Why GDPR is good for your major donor fundraising

As consultants in high value fundraising, we are often being asked how GDPR will affect major donor fundraising. The question is also being asked, including in a recent edition of Fundraising magazine, whether this is the end of major donor fundraising all together. The answer is yes, it will be affected, but it most definitely is not the death knell for this most profitable area of fundraising. My reasoning is that major donor fundraising is merely a case of looking after your best supporters as well as you can. It is not about endless research, wealth screening and invading privacy – it is about having more conversations with your donors and giving them a strong reason to give. This is my issue with the established 7 steps of major donor fundraising; it suggests that you can’t move forwards until you’ve been through an intensive research stage – that removing this stage will quash any plans you had of donor stewardship and securing large donations – this is nonsense, frankly, particularly as your best donors are already giving. Consider, if you will, substituting the word ‘research’ for ‘segmentation’; the process of sorting and filtering your donors by largest and most recent gifts – this may seem obvious, but seems to be an anathema to many charities. Indeed, we have charity clients who refuse to do this, despite forms of segmentation existing in their direct mail programme. The next step is to select a number of top tier supporters and contact them – simple! Coming back to the GDPR mindset, you clearly only contact opted-in supporters and you don’t ask them...

What’s wrong with the 7 steps of major donor fundraising?

The 7 steps of major donor fundraising make a lot of sense – but they operate in a vacuum – in essence they do not give you anything to fix or improve. What are the 3 key areas that you need to be strong in to have a successful major donor programme and what are the key questions you need to ask yourself?

Emotion versus Impact

This week I spoke to two wonderful major donors on behalf of a charity looking to improve their donor communications. Many of the questions I had drafted were about the projects the charity ran and their respective impact on beneficiaries. Many of these questions soon went out of the window. After a few preliminary responses the first lady stopped me with the question “why do charities seem so desperate to prove to me that what they are doing is worthwhile?” I explained that there was a push for greater transparency and a focus on impact in the sector at the moment, partly due to increasing scrutiny and partly due to demanding reporting requirements. “I’m not interested in their evidence”, she responded, “I give because I care. I already know that they do a good job.” This reminded me of a recent Stephen Pigeon talk about connecting with a donor ’emotionally’ first and foremost; that giving is an emotional response, not inspired by facts and figures. Stephen’s quote that ’emotions lead to actions, reasons lead to conclusions’ never seemed truer. This was followed by the great line “we’re in the action business.” The second lady also seemed relatively disinterested in the charity’s evidence of impact. She felt that this was navel-gazing and self-justification, leading to a language of jargon and spin. As an older generation giver she gave because ‘it felt like it was the right thing to do’, again advocating emotional and moral giving. Both ladies got me thinking that there is a danger of charities losing the emotion of their cause in their donor communications, in a drive to...