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Diamonds in the Rough: Donors and Prospects Who Need Attention

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Steve Shattuck

Steven Shattuck, chief engagement officer with Bloomerang, talks with Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, about those supporters who could be all-star donors if they received just a little more love and attention.

Video Transcript

Amy Eisenstein:                   Hi, I'm Amy Eisenstein, and I'm thrilled to have Steven Shattuck with me here today. My friend and colleague from Bloomerang, he's the Chief Engagement Officer at Bloomerang. Today, we're going to talk about diamond-in-the-rough prospects. So, welcome, Steven.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, thanks for having me.

Amy Eisenstein:                   What are diamond-in-the-rough prospects? What do we mean by that?

Steven Shattuck:                 I think they're people in your database that you should be paying more attention to and maybe that need a little bit more stewarding, or that you've been doing a great job stewarding but aren't quite giving at capacity. Maybe we can get some more money from them.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Great. How do we find them?

Steven Shattuck:                 Well, there's lot of different data segments, right? I always start with first-time donors because, to me, they're still prospects. Even though they've given, they've only given once, so I don't think we should be throwing a party for ourselves necessarily, especially when you look at the average donor attention rates for first-time donors are high 20s, low 30s, so we lose a lot of them. I recommend people pay special attention to the first-time donors so that they become multiple-year donors and then maybe can get on major gifts and bequest tracks over the years.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah. When you say "pay special attention to them," what do we mean by that?

Steven Shattuck:                 I think maybe fundraisers fail to be curious about new donors, specifically, why are they giving? To me, that's something that I would naturally ask any time someone donated to my organization if we didn't know them. What is their reason? You could find out that maybe they had a grandmother who died of Alzheimer's, or maybe they had a daughter who went through the program or something like that. Finding out those little stories, I think, can guide your efforts as you communicate to them throughout the course of the relationship.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah, and I know that it's time-consuming, but that just means picking up the phone, sending an email.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, and some of it can even be automated. I mean, I've seen online donation sort of things where you make an online donation, then there's an automatic survey that's given to them. It's simple. Why did you give? Why are you passionate about clean water, animal welfare, whatever it is? You can get those little tidbits of information, and suddenly base the whole communications track around what you learned from that donor.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Oh, that's great.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah.

Amy Eisenstein:                   I didn't think of automation, but absolutely.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, and it shouldn't take the place of the things you mentioned. Nothing is going to replace a phone call or a one-on-one meeting, but you can at least get the conversation started that way.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah. Okay, let's move beyond first-time donors. Let's say you do have some donors, maybe lower-level donors, people you don't know in your database or you haven't thought about. How do you find them? How do they stand out? What are we looking for?

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah. There's lots of different data points. Monthly donors is another big one. It's sort of separate from the gift amount. A $5-a-month monthly donor, I think, in a lot of ways, is more significant than someone who gives maybe $50 a year. But we see that gift amount, and we think, "Oh, $5, it's not that much." But they also gave us a credit card that they trust us with charging every single month or withdrawing from the checking account.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Interesting.

Steven Shattuck:                 We can forecast that revenue. To me, and there's a lot of research that backs this up, I think something like, they're seven times more likely to leave a bequest, regardless of the gift amount that is the monthly transaction, so paying attention to those people.

Steven Shattuck:                 And monthly donors, they don't get treated very well typically. They get this perfunctory, automatic message every month. Here's your receipt, here's your year-end statement. So, telling those donors what the story of their impact of the gift is, and working towards maybe upgrading them or getting a 13th gift that is a one-off gift, that's a really nice compounding signal.

Steven Shattuck:                 But beyond monthly donors, it's getting those other little factors, like they donate and they volunteer, or they donate and they fundraise for you, or they donate and they spread the word about you somehow on social media. Looking for little multiple engagement signals is way more significant than the actual gift amount or maybe even how often they give throughout the year.

Amy Eisenstein:                   That's great.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah.

Amy Eisenstein:                   So important. We started talking before the interview about lapsed donors.

Steven Shattuck:                 As we usually do.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah, yeah, we were catching up before the interview. Let's talk about lapsed donors and how organizations know when to release them from the mailing list. What should organizations be doing with their lapsed donors?

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, it's hard. I think one quick answer to that is don't call them lapsed donors to their face, right?

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah.

Steven Shattuck:                 They may not think that they are lapsed, even though you think they're lapsed. It's kind of like major gift fundraising. I don't have to tell you, but a major gift to you is not the same as what it is to the donor.

Amy Eisenstein:                   That's true.

Steven Shattuck:                 I think the same kind of essence is there. I think you have to look at what happened before the lapse. Did they give once and lapse? That's a different strategy than did they give for 15 years in a row and then lapse, right?

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah, totally different.

Steven Shattuck:                 That's a way different thing that you want to do with that. Maybe they moved, and you lost touch with them. Maybe they passed away. There are things we can do to cleanse our data, to maybe do NCOA once a year or other databases-

Amy Eisenstein:                   What's an NCOA, just in case people don't know?

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, that'll check their mailing address versus the U.S. Postal Service database.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Right.

Steven Shattuck:                 If they move, they may still really like you, but they moved away, and you lost touch. But yeah, I think some common sense things come into play. If they gave $5 during some online day of giving, or if it was a peer-to-peer campaign or maybe a memorial gift, you may have to work harder with those lapsed donors to kind of reintroduce yourself. They may have been giving on behalf of someone.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Right.

Steven Shattuck:                 But if someone was loyally giving to you for a long time and then stopped, I wouldn't get rid of that person out of the database just because it's been a couple of years. I would maybe reach out to them, maybe send them a survey. Did we do something wrong? A donor satisfaction survey.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Well, if somebody's been giving for 10 or 15 years and then stops, you better pick up the phone, right?

Steven Shattuck:                 Absolutely.

Amy Eisenstein:                   It's a question of what reports are you running to identify those people and how are you flagging them in the system.

Steven Shattuck:                 Exactly. But even if you do that, come at it with kind of approaching it with a sense of gratitude for the past giving, rather than going, "Hey, what's going on? You haven't given." "We miss you" is kind of in-between, but it still kind of puts the blame on the donor, rather than maybe we messed something up.

Amy Eisenstein:                   What are some other things that people should be looking for, constituency indicators that development directors can be looking for?

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, I think one thing is, if you're a hyper-local organization, and you suddenly get a donation from way out of town, that may tell you that maybe you have a former service recipient that has gained capacity and wants to give back to you.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Okay.

Steven Shattuck:                 I'd pick up the phone and call that person for sure.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah.

Steven Shattuck:                 There was an interesting study from the Lilly School of Philanthropy, I believe, that found that the surviving children of deceased long-time donors are great prospects, which makes sense because they were probably in the household, and I'm sure that passion passed on to them, for sure.

Steven Shattuck:                 The other thing is, Amy, if someone reaches out to you without you prompting them and tells you that they are moving and they have a change of address, or that they're getting ready to change their credit card, circle that person because they didn't have to do that.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Star, circle, highlight.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you just saved all the money on the data services, but they want to keep in touch with you. They didn't have to do that. They want to be getting your information. They want to maybe continue their monthly gift or whatever it is. Circle that person, for sure.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah, great, excellent. Any parting thoughts? Any key takeaways we can leave our viewers with?

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, I would concentrate on those first-time donors and the monthly donors.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah.

Steven Shattuck:                 Common sense comes into play if you have a high gift volume, but I would recommend maybe not caring so much about the gift amount, at least to start off the relationship because that may not be necessarily a marker of their generosity or passion for you, maybe just their capacity.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Right. So, it's just about reaching out to those first-time donors with a special email, special handwritten note, phone call, whatever you can do to really reach out and touch them and ensure they make that second gift.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, absolutely. And find out why they gave.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Yeah.

Steven Shattuck:                 Because that's going to guide your conversations going forward.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Perfect. Asking them what motivated them to give in the first place.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, you got it.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Great, excellent. Thanks so much for being here.

Steven Shattuck:                 Yeah, thanks for having me.

Amy Eisenstein:                   Thanks so much for joining me. For even more videos, interviews, tools, and resources, I hope you'll visit my website, and subscribe to my weekly newsletter.

Kishshana Palmer: Thank you so much for having me. It was awesome. I always love talking with you.

Amy Eisenstein:  Me too. Thanks so much for joining me. For even more videos, interviews, tools, and resources, I hope you'll visit my website and subscribe to my weekly newsletter.

For even more interviews, tools, and resources, I hope you’ll visit my website 

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