Our clients know that fundraiser recognition programs can improve event income results DRAMATICALLY, as I’ve written about many, many times.
Now is when I get the age-old question, “Which kind of item makes for a better fundraiser gift? Which recognition item will MOTIVATE fundraisers to higher fundraising levels?”
This is when I push my sleeves up and say, “Wellllllll… I’m glad you asked!”
Two Key Facts You Should Know About Recognition Products
FACT #1: People Who Accept Fundraising Gifts Raise More
Our studies show that people who accept gifts for reaching a certain fundraising level typically fundraise more than those who do not accept gifts. (I’ve written lots of papers about this. Check out our incentive program research on our website!)
FACT #2: Gifts with a Nonprofit Logo Motivate to Higher Fundraising Levels
Fact #1 is only seen when the nonprofit’s logo is imprinted on the gift. If the item was a gift card or available in a retail setting, fundraising average levels were diminished.
It’s TRUE, when retail-available gifts are positioned side-by-side with nonprofit branded gifts, the retail available gift is selected more often, but our #2 factoid still applies. WHY?
Study by Dr. Victoria Shaffer of Wichita State University
Researcher Dr. Victoria Shaffer of Wichita State University surveyed gift accepters and found that the high acceptance of the retail-available gift was due to the fundraisers paying homage to their own budget, as opposed to seeing the gift as recognition for high fundraising. The inner talk was, “My family needs this item. I should take it” instead of “This is recognition for my high achievement.” To sum: allegiance to family budget drives redemption, but not fundraising to higher levels.
Her research revealed that personal budget showed its power when nonprofit branded gifts were positioned against retail-available gifts in one set of choices. Invariably, the retail- available gift was selected at higher rates than the nonprofit branded gift. Further, total redemption or acceptance of gift was far higher with retail-available gifts as part of the selection, elevating expenses for the nonprofit greatly, with no commensurate increase in fundraising.
What All This Research Mumbo Jumbo Means
In my opinion, nonprofits are well-served to make it “all about me” when it comes to gifts for their fundraisers. Your fundraisers will more than likely raise more for your cause, and your brand will have “legs”… quite literally… sprinting past the walk, ride, run season and beyond!
Sometimes my nonprofit clients are shy to dip into the Fundraiser Recognition Program Pool. No matter how many stats I throw at them, (and I have a tendency to throw bunches), or how many testimonials or ROI case studies we present, sometimes it just isn’t enough to get a full-on, “can’t-wait-to-see-our-event-ignite” response.
Take for example, the national nonprofit organization, Autism Speaks. After many months of hard discussions, presentations, and meetings, the staff collectively agreed to give us a try… sort of.
We were able to pilot a watered-down version of our program over 20 events during 2011 and 2012. The programs were a diffused version of what we normally bring to the table and consequently, met with a varying degree of support from the staff and volunteer leadership. (The support ranged from resistance to enthusiasm.)
By a “watered-down version” of our program, I mean our full complement of pre-event communications and other program marketing tools were not used. STILL, the pilot programs look like a raging success from a data analysis perspective. (Could not have done such a thorough analysis without Ben Engel and Shawna Sopp. You guys managed to rock it while having babies and getting married and heaven knows what else!)
Our experience suggests that although the outcomes are VERY positive, we still can do much more as we know that the majority of gain is wrought from communicating directly to the fundraiser the “offer” of a recognition gift for a certain level of fundraising.
(OK, I won’t bombard you with even more research here, but visit Turnkey’s Research page and download “Case Study: An Analysis of Incentive Program Impact on Donation Transactions and Dollars.” This case study shows how our communications DRAMATICALLY impact donation dollars after they are deployed. OR, take a look at some of these oldies but goodies. Go ahead. Take a look. I’ll wait….)
Back to Our Pilot Story…
Some would say a 500% return is enough. NOT ME. We’ve shown a little leg, now I want to reveal the FULL MONTY.
Recommendations are on the table and include a full-on marketing communications and recognition program with a supporting website, a pre-event communication strategy and staff training — all done by us and part of our normal shebang bang. We are also pitching fundraising team and branded apparel tactics and a whole lota other action items. (I would tell you more but my sales manager Tracy Clark yells at me every time I reveal too much about how we do what we do.)
This time next year I hope to report back to you that:
- ALL 89 Autism Speaks events participated in a national fundraiser recognition program,
- The fundraiser/event participant individual income levels went through the roof … AGAIN, and
- The AS staff was so overjoyed about all the extra time they had because we managed it all they crocheted me a sweater that said, “We Believe!” or “WB” for short.
And when THAT happens, my friends, it would really be just another day at the office.
I presume that those who hoard and don’t share their results are fearful that the best practices could be used to take donations away that would otherwise be theirs.
In my experience, the barrier to new ideas (or stolen best practice) is not in finding out what the best practice is, but in convincing people to actually use that new idea consistently.
Legions of consultants and managers work to convince inertia-bound nonprofit managers and staff to try new things and not revert to the old practice as soon as left alone.
Instituting that best practice is the hard work. And really, IF someone stole your best practice, and IF they were able to implement it, and IF you lost some small amount of your income in order to seed another organization doing good work, it that a tragedy?
What do you think?
1. They recruited a set of brilliantly talented and committed volunteers.
2. They then let the volunteers do what they are personally GOOD at vs. what the fundraising effort needed.
As staff, you want these exceptional volunteers to be empowered and autonomous or you’ll end up micro-managing them. But, we also don’t need them to send our fundraising gravy train down a new, unplanned set of tracks.
Here’s what I mean. It’s just plain human nature to pick the jobs that we can accomplish easily, those we are good at. Sometimes, what we want to do because we’re good at it and what the organization NEEDS just don’t match.
Example: Exceptional marketing person wants to change the event logo. Why? It could be better. Sure, it could. Will changing it raise more money? Likely, and almost assuredly, not. In this case, it’s a peer-to-peer fundraising event. We raise money when we convince people to ask other people for money. But our exceptionally talented marketing person is now redesigning the logo… which impacts every piece of collateral we have, every brand asset, and most importantly, gets other volunteers focused on something other than raising money.
Is there ever a time to change the logo? Of course… when there is a reason more compelling than “we have a great person to do it.” Think about it. Just because you have a great car jack doesn’t mean you need to change your tire.
Party planning is another easy way for volunteers to inadvertently steer your focus into the mud. Why do people gravitate to planning the party? Because it’s a skill they have, and the job is clear. Does the event need to be planned? Sure. Does it need to completely distract the volunteer from fundraising? No. Does it completely distract them? Very often.
So, my dear nonprofit leadership comrades, how do you keep your volunteer’s eyes on the road? Have a strong vision and articulate it clearly and frequently. Good luck!
During the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run National Summit in Indianapolis, I saw big, burly police officers brought to their emotional knees by the vulnerability of a population of special needs athletes. Burly is a state of mind by the way, one which I achieve on select occasions, like when someone steals my lunch from the company fridge. I puff up pretty good on that.
These officers will stop at virtually nothing to accomplish their tasks. They will jump into ice cold water, pull planes and trains, sit on top of donut shops until you release them with donations, and they will even wear outfits like these.
Seriously, this guy could easily have pulled you over somewhere in Florida, where they are from. Knowing that he wears pants like these on off hours… for whatever reason… is likely to put a smile on your face that could make him say, “Boy, you better wipe that grin off your face before I wipe it off for you.” And, he could.
Dear Law Enforcement Torch Run officers and volunteers: We are thankful for every last one of you. We don’t care what kind of pants you wear (wink, wink).
Happy holidays everyone!