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Do Less, Get More. Simplify Your Ask and Keep Your Donors Engaged

There’s a principle in fundraising that we need to look at more closely: asking for more than one thing.

The principle is that if your appeal (no matter the channel) asks a donor or prospect for $100, the device they use to take action — be it a reply coupon in DM or a donation form in your next digital campaign — must be consistent and reflect the same ask.

When placing an offer in front of your donors, you need to be careful about how many decisions you’re asking the donor to make within a single gift. For example:

  • Are you asking the donor for their email address?
  • How they’d like to receive their charitable tax receipt?
  • Whether they’ve left you a gift in their will?
  • Whether they’d like to designate their gift to a specific area of care?
  • Whether they’d like to send or receive an eCard in response to their gift?
  • Whether they’d like to follow you on social media?

Is it possible (and even likely) that all of those decisions combined might overwhelm the donor and lessen their likelihood of responding with a gift? Yes.

There’s no question that as fundraisers we need to make giving easy for our donors — and that means careful management of our reply devices, across channels.

However: This doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating all asks outside the single, one-time gift. It means limiting your asks to the most valuable.

For example: The truth is that you can expect a percentage of new-to-file donors to convert to monthly. And since we know that monthly donors have a higher lifetime value to your organization than one-time gift donors, we have to give donors the opportunity to give monthly. If we don’t, we are — in the long-term — negatively impacting our revenue. Donors give because they are asked, so we must ask them in the right way, to inspire action.

That being said, not all will convert to monthly, so if you ask for only one thing, you won’t necessarily get what you want.

We’ve tested this here at Blakely, specifically in direct mail: What if we asked for monthly giving first, with the option to make a one-time gift beneath it? Neither ask was buried on the back of the coupon; they were both on the front.

Guess what the results were? We doubled the numbers of donors converting to monthly and one-time giving did not go down … in fact, it saw a lift!

Test it out for your own organization! There’s no question we need to streamline the giving process for our donors, but it seems like we can indeed ask them for more than one thing.

The key is limiting your asks to the most valuable; paring down your reply devices (offline and online, reply coupons and donation forms) to put the most appealing offer that drives the most revenue in front of your donors, in exchange for only the most critical information. This is especially important now, when donors are more protective of their personal information than ever before – especially in digital.