories, ideas and learning from the academic domains of marketing, social psychology and a little bit of public relations and looked at how they can be applied to fundraising.
As they say in the report:
In 1992, Ken Burnett’s ideas behind Relationship Fundraising established a benchmark for how to effectively connect with donors. But the world has changed significantly over the past 25 years.
In light of the changing landscape of fundraising, today’s nonprofit professionals are facing new questions…
- What truly inspires a donor to give?
- How do we appropriately connect with that motivation?
- How do we engage donors in a way that not only inspires them to give today, but become a lifetime supporter of our organization?
Organizations that know how to answer these questions make significant strides towards achieving a long-term, sustainable impact in the world.
What I love about the research is that the Centre and Rogare are not content to rest on the extensive research. They are committed to connecting with people actually doing the work. As an advisory panel member, I was honored to review their initial reports and surveys and participate in multiple conversations around relationship fundraising.
I was particularly struck by the discovery of two "schools" of thought. The North American school and the British school. The research suggested that North American (Canada and USA) fundraisers tend to focus on "relationship" more than "fundraising." Even to the point of saying that "it's not about the money." Across the pond, the British folks seem much more focused on lifetime value of donors.
Personally, I think this is crazy. No nonprofit I know can exist just to build relationships. Asking has to be kept in focus.
It's about the relationships, stupid
Even with asking and lifetime value in mind, the concepts of relationship fundraising are the key to thriving in the coming years. And these 4 volumes of findings help chart the path.
- Volume 1 — The Why — Why Relationship Fundraising?
- Volume 2 — The How — Best Practices in Relationship Fundraising
- Volume 3 — The Who — Insights & Tips from Leading Practitioners
- Volume 4 - What Next? — Next Steps: Applying the Principles for Fundraising Success
You can read them all for free at:
I suggest you start with Volume 4. (It's only about a dozen pages.)
One of the lasting impressions I have from being part of this process is that "relationships" are more inclusive than merely donor-fundraiser or donor-nonprofit. Our relationship fundraising models are being invited to be opened up to all the relationships in the organization.
I'd never thought of "relationship fundraising" that expansively. But that's how successful fundraising really works.