By Nigel Harris AM
Double giving! Who wouldn’t want to do that?
And here’s the twist. You can double giving by focussing on the donor – not the money.
Simple, right? Well, yes and no. So, let’s look at this a little more closely.
Just a few weeks ago our understanding of fundraising practice took another leap forward. However, like many things that end up fundamentally changing what we see and do, the significance of this leap may have been easily overlooked at the time.
A new step in relationship fundraising
Relationship Fundraising 3.0, a research report published by the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy (authored by Dr Kathryn Edworthy, Prof Adrian Sargeant, Prof Jen Shang) was released on July 11th, 2022. It may have hit your inbox. You may have read it. And you may already be excited by the findings it presents.
And if you haven’t read it, here is the link to the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy and the Relationship Fundraising 3.0 report.
The report presents four years of experiments with fundraising communications that resulted in doubling giving. Yes, that’s absolutely right, increases in giving exceeding 100% while also delivering enhanced levels of supporter satisfaction and wellbeing. And that is the key to this work. The focus is on the donor – not the money!
What is actually happening in fundraising?
So that’s pretty simple, right? It is when we think about what is actually happening in fundraising. But is that what we really do in fundraising?
If our focus is on the money, the activity, or program, it may be that we are not looking at the donor. Or if our focus on the donor is superficial, or indulgent, we are most likely not looking at the right things. Or if we are immersed in data, or personas, or assumptions, we may not be looking closely enough at what’s actually going on for the donor.
Perhaps it’s not quite as simple after all. And if that is the case, and there is more to just engaging donors in order to increase giving, then what can be done? Relationship Fundraising 3.0 sets out a path. And the evidence laid out in this report shows what is possible.
A significant change
But let’s be clear. This represents a significant change in the way we think about what we do in fundraising. Or at least presents the science and the results that support this thinking if you have already arrived at this understanding before now.
This work also addresses some of the arguments that have been put forward in the interpretations of donor focused fundraising and donor love over recent years.
The donor centric versus community centric issues are specifically addressed in the report. It may not resolve the debate for all, but that doesn’t dimmish the case presented by Relationship Fundraising 3.0.
And the conversation around donor love appears to have taken some different and curious directions more recently. Once again, while opinions will be what they will be, this work lays out a very clear understanding of philanthropic psychology and what is actually being explored when we talk about love and donors.
A new challenge
There is a new challenge for fundraising practice contained in Relationship Fundraising 3.0. It is a timely one as we continue to see shifting trends in giving and donor engagement that present a compelling need and opportunity to take up this challenge.
And there is an even bigger challenge for leadership of and around fundraising practice.
The way we understand, plan, resource, and measure fundraising at a leadership level quite simply needs to be better informed and better executed. Arguably, one of the most significant limitations of effective fundraising practice is leadership. Research has been identifying this issue for at least a decade now. Ultimately, we ignore this to the detriment of the communities we serve.
Relationship Fundraising 3.0 brings a unique combination of a scientific rationale and the hard evidence of results. It raises the bar in fundraising practice and pushes us even harder to understand, advocate and execute, as we focus on the donor and not the money.
At this point I need to offer a disclaimer. I am a Trustee of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, and in that role, I could be seen as biased in advocating this work. And that would be true. I have had the opportunity to closely observe the development of this work over several years and I understand what it offers to our sector. So, I’m convinced.
My encouragement to you is, rather than take my word for it, read the Relationship Fundraising 3.0 report, explore philanthropic psychology, and test the concepts and applications yourself. Increasing giving as well as donor satisfaction is a direct path to serving the purpose that frames your organisation’s existence.
And that begs a simple question. Who wouldn’t choose to do that?
So over to you. Your move.