As a recent addition to the JGA team, I read a quote by an unknown author that really stuck with me – “Today I close the door to the past, open the door to future, take a deep breath, step on through and start a new chapter in my life.”
Even though I really like this quote and it applies to me today, I would change it a bit to fit my experience. I have been lucky to work with amazing organizations with amazing missions and have learned from some of the best in the business. So I would say instead that I put the past in my back pocket where I can readily access it.
In coming to JGA and working with some of the most seasoned professionals that I have admired and respected for so long, I am already learning so much. In fact, I’m learning many of the things that I wish had been at my fingertips when I was leading advancement efforts at various organizations.
Oftentimes when we serve in development roles we wear lots of hats and are pulled in many different directions. Thus, we don’t often have time to strategize with our own teams or review best practices and sometimes we look for the easy answer, hoping for the “silver bullet.”
Here are some recent “lessons” that I have found helpful and would fall on my “I wish had known list:”
- Cost to Raise a Dollar: Direct mail donor acquisition is generally going to cost more than a dollar to raise a dollar. That’s ok because you are acquiring new donors who are self-identifying as being interested, thus, you can get them in your prospect management cycle. Direct mail renewal should be costing your organization a quarter or less. If your special event is costing under 50 cents in direct expenses (gross) then you are doing very well and outperforming the average cost to raise a dollar for events. Your planned giving program should generally cost 20 to 30 cents to raise a dollar. Finally, capital campaigns remain the most cost effective way to raise money with a 10 to 20 cent cost to raise a dollar.
- Major Gift Officer Metrics: From various sources, I’m reading that high performing major gift officers should have eight to 10 qualified face to face meeting per month. By qualified I mean planned “moves” with your donor prospects that take them along the major gift continuum.
- Online Giving: According to 2013 research by Blackbaud of organizations that use their software, 6.4% of all gifts came from online giving. But, the 13.5% growth rate in online giving far outpaced the 4.9% growth rate of all giving.
- Donor Renewal: When planning your annual fund strategy, consider this information from the 2014 Non Profit Collaborative Special Report – the key benchmarks/tipping points for increased likelihood of achieving fundraising goals were a renewal rate of 50% or higher and more than 5% of donors upgrading their gift.
These are just a few tips I wish I had known and of course there are many more. As we all know in our business, the only silver bullet is forming personal relationships with our donors and prospects. It’s what drives our success. I like to think that if we’ve done a good job at establishing a relationship with a donor, asking for the gift is the easy part.
So, while my past experience may just be in my back pocket, it is the foundation of everything for me. I hope that in the near future, I can use it to help you and your organization.