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Debunking Four Fundraising Best Practice Myths for Medical Nonprofits


When it comes to fundraising, there are as many strategies as stars in the sky. Non-profit organizations are often behind the curve of fundraising best practices. This lack of innovation generally has a lot to do with a lack of resources. Employees don’t have time to research cutting-edge new techniques and there isn’t money to put new ideas into action anyway. This can lead to stagnation and definitely means non-profits often miss out on donations they could otherwise be receiving.

Myth #1: Attribution Models Are Essential

Attribution models for evaluating fundraising revenue performance are a huge example of a best practice that has become out of date thanks to new technologies. This myth likely originated in the private sector. Companies have been placing a lot of emphasis in recent years on attribution - that is, evaluating the success of their ongoing fundraising activities based on individual campaigns. The emphasis on click-through and open rates on email campaigns is an example of this. Because these metrics are easily trackable, they are attractive to many people who want to get better visibility into fundraising performance.

Non-profits aren’t seeking customers however, they’re seeking donors. Donors aren’t paying for a product; they’re giving you money to accomplish things they believe are important. Your relationship with them is ongoing and always evolving; segmenting their gifts into this campaign or that campaign can have serious negative consequences.

Focusing on campaign-based metrics can easily get you into trouble, because it will limit your visibility into the health of your donor relationships. Donors aren’t numbers, they’re people - and if you ask them to give to often or not often enough, you’ll lose out on the lifetime value they offer as partners in your mission.

Myth #2: Peer-to-Peer Efforts Don’t Work

Many non-profits mistakenly think that peer-to-peer fundraising efforts are only for elementary schools and girl scouts. While they may have perfected the process, that doesn’t mean your organization can’t use it successfully. You may just need to widen your perspective on what peer-to-peer options are. It doesn’t have to involve selling anything door to door, or selling anything at all.

Some non-profits are finding success by deploying peer-to-peer fundraising efforts through social media platforms like Facebook. Having your volunteers and donors share just a little of your organization’s story with all their friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter can go a long way towards attracting new donors.

If you’re able to get a good amount of your core donor base to share information about your mission and even two or three percent of each person’s friends decides to donate, you might gain a substantial number of new donors with minimal effort.

If you’re going to go the peer-to-peer route, it’s important to have a thorough plan. You may want to partner with an established social giving site, or you might just provide your donors with some engaging content or a custom URL to share. No matter what, you want your efforts to be condensed and specific. Word of mouth and the personalized spin your donors will put on their posts will help immensely, but it’s important your mission and message are clearly communicated.

Myth #3: Demographic Ask Amounts Maximize Revenue

It’s become common practice for non-profits to segment their audience based on demographics and assign different ask amounts to different amounts from different groups. A younger donor in an area with a lower cost-of-living might be asked for $25 and an older donor in a higher cost-of-living area might be asked for $100. Segmenting by demographic is generally more effective than asking everyone for $50, but it’s no longer the best option out there. When it was the best available strategy, it was foolish not to do it; now that it isn’t, it’s foolish to stick with it.

Non-profits need to move past demographic ask amounts and on towards personalized ask amounts. ExactAsk’s technology is able to analyze a non-profit’s existing data and combine it with public records in order to determine the best amount to ask of each individual on the donor list. Instead of targeting donors solely based on age and location, it factors in they have given in the past along with countless other variables. Determining an ask amount for each donor by hand would be too resource-intensive to be viable ExactAsk’s software is able to automate this process and incorporate machine learning so results improve on each successive campaign, all without increasing the amount of resources you’re using to determine ask amounts.

These specialized ask amounts beat demographic segmenting because they help you connect with your donors on a personal basis. This cal improve their sentiment towards your organization and it helps you get the most out of every relationship you have has fostered.

Myth #4: Customer Service Doesn’t Really Matter

A huge myth, and one that is probably rooted more in wishful thinking than anything else, is that customer service doesn’t matter for non-profits. This misconception relies heavily on the thinking that non-profits don’t have to act like for-profit businesses do. While this may be true in some very specific ways, customer service is definitely not one of them. The thought that donors aren’t customers, and that they’re going to donate even if they’ve had less-than-ideal experiences is an irresponsible assumption.

Donors want to feel confident that their money is being spent well, and negative interactions with a non-profit can undercut that trust immensely. There are all kinds of ways this can manifest. One thing to focus on is ensuring that it’s as easy as possible for to make donations. If someone is trying to donate to your non-profit but you don’t accept their preferred method of payment, that’s a pain point that will stick with them. This is a great reason to try to expand your donation methods as much as you possibly can. Accepting PayPal and text donations are great examples of this.