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People Give to People: Building Donor Relationships Through Multiple Channels

Advancement professionals spend a lot of time and energy trying to decide which engagement channel is going to give them most return on investment this year. People wring their hands over the soaring costs of phone, the forgettable nature of most solicitation emails, and the fickle beast that is social media. The truth is, focusing on a single channel is not going to help you meet your fundraising goals. Creating a healthy, long-term fundraising strategy is about finding multiple avenues to connect with prospects. Once you’re able to create the human connection, donors will begin to identify themselves.

Among Reeher Community institutions, the amount of money raised by phone has been declining steadily since 2007.  During this same time period, money raised by direct mail continued to climb, but has been leveling off in the last year or two. Dollars raised from web lags behind both phone and direct mail, but has been growing steadily year-over-year. However, it would be a mistake to use these broad trendlines as justification for dramatically changing course. You’ve got to dive deeper into your data and discover how to best use every communication means available to you. To simplify, phone solicitation still can be smart and cost effective if used correctly, and the ascendant web solicitation is not a magic bullet. Strategic, data-driven communication through all channels is the best way to get a solid return on investment in fundraising.

Building a connection – what does this mean?

Connections are built through frequent and meaningful contact. People give for all sorts of reasons, and to a certain extent you’ll always be guessing about the frequency you should communicate with them, the messaging that will appeal to them and the channel that will ultimately reach them. For this reason, you should keep many different lines of communication open. Think of your direct mail, web and phone solicitations as working in concert with one another to help build a relationship. If your institution’s data suggests that phone solicitations aren’t as effective, keep phone, but alter the script to be more conversational.


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