In addition, I thought it would be useful to highlight what I feel were the most important points I hope attendees took away from the session.
I don't know if that's ethical but what it showed me was that the private sector is so far ahead of us in terms of analysing data that it's embarrassing. There is a whole lot more we could be learning from our data so as to give our donors and supporters what they want, when they want it (even if they don't realise it).
Open Your Direct Debit Date
There are significant differences in failed payments and cancellations depending on what day of the month you debit your donors. So what is the 'best date'? The answer is 'it depends'.
Rather than choosing the best date to process your Direct Debits you need to instead allow your donors to make their monthly donation on any day of the month. The majority of Irish charities only offer the choice of 1 or 2 possible debit dates and there doesn't seem to be any logic to how this date was chosen historically. No organisation in my session allowed the donor to choose any day of the month.
Charities will claim that they do not have the resources to process direct debits every day of the month but I would absolutely challenge that. It takes a few minutes to process each day and your finance department should be doing this. If they won't then consider paying them from your fundraising budget and see if that changes their mind. Rather than spending your budget on retention and recruitment the simple act of paying your Finance Manager to process Direct Debits every day will improve your retention conveniently and cost-effectively.
In addition, instead of asking your potential donors what day of the month they wish to give, consider asking them what day of the month they get paid, and then process their donation shortly afterwards.
Consider The January Spike
We all know your failed Direct Debit payments peak in January. And if you don't know that then let me tell you...your failed Direct Debit payments peak in January. The biggest risk is that donors see a single failed payment, panic, and cancel. You know it's going to happen, so what are you going to do about it?
The easiest thing you can do is offer your donors (by mail or by phone) a payment holiday in January. Your donors will respect you for treating them like human adults and very few will take you up on the offer. They might even be so flattered with your offer that they make an additional donation (assuming you allow them to).
Any donations you lose out on through the payment holiday will be easily compensated for by additional donations, better donor retention and a stronger relationship.
Work With More 'Challenging' Donors
Attrition of students, unemployed and younger donors is bad. You'll also notice donors that live in certain locations are more likely to cancel.
But don't write them off and don't stop recruiting them.
Instead consider putting more work in to these donors. Change the language you use to communicate with them. Offer them a lower gift amount...even the lowest gift amount. Ask them to volunteer. Ask them to fundraise for you.
Eventually, try to reactivate them. The won't be challenging donors forever. And when they're ready to give and give loyally then the months and years of work you have put in to nurturing the relationship will be well worth it.
Upgrade Your DonorsUpgrading your donors by telephone works extremely well. The return on investment is amazing. The response of donors is positive. Statistics are showing that an attempted upgrade call will result in improved attrition rates regardless of what the outcome of the call is.
Start upgrading your donors now. Get an agency to do it. Total Fundraising do it...and we do it very well.
Create A Donor Community
The attrition of male and female donors are similar, although not the same (do you communicate differently with men and women?). But what I find really interesting is that donors that give jointly as a couple are significantly better quality than donors that give by themselves.
In the same way that running and exercising with someone spurs you to push yourself harder, giving is more enjoyable when you do it with someone.
So how can we manufacture 'joint' donors? You can't ask your donors to start having sex.
But what you can do is build a community of donors who are funding one project and who are visible to each other. Resources like Facebook make this free and easy. Consider setting up a private Facebook group for 50 of your donors that are funding one project. They can interact, support and encourage each other, and most importantly motivate each other to stay involved.
I founded The Retention Consortium where charities can plug in their own figures and in return see other organisations' anonymous figures. Through this shared learning we can make huge advancements in what we're doing and we can avoid making the same mistakes another charity has already made.
For more information e-mail me.
These are just some of the ideas I explored in my seminar. If you wanted to know more or to see why one client was surprised to find out how cynical I am then, well, you should have come to my session.