Turning Fans into Fanatics

Date Published
Amy Houke

Individuals interact with your organization in many different ways. Some attend events but don’t engage otherwise. Some visit but don’t give to you philanthropically. Some like your membership benefits but don’t feel the need to support you outside of that membership. You like your fans, but you love your fanatics. They are your most fervent supporters, your ambassadors, your evangelists.

One thing you know about your most loyal donors is that you want more of them. How can you take that desired behavior — their responsiveness to urgent appeals, their willingness to give additional gifts, their faithful year-over-year renewal — and apply it to your (likely large) pool of lukewarm casual acquaintances to make them part of your donor acquisition efforts?

One way is to model the behavior of your most loyal members and donors and apply the model to your less enthusiastic followers to identify individuals in that group who — if approached the right way — are most likely to become philanthropic donors to your organization.

Let’s look at how a few organizations have used this method.

A public library had on its file a limited number of donors, but thousands and thousands of library cardholders. These frequent visitors utilized the library but had never given a gift. With the help of a cooperative database, we looked at and modeled the giving history of the library’s donors. That model was applied to the larger cardholder file to isolate for mailing only those most likely to convert to donors. The top segments of the model are among the highest performing lists in acquisition campaigns.

In another scenario, a zoo’s file consisted of some donors but a lot more members (who belonged largely to take advantage of the membership benefits such as free admission, parking, and shop discounts). The challenge was to convert these relatively transactional members into philanthropic givers. By looking at the characteristics that defined the donor base and finding those characteristics in the member pool, we identified the members who should be mailed an annual fund appeal.

A common use of this technique is with lapsed donors, namely those who are deeply lapsed. That portion of your file can become large, and therefore too expensive to continue to mail in its entirety. Modeling is a way to isolate only those lapsed donors most likely to come back by virtue of their giving transactions to other organizations like yours.

Modeling desired behavior helps to cherry pick out just the names from your file who are mostly likely to complete the action you want them to complete. And that’s smart fundraising. Contact us to find out how we can help you in your cherry-picking efforts.

About the Author:
Amy Houke
Media Director, Agency Services

Role at the Company

I am responsible for providing media research and recommendations to AFG clients. I work closely with other AFG team members to assure that prospect list and print recommendations are consistent with the overall strategic and creative direction of each program.

My experience has included media planning for many types of non-profit clients, including public broadcasting stations, animal welfare organizations and food banks.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

Successful fundraising is about getting your organization’s mission into the hearts of your current and prospective donors. My job is to identify your future donors. That comes from a deep understanding of who your current donors are and what they look like. That’s exciting!

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I enjoy serving in small group leadership and doing local mission work with my church.

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