12 Jul Are You Ready For August?
12 July 2022
By David Allen, Development for Conservation
A couple of blinks from now, it will be August the 1st – where has the summer gone? As we cruise toward Labor Day, here’s what I’m thinking about for August. What are YOU thinking about?
In fundraising for land conservation, we often say that “the land sells itself.” By this we simply mean that if you can get a potential donor out on the land to see, smell, touch – feel – for themselves, often that’s all you need. This isn’t just so much theoretical hogwash. It actually works. It works because the third-person narrative they’ve been reading about or hearing about becomes a first-person experience for them. The land moves conservation from their head to their heart. The organizational story becomes their story. And instead of just imagining what it must be like, they begin to relate to it personally. Here’s the thing, though – it works for US, too. Don’t just report what someone else has told you about how things work. Go experience it yourself. Replace your ability to narrate in the third person with an ability to testify in the first person. Let the land move conservation out of your head and into your heart.
Joining Your Own Organization
With that same concept in mind, I respectfully suggest that you join the organization you support. But don’t just stop by the office and drop off a check or hand one to the Treasurer at a board meeting. Use the opportunity to test the systems out. Send a check in one of the standard mailing envelopes. Donate on-line. Try the monthly donation program with a credit card. Or send a check in a plain envelope. And then track what happens and report back to the organization what it’s like from the donor perspective. In fact, track and record everything you receive from the organization through the entire year. Record when you receive each piece and save the pieces.
Carrying this a step further, join another land trust that you admire – literally anywhere in the country. Same thing – track what happens and report back what it’s like from the donor perspective. In fact, track and record everything you receive from the organization through the entire year. Record when you receive each piece and save the pieces. What did you find particularly helpful? What can you learn from? What can you crib?
BTW, many fundraising bloggers have pointed out that asking staff to give to the organization they work for is ethically problematic. I tend to agree in general. So while I make the suggestion I am making above, I am also considering these legitimate, reimbursable expenses. Budget $150 per year from your fundraising budget to track the annual donor experience of three different land trusts, one of which could be your own. Next year, use that same money to join three different ones.
The essence of Saturation Mail is that the same piece is dropped in every mailbox within a defined area. The post office will call this EDDM or Every Door Direct Mail. It is addressed to “Postal Patron” or “Current Resident.” And the postage is about 14 cents each. The only catch is that you have to mail it at least to everyone in a carrier route – usually about 400-800 addresses. There are many inexpensive applications for saturation mail: postcards, newsprint fliers, even small printed invitations. You could advertise special events, general land trust information, the opening of a new preserve area, or just about anything else where visibility in the community might be helpful. Where we get hung up is generally in the scope of such an effort. But consider this: you do not need to saturate your entire service area at the same time.
Here’s an out-of-the-box thought: Instead of thinking about recruiting new members, let’s think about recruiting new renewals! A new renewal would be defined as a person making their second gift – their “first” renewal. We tend to focus recruitment efforts on securing that first gift and then treat the new donors the same as all of our other donors. As a result, the renewal rate for first gift donors is abysmal. And how could it not be? The reasons they may have joined of given in the first place have passed. They have very little experience or even knowledge about how the organization works. And they get the same levels of “insider” information everyone else gets.
Take a moment and calculate the percentage of your current donors are in their first 24 months of experience with you. You might be surprised – I’ve seen organizations with close to half of their current donors being brand new. These new donors need different kinds of information – and messaging – than people who have been giving for years. Why not cater to that? Don’t just explain WHAT the land trust is doing, but WHY. And how they can engage in the work. And where they can get their questions answered.
And track your results by tracking the number of first renewals you are recruiting. One of the things you might learn is that how someone new is recruited matters in the first renewal rate.
Your turn – what are you thinking about already for August?
Cheers, and Have a great week!
PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.
Photo by KIMDAEJEUNG courtesy of Pixabay.