04 Jan How to Make a Donor Plan
4 January 2022
There’s something you can do this week that will make a HUGE difference in how much money you will raise this year.
It may take several hours to do it right, or maybe even a couple of days. And you probably won’t enjoy doing it. But if you do it now – this week – you won’t regret it.
Make a donor plan.
Here are the steps:
- First, make a list of everyone who gave you any money at all in 2020. Line them up in the B column of a spreadsheet and put the value of their cumulative giving in the C column. (Use the A column for a donor database identifying number – like a membership number.) If your donors are businesses or foundations, that’s OK. Just make sure there is a specific decision-maker included in the cell. (Local, state, and federal agency grant-makers are NOT donors.)
- Find your current Board members and move them to the top few spots. If you have a Board member who did not give in 2020, make a line for them anyway and put a ZERO for them in column C.
- Pick ANY 30 donors from the rest and move them to the rows directly underneath the Board members. Who you choose to include in your 30 is completely up to you. Will they be the donors who gave the most that year? Will they be chosen randomly? By longevity? By how well you know them? By some other criteria? Regardless, this should give you a list at the top of your spreadsheet of 40-60 donors, depending on the number of Board members.
Just to make it clear, I would choose my 30 using some combination of giving history and what I know or can learn about their relative capacity and interest in giving more. But you can choose literally anyone!
- Next put the value of their cumulative giving in 2021 in Column D. And in Column E subtract the number in column C from the number in column D. (E=D-C) Column E will now show you how much more they gave in 2021 versus 2020. (Or how much less.) The sum of the numbers in column E will show you how much value these donors added for you in 2021. (Or how much value was lost.)
- Now here’s the tricky part: Can you explain the results? For each person? Write down some notes for each person in column F. What about overall? Do you see a pattern? What happened?
The reasons could be all over the map. This person increased their giving to support a specific project. That person lost their job due to COVID. This person had a great volunteer experience. That person didn’t like your recent political stand. Some people might not have given because they weren’t really asked.
Whatever the reason, you will want to know. If you don’t know, figure out a way to find out. Propose a theory. Make a plan to test that theory. Implement the plan. Donor by donor. Learn what’s going on. The more you understand what happened in 2021, the better able you will be to respond in 2022.
In general, donors will fall into three broad groups – those who increased their giving (presumably that’s what you want!), those who decreased or didn’t give (check for transactional giving), and those who stayed the same. We tend to focus on those who decreased, which is natural and important. But spend some time with the other two groups as well. Look for patterns. Are some of these donors giving purely out of habit? Are they stuck? What can you do to deepen their engagement (and increase their giving in 2022)?
Back to the spreadsheet.
- Columns G through R will be months of the year in 2022. January – December. Using the cell corresponding to the appropriate month, record the amount of money you expect to ask them to give for 2022. If you expect to ask them to give more than once, use more than one cell. For example, you might want to ask them to make their annual unrestricted gift in the Fall AND ask them to support one of the specific projects in June.
- Use column S for the person (singular) who is responsible for actually asking. This person might be the Director of Development, the Executive Director, the Board Chair, or even the Development Committee Chair, or literally anyone else in the organization. But it needs to be someone. One person.
- Now here’s a second tricky part: Why will they say yes to the request? Each request. Write down some notes for each person and each request in column T.
The reasons could be all over the map. This person will be excited to support a specific project (that you will have talked with them about before that specific month). That person really loves the intern program – creating opportunities for the scientists and ecologists of tomorrow. This person is having a great volunteer experience. That person appreciates your recent political stand. This person was a founder. That person rediscovered a love of Nature on one of your preserves.
Whatever the reason, you want to have a really good idea. If you don’t, figure out a way to find out. Propose a theory. Make a plan to test it. Implement the plan. Donor by donor. Figure out what’s going on. And make sure everyone – most especially every Board member – is actually asked. The more you understand about why people will say yes, the less intimidating the whole fundraising process will be.
Having fun? Now run through those same steps for every donor on the list.
Wait – It wasn’t that much fun, right?
OK how about pulling off at least another 30? As you consider this question, ask yourself who is missing from the group you have planned for so far. Former Board members? Key volunteers? Planned giving donors? Easement landowner partners? Major gift donors from past years? Former long-term donors who did not make a gift in 2020?
Make individual plans for as many as possible.
Note that the sums of the month columns for the donors you have plans for creates a sort of cash flow expectation – at least for those specific donors. This should give you an early read on how your year is going. It will also give you an early read on where the bottlenecks are. Don’t save everything for the last few weeks of the year!
And then …
What about all the other donors on the list? Gotta save something for next week.
Happy New Year and Best Wishes for a terrific 2022.
Photo by Shogun courtesy of Pixabay.
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.