Ep 78 | Treating All Donors Like your Major Donors

We've done some stuff with next after we just actually launched a study in multi-channel fundraising, like how productive it is to get to donors on multiple channels. But in some of their research, they looked at what percentage of major donors come from small and mid-tier donors. And at the typical organization at something like 70% of your major donors are already on your file, and they've given you a small gift. Not just that those are the predictable, sustainable revenue, they're also your best breeding ground for major givers and nonprofits sometimes don't appreciate that somebody may have just given you a $50 test gift, just to see how they respond. – Gabe Cooper

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Treating all donors as important might be a bit counter-intuitive. However, it can be the very thing to help you with consistent fundraising and make your organizations financially healthy.

In this episode you'll learn:

→ about keeping your existing donors around.
→ how to create an impactful experience for your donors to keep them invested.
→ why it's important to make it more about your donors and less about you.
→ to create your welcome sequence
→ automations and why they're so impactful.

Want to skip ahead?  Here are some key takeaways:

[5:01] It's less expensive to keep current donors coming back than it is to acquire new donors. 76% of people that give a single gift to a nonprofit will never give to that organization again! That's a huge amount of your donors that you can maintain a relationship with and get them coming back.
[7:38] Instead of focusing on really large corporate sponsorships, think about the mid-tier donors that can give $20-$100 every month. It is an audience in the US that is largely untapped, Having more donors in that realm will also help you stay consistent in your giving and losing one here and there won't make as big of an impact on your organizations financials. Don't just talk about you – make it about them.
[10:14] Automation can help with a small staff so ALL donors get that personal touch. You can send them welcome emails and also share information with them they care about that helps them dive deeper into your organization. Set this up TODAY!
[19:38] Understand your donor's behavior. How can you increase their average donation and multiply it by all your monthly givers so you can increase your organizations overall annual donations. Retention can be the thing to set you up financially. Build trust with them so they continue to have trust in how you're using your dollars and what you're doing within your organization.
[23:44] Set up some simple automations. You can start with your current donor software or a free email platform like MailChimp. You'll want to have the option to listen to donor signals and understand what interaction your donors are having with your communication. Then you'll want to be able to automate the communication you have with them.
[36:10] Re-envision your events and see how you can tailor your efforts to working through your mid-tier donors and make them feel super special.


[Guide] 9 Ways for Non-Profits to Raise More Money Online
EP 75 | Maximizing your Donation Page with GiveWP
Virtuous Software
Virtuous – Responsive Playbook

Gabe Cooper

Gabe Cooper

Founder/CEO, Virtuous

Gabe Cooper is the Founder and CEO of Virtuous, a Responsive CRM & Marketing Platform helping nonprofits build lasting relationships with their donors. He is also the author of the top-selling book Responsive Fundraising and co-host of the Responsive Fundraiser podcast. After serving in a leadership role at a large nonprofit, Gabe went on to help build a series of successful software products in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. His team's products have been featured in Wired, USA Today, NY Times, and Apple's WWDC. His drive stems from a passion to create market-defining software and help charities reimagine generosity.

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Full Transcript

[INTRO] Hey everybody, Sami here, host of the Digital Marketing Therapy podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today, we are talking with Gabe Cooper all about treating your donors with the best level of customer service. And this is treating your donors from zero or not zero dollars, but $1 all the way up to your million-dollar donors, your corporate sponsors, your foundation, people, whatever, treating them all the same, bringing them into organization, keeping them engaged and coming back and donating time over time over time again.

And I know that might seem daunting and overwhelming, but we're gonna talk about some ways that you can automate your systems that you can create processes that you can encourage your team and kind of really build a strong base of loyal donors that you can rely on month over month over month.

Gabe Cooper is the founder and CEO of Virtuous a responsive CRM and marketing platform helping nonprofits build lasting relationships with their donors. He is also the author of the top-selling book “Responsive Fundraising”, and co-host of the Responsive Fundraiser podcast. After serving in a leadership role at a larger nonprofit, Gabe went on to help build a series of successful software products are the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. His team's products have been featured in Wired, USA Today, New York Times and Apple's WWDC. His drive stems from passion to create market-defining software and help charities reimagine generosity.

So much good stuff in this episode, we did talk a little bit about software and all of that, but it's really a lot about how to treat your customers how to treat your donors like customers and, and how to keep them coming back for more so that you can have a stronger foundation so that you feel like you can breathe every month like you know what money is coming in the door, and you can continue to make the amazing impact on the communities that you serve. So I really hope you enjoy this episode.

But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by our free guide 9 Ways for Non-Profits to Make More Money Online. So I hope you'll check it out at https://www.thefirstclick.net/fundraise. You can download it and check them out, pick the one that's going to give you the quickest win right away and just keep on moving. So again, that's https://www.thefirstclick.net/fundraise. But for now, let's get into it.

[CANNED INTRODUCTION] You're listening to the Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Please join me in welcoming Gabe Cooper to the podcast. Gabe, thank you so much for joining me today.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Of course. So I find that people that work with nonprofits do it because they have, you know, either some story or they have a passion behind something that they did or supported in their early days of their career, maybe when they were kids. So getting involved in nonprofits. How did that happen for you?

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, that's a it's a great question. I was a software developer kind of during the first.com, boom. And when everything crashed, I had this existential crisis, like I wanted to create good in the world. And so went to work for a nonprofit and worked in nonprofit for a few years and then had spent the next I don't know, probably 10 years after that building custom software for nonprofits. And so there's definitely some causes that I'm very passionate about personally. But for me, it's really more about increasing global generosity.

So, I believe pretty strongly that generosity, giving your time talent, social capital, money to nonprofits, has the ability to create good in the world. And I think we all kind of believe that. That's why we're here. But the other thing I believe it, it has the ability to change the heart of the giver. You know, just it doesn't it doesn't take about a day watching the news lately before you realize people are just a little bit selfish and self-centered sometimes. But there's nothing like generosity to make you think about others before yourself. And I love that part of the nonprofit space.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] That's so good. Yeah. And I do feel like there's a balance and you know, the beauty of nonprofit work is that impacts so many people, and there's so many different ways that you as a either maybe starting out as a volunteer like you would if you don't have a ton to give, there's always ways that you can give back to those causes that are important to you. Big or small.

[GABE COOPER] That's exactly right. Yeah. And I think a lot of non-profits miss that is you get so concerned with thinking about your budget that it's easy to take your eye off the fact that your donors are people not just ATM machines, and they have a lot to give, you know, they have their time to give but their relationships to give and their talents. So that's an important thing for fundraisers to be thinking about is how do we think about our donors more holistically?

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, and I don't want to make it super simple, where you're like, productizing, I don't even know if that's a word productizing your donors, but it's almost like, it's almost like getting into that mindset of, if you're a company that sells a physical product, you want your customers to come back over and over and over again, to buy to be repeat customers, because we know it's, you know, less expensive to have to acquire a customer over and over again, that to get a new one. And so a similar philosophy could almost be made as far as the experience and the way that you treat your donors from small donors to large donors to try to once you've acquired them to keep them coming back.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's, it's so critical. I think sometimes as nonprofits, we can just focus on how do we get new donors, but right now in this country, 76% of people that give a single gift to nonprofit we'll never give to that nonprofit, again, the average nonprofit churns out 50% of their donors every year.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Wow! Its that high?

[GABE COOPER] Yes. Yeah. So if you're in the business world, like those are really bad numbers. Nike or whoever, those are bad numbers, and people don't realize that it's actually, you know, keeping those donors around is far easier than acquiring new ones. But if you have to be intentional about it, right, and it has to be, you have to be very, very personal, create relationships with folks and show them their impact, really draw them in close to your cause. But when you can do that, it creates predictable sustainable revenue.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Mm hmm. And predictable, sustainable. And we've talked about this in other podcast episodes. But I mean, the easiest thing that comes to mind with that is creating, you know, avenues for people to have monthly recurring automatic donations coming to your organization.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, absolutely. That's huge, especially on sort of the small and even the mid-tier portions of your donor file, your donor base, the, that recurring gift is so powerful, we've really made a shift probably in the last 10 years really to subscription economy, whether it's my emails that I get via subscription, or my music, or my movies, or whatever it is, we've moved into subscription world. And so if you can get people on that recurring giving program, they're already calibrated for it.

The trick is, you have to show value, you can't just say give to me monthly, you have to describe to them what value they're getting for that monthly gift, and be incredibly grateful, expressing gratitude on a regular basis. But if you do that, well, it's transformational.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Okay, so let's talk about this for a little bit. Because, um, we talked a couple episodes ago about, you know, having the right donation software having to write like information on your webpage, but it was really specific to getting just that, you know, just that donation page. But I think what you're talking about here is experience like what happens after the donation is made? How are you continuing to stay in touch with these donors on a monthly basis? So it's not just like a set it and forget it? Do you find that nonprofits tend to not put as much emphasis on these because they feel like, well, they're only giving $10 a month? Not that it's not impactful? But like, you know, they're more going after the 5, 10, 20, hundred thousand dollar corporate sponsorships? Because that's more money all at once.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, there is. And we've seen that shift. Right now, US givings at about 400 and $20 billion, and it stayed pretty consistent. But the difference is a greater and greater percentage of that is major donors and a smaller percent or, or small and, and mid-tier donors. And the research tells us that those people are opting out of giving entirely like we're seeing a lot less people giving to charity in the US. And they're telling us why they're saying, Look, my the nonprofit is being incredibly impersonal. They're talking about them more than they're talking about me, they're not closing the loop on the impact I'm having. And so I think nonprofits have taken that group for granted, but that those are your bread and butter, right? creates predictable sustainable revenue. It's not so up and down, you're not worried about how you're going to get the next major gift to meet your budget. You have this faithful army of folks.

The other thing about that $10 mouth donor is that's, that's the guy or gal that won't shut up about your cause. Right? That's your hands and feet in the community near megaphone. Yeah, maybe they're only given 10 bucks a month. But they're telling all their friends and family. And so now you have an army of people that are advocates for you.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] And so that gets lost in the mix as well. And I think if we think about those donors as an individual, I mean, okay, I should, we should think about them as individuals. But if we think about that donation as an individual donation versus the power of, if I have 100 people donating $10 a month, you know, I have that revenue every month versus like you said, if that one corporate sponsor, their budget changes or that foundation and you don't get that grant, that's a huge hole, and so you yeah, like you said, the army of pulling in a bunch of those small monthly donors can make a huge impact on your monthly financials.

But then I think it leads to, okay, well, I don't have a staff or I don't have a team or I don't have the right resources to do what you said was missing, you know, the closing the gap on how do I make sure people feel connected to my organization? Still, if we only have one or two team members, like how do I support that many donors?

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, it's, it's a really good question. And I think we always, we always talk about you want to treat all of your donors like their major donors. And by that we can't we know that, you know, let's talk about your top 50-100 donors, you know, exactly who they are, you know, what they're interested in, you know, what the kids names are, you know, what their dog's name is, right. So, and but logistically, like you said, on a small staff, it's so hard to do that for the next hundred thousand 10,000 donors.

But I think in 2020, and beyond what we have to recognize as nonprofits is, technology allows us to do that in different better ways than we've done in the past. So my joke is always Amazon, if I jump onto Amazon, this afternoon, I have five kids. And so Amazon's gonna tell me magically, you need to reorder socks, or you need to order this movie, it knows everything about me, it's the craziest thing. Yeah. It's not like Amazon has a staff member that's like, you know, Gabe's account executive that follows me around everywhere. They're using big data to combined with technology to create a more personal experience for me. But it's not like they're hiring staff for it. Right.

And so, as nonprofits, we have to begin to think about how do we leverage technology? Well, even if we're small, like one or two staff members, how do we leverage technology to create that personal experience? So it doesn't suck up our staff time?

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. And so can you give us some examples maybe that you've seen of how people have leveraged? Because Because the other thing is automation? Sometimes can feel cold? Yes. So do you have some examples of ways that you've seen automation work on a personal level, you know, with donors that just makes them feel special? And like, it's about them? And not necessarily about the organization?

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, it's, um, it's a really good question, I'll give you a couple things. One is that there's an organization called Watse. And I wish I could show the email in the podcast is a brilliant email. But if you give a first time gift to Watse, there, they deploy doctors into underserved, like third world countries around the world to provide medical care primarily to kids. And so your email that you get back after you give the first time it says like, it'll say, Gabe meet Peter. Peter's, a doctor on the ground in Guatemala, here's a picture of him helping Estella. And then it then it'll have like a note from Peter, like, hey Gabe, so glad you you gave your your gift is helping me treat people like Estella on the front lines. And then there's a call to action on the bottom to see it says see other patients, like Estella right. And it's like, oh my gosh, so massively personal, I mean, immediately capital, the front lines, that email was automated, right? It went out. Sort of magically, it connected me to the project I was giving to. And it gave me a real-time response to express gratitude, close a loop and give me a call to action that was very specific to what I gave to and so again, that even that can feel hard to nonprofits.

But I think the example that I think if you don't have this today, you should have it like tomorrow is an automated new donor welcome series. So that's that I talked about before 76% of people give one gift and never give again. Well, that's that leak in the bucket is a very fixable leak. And the way you do that is just say, what, what do I want my donors to know? And how can I love on them and care on them and express gratitude in that first 30 days after they give a gift. And then you automate like, like three emails, one postcard, and you can actually automate postcards to go out without your team ever touching the stamp. And then prompt somebody on your team to give that new donor a call. Right. And so the core portion of it is that it's a higher-touch portion. But because you have a system telling you, hey, this person, just give a first gift, you should give them a call, you know, it's 30 seconds of your staff time. And that call is combined with now three emails and a postcard that all invites them to draw closer and expresses gratitude. You can literally move that 76% churn number down to 50% overnight, which if you look at the lifetime value of those donors over time, and it's transformational in terms of revenue, and so that's there's 100 examples like that, but I think that that new donor welcome series it just making sure they get the right, four or five touch points out last 30 days could be huge.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, so the you know, most of the time most people are just getting that tax receipt, right saying we acknowledge that we received this donation on your behalf and maybe in that letter, it has a couple of touchpoints that you mentioned. But not anything that's going to tell you is that imagery and video and like, you know, all of that stuff that kind of makes you feel more emotionally connected. So, I mean, what would you say like, you know, email one is just kind of, hey, here's a way for you to dive deeper. And maybe in the subsequent emails, you're asking for people to share with their friends and families that they donated, or to, you know, learn about other programs and services, like how would you kind of line out that combination of I mean, cuz they're not getting every those emails like, all at once, or one day after that are like they're, like you said, kind of stretched out over those 30 days?

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, that's exactly right. So I think you can think about it is you kind of want to strike while the iron is hot. And so in addition to like a receipt, you probably want to send a an email day one and email day three and email day 10, and then maybe 20, and 30. And then you want to have a postcard hit and a call head in the middle of that. Now, it's different for every organization, you have to test it. But a couple things about that.

Number one is, there's a great fundraiser that I know that says that we try to say thank you five times before we ask again, yeah, that's a great principle. And so those first emails should be like, we are so thankful, it's not about the organization, but you donor, you are making a difference. Here's how you're making a difference. And again, we are so thankful, right? There cultivation, nurture kind of emails, or postcards that connect you directly to the front lines of the costs. And then by about day, 20. Now you're kind of moving back into an appeal. I mean, the only exception that I've seen work, where you ask sooner rather than later is if they gave a one time gift of let's say 50 bucks, I do think it's valuable on that first day to say, hey, do you know you can upgrade that $50 donation to a monthly donation? Here's what that accomplishes, right? So if you're going to ask it all in that first, let's say 20 days, it's to upgrade to a recurring gift. But other than that, you just want to say thank you and just nurture that way. They're so prime by the time they get that ask at the end of the month that they're like heck yeah, I mean, I'm all in on this a no brainer at that point. That's right.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, and we know I mean, I don't know the stat maybe you have the stat off the top of your head. No, it's different for industry. But those welcome emails, like once somebody initially signs up for your freebie, or makes a donation or engages with you in some way. Those welcome email, open rates are higher than any other email you're ever going to send to them, which is huge.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, those because, you know, we talk a lot about like, the camp. Hi. So if you ever went to like a camp as a kid, you know, the day you come back from the camp, you're super stoked, right? Whether it was like band camp or church camper. Yeah, whatever camp, you're super stoked. And so it's in that vision leaks over time. And so I think those first few communications when they're hardest, so wrapped around your cause is critical to continue that momentum. And so you're right, the open rates on that first welcome, email are huge. Yeah. So again, just another way to stop that leak from your, your donor bucket. Yeah, by engaging exactly right. Okay. Oh, go ahead.

I was gonna say a lot of times, the nonprofit's just don't do the math, they're thinking of, well, that was a $50 gift as opposed to, like, if I could, if I can move my retention rate for those first-time givers by even 10%. If I do the math over three years, for the lifetime value of those donors, it ends up being like, you know, sort of multiple major donors. I mean, the value of just those touchpoints in that first 30 days, transforms revenue for the next three years.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, I mean, do you think don't earn donors? Do you think nonprofits do enough work to understand I mean, I do feel like nonprofit is different than for profit, but the business model is almost very similar. And so understanding your average number of donors per customer, which should be like average number of transactions, like your average lifetime value, your dollar amount per transaction, like all of those things can really help monetize or figure out these smaller donors and like what impact they're having on your organization, and how spending a little bit of time on that can actually drive more revenue, as opposed to, you know, your team spending months and months and months and months, hoping to close 1-10 thousand dollar sponsor.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah. And I think as nonprofits we have. I mean, I think it's important to understand how your organization grows to understand those metrics, like your first or second gift retention, your ongoing retention. And so because by understanding those it is it can change the landscape of your giving. And so I think it's critical and a lot of nonprofits, not the ones that we talk to even larger ones. You say, what's your retention there? I don't know. I'm not sure

And so in the explained, well do you know if you if you move the needle on this by 5% it, you know, can mean another million dollars over the next two years? Right? Gosh, that's huge. And so, but I also think we have a service stewardship responsibility to our donors to be more responsive. Right. So I mean, these people are giving their hard-earned money and time they care deeply about our cause. And so I think we have sort of an obligation to draw them in close to be grateful to treat them well to have those appropriate touch points. And so there's kind of that piece of it too, if that makes sense.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. Well, and that leads me to do you kind of find that maybe part of the reason why donations in this country are going down at the smaller amount is because people have less faith in the integrity of organizations, and the fact that those dollars are actually going to go support what they intend to support.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, yes, that's huge. And so um, and sort of the the research and looking at this that that we've done, we see two vectors, and there's a lot it's a complex problem. But there's, there's two big ones that we see. And one is sort of the erosion of trust in large institutions. So if you look outside of the nonprofit space, and you look at, you know, people's trust and faith in the government, people's trust and faith in big corporations, there's, we sort of have any roading trust problem, right. But the nonprofit space hasn't helped themselves here. So you look at like the handling of Haiti or other big crisis's in the last, you know, 10,15 years, 20 years, people don't trust big institutions the way they used to. And so and then big institutions aren't helping because we're just like, sort of sending out pray and spray direct response marketing that that's talking all about the institution and not drawing the donor in.

But the other thing that's happened, I think, in the last 15 years is all of our communications from our favorite brands have gotten hyper-personal. Like, you know, yeah, I was on Instagram earlier, personalized to me, Netflix is personalized to me, Amazon, Disney, what I eat, what how I work out, it's all personalized to me, I popped over my Strava app before I jumped in all personalized to me. And the nonprofit space hasn't crossed this chasm yet. So all most nonprofit communication is all impersonal. Like we send the same newsletter to everybody. Like Nordstrom is never gonna send the same newsletter to everybody. Right? They're gonna send something hyper-personal. And so I think the combination of those two, like donors want a personal connection from the cause giving is deeply personal. And when they don't get it, they're kind of like, I'm out. You know, I expect more.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, for sure. So I definitely, I definitely agree with personal touches, I think that's super important. And I also feel like, I know we're kind of I'm, I'm kind of bouncing back and forth between like the for-profit, nonprofit, but I also do feel like a lot of organizations are kind of having that personal connection in different ways, experiential ways, and like mixing the purchase with like, Hey, here's a way for you to, like, come to an event and like, really engage with us and kind of dive deeper.

Um, but I guess, you know, if I'm listening to all the things that we're talking about here, and I'm a nonprofit, and I'm thinking, Okay, there's no way that I could pull all this together, like, I'm not going to send individual emails to all these people, like, how do I manage all of this? And, you know, as you mentioned, you have a background in software development. So, you know, do you have some kind of software, I know, you have platforms that you like to use, or kind of ways that you would like to encourage nonprofits to kind of start to get into the mix to be able to start to set up some of these basic things that are going to happen automatically on their own?

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I mean, really, it is, it's, you need two things. Number one, you need a way to listen to donor signals, figure out when donors give, what they care about what stage of life, they're in what their demographics are, so you have to have a better way to listen. And then you have to have a way to connect at scale.

And so the listening part from a technology point of view is is just like a CRM, but a CRM that's connected in with, like third party data sources, like wealth data that's connected to social media, that that really knows how to provide like a holistic picture of your donor, it's connected to people's email opens or email visits, or email opens and clicks and website visits. And so that's like sort of the donor signals piece. And so that's typically a more robust modern CRM.

And then on the other side is marketing automation. So you're absolutely right with two people on your staff. You can't respond to everybody personally, it's just, you know, you're already underwater. But really, marketing automation is the thing that would allow you to automatically send those communications or even prompt the right phone call from your team. Right. So marketing automation is just a tool that sits in the background and spins and waits. It says, oh, somebody just gave a first gift, I know I have to send this email, and then wait a few days and send me this email and wait a few days and this postcard, then wait a few days and prompt somebody on my team to give them a call. Right. And so that that automation piece is really what saves your staff time and creates that personal connection.

So our platform Virtuous, I mean, that's a CEO of that company, we do all of those things, you're our platform, I'd say if you're tiny, and you, you know, you can't afford that kind of holistic solution today, I get it, I would even just, you know, let's say you're, you know, $100,000 a year nonprofit, yeah, one or two staff members, just jump into MailChimp, or what you're using today and try to cobble it together the best you can. But at least take the first steps like that new donor welcome series that I talked about, that is a great first step somewhere you can start today, that'll that'll produce great value.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, and I don't know a non profit, really, I mean, like, I feel like a donor CRM is the first thing that nonprofits really invest in from a software standpoint, because you you have to write like from tracking, who's showing up to events and whatnot. And so it could just be taking a look at the software that you have, and just seeing if they have a marketing automation piece to it that you can add on or maybe you know, if this is a strategy you want to go to, with really treating these smaller donors as your kind of bread and butter. Like maybe it's just a matter of taking a look at other software programs that are out there that will allow you like yours that will allow you to kind of have a more robust all in one system. But yeah, I agree. Email marketing software right now is so amazing. Like we're working on an automation right now for a client, before people donate. So it's literally if they hit certain pages several times we know they're interested, then they get like an informational email that says, hey, we've noticed that you're, you've been looking around here, we'd love to make sure you have this information. So you can understand yada, yada, yada, and then the automation just kind of carries through. Once they make a donation they're done. But it's a way to capture people that you would have never been able to capture before to just get them moving closer to making that donation. Yeah.

[GABE COOPER] And some of that stuff is is actually easier than it sounds like we are. And we have like a tracking pixel similar to HubSpot. But if somebody bails on our donation page, we can send them an email the next day that says, hey, you know, you want to jump in and complete your donation. And that's like a great revenue generator, or we'll have ways to say, you know, if somebody keeps visiting, like, if you do malaria and water, and they keep visiting the malaria pages on your website, like automatically tag them as interested in malaria, so that makes me have a big malaria campaign, you know, I'm gonna send you that information. And you know, the other one too, that we're doing that's super fun is like shifting the gift array.

So this one can be a little bit harder for smaller nonprofits. But as you get larger, it's huge for average gifts. So every single donor that comes to the website, they see a different gift asked based on how much wealth they have, or what they've given before. And so one person might see a gift array of a given monthly gift of 30,50, you know, 100, but the next person who shows up if we know, their net worth is, you know, 100 million dollars, they're not going to see a gift or at all, we want their imagination to go wild. So we show them an empty box. And so some of this stuff, is it sounds complicated, but at the end of the day, you know, a lot of these tools are built to do this out of the box. And, and it provides so much value that it's worth the time and elbow grease at the front.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, it starts with the initial data collection that's inside the CRM, right, and then that's right next to people. So then could you can you do the same with predictive, you know, content and emails as well. So maybe you're sending the same campaign ask, like for your annual fund or something to your entire list. But based off of their history with you their specific ask, and that email is adjusted as well.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, so adjusting the ask and the email is a huge one. But even segmenting your list by persona, so right, if you're in Oregon you like these three types of donors typically gift us college students that are activists, you know, stay at home moms that talk about us all the time at the park with their kids and this other group B create those personas, you give them all names and identities, and then you just segment your email list. But now you vary the content and the ask, based on those three personas. And again, that's sort of like that's beyond the 101 kind of site. It really like I see we have nonprofits that are, you know, doing less than a half million a year in revenue. And they're doing some basic segmentation like that and seeing huge results. Like you don't have to be very big before it's worth it.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] No, and that's really I'm glad you said that because I think we tend to get scared by the growth and the updates or changes or we you know that one or those one or two people in our organization that are not willing to do things differently. But that's where understanding your data, understanding the value of your donors. And those numbers, you can really say, Well, if we increase by 10 monthly donors that are recurring on a monthly basis at $10, which feels very doable, that will lead to X amount of dollars, which will more than pay for either this software or this time to put in the automation or, like, it makes it so much easier to monetize. When you understand what you're, you know, what you can do?

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, we have that conversation all the time with folks like, you know, Tom in accounting doesn't want to change. He's been pushing same red button for the last 20 years. And like, I get it, change is hard. But you, you, if you can talk about an aspirational vision of where you want to be and say, look to have the impact, we need to be at 5 million a year. Okay. Are you going to get there? Well, if I can show you that, doing a better job with donor retention and follow up, get you there twice as fast? Like, you know, Tommy just have to change a little bit. Yeah, I don't I don't they but sometimes if you can get those numbers really, really clear. So you know where you're going. And you know, what you have to do to get there all of a sudden, it becomes an easy decision.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, and one thing we haven't brought up yet is if you have that solid base of monthly donors that you know, you're you know, you you're going to have your retention rate, you're going to know who's going to fall off every month, what's going to come and even flow. But having that solid base, don't you think that makes it easier than to actually close the larger corporate sponsors? Because they're also thinking like, well, if I don't, if somebody else goes away, is this organization going to continue to be viable? Like it makes you look more viable overall, as a nonprofit, to those bigger donors, exponentially easier?

[GABE COOPER] Oh, my gosh, so I'm on the board of a nonprofit. And I just had this conversation with the executive director and their main fundraiser that if you can have smaller mid-tier donors, covering your, your budget, so you're not worried about operating expenses, any operating expenses. So if you're not worried about where the money's come from, now, you don't just say, to small donors, like give a gift to the general fund, you're still having a very specific ask, and but you know that you have a base of donors to cover your budget. Now you're asked to major donors is like, Hey, I'm not asking for money to keep us afloat. It's not the panic email. It's like, we're going to go out of business in 30 days, if you don't, it's much more strategic and visionary, like you're saying, you know, we we have it covered, we're going in the right direction, but this new gift can help us launch, you know, a new program in Malawi. Not so much more compelling than, you know, please help us meet our budget. So we don't go out of business.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, no, that's so good. And I think to me, like that's the biggest pro to like really treating all of your donors, regardless of their dollar amount as important, impactful people, because, you know, they truly are.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, for sure. I think there was. We did, we've done some stuff with next after we just actually launched a study in multi-channel fundraising, like how productive it is to get to donors on multiple channels. But in some of their research, they looked at what percentage of major donors come from small and mid-tier donors. And at the typical organization at something like 70% of your major donors are already on your file, and they've given you a small gift. Wow, not just that those are the predictable, sustainable revenue, they're also your best breeding ground for major givers and nonprofits sometimes don't appreciate that somebody may have just given you a $50 test gift, just to see how they respond. Hmm. You know, but they're sitting on a lot of wealth or relationships or whatever.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Right? You don't know. I mean, that's always been my whole thing. Like when I was working specifically in the nonprofit world as a fundraiser. I like my everything in my brain was always, like, you don't know who this person knows. That's right. And you they could open up the floodgates of something like you've never seen before. So walk into every meeting, assuming that like, they're a super important person.

[GABE COOPER] That's right. Yeah. And they are, I mean, the person that gives you 100 bucks a month, that might be a huge deal for them. And you need to treat them like that, right. And you have an obligation to treat them like that.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] I love that. And I feel like automate, like the automation stuff that we've talked about just makes it so much easier for you to be able to do that. And whether you use just your email service provider, or you integrate it with your CRM, like there's so many ways to kind of come around and make that functional no matter what size your company is, because it doesn't matter if you're in the nonprofit world. I feel like if your team is 50 you still feel like you don't have enough.

[GABE COOPER] Oh my gosh, it's always Yeah, it's always we don't have enough stuff for underwater. We don't have enough stuff for underwater but, you know, that's what's been great. I said great about COVID nothing's been great about COVID but I think that some nonprofits because all their galas got canceled, they're kind of stuck at home for the first time. They're thinking about, oh, what systems do I need to put in place, save us time and draw our donors in closer, like, this whole gala thing is not gonna work the way it did in the past, right? I can't just rely on the same 10 major donors anymore. How do we get more strategic? And so I think this moment, there's been a lot of nonprofit leaders we've talked to that are like, you know, this Oh, shoot moment. Like, what what can we do to put systems in place now that save us time later?

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, I'm super excited to see what actually happens with these giant events moving forward, because they're so expensive. They take so much staff time, you have to raise so much money just to put them on. And so I'm really, you know, it's been fun to see the creativity that's come out of organizations as they've tried to kind of just maneuver through what's happening right now. Um, like, we did an episode a few. I'll link it up in the show notes. But we did an episode a few weeks back with a United Way fundraiser where they auction off Christmas trees. Yeah. And they're like, how do we do this? And so you know, they're doing some really cool things with how they're going to set it up. And the way that they're going to make it virtual. But I'm excited to see now if some of these giant events go away, and how much more money that's actually going to bring into the organization because it's freeing up so much more time, and expenses in your budgets to be able to kind of maybe invest in some of these things like automation, that you could track so much easier.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah. And organizations are getting crappy like I've seen,
the Cincinnati Zoo, started live streaming like on Twitter, like posting a live streams of like animal exhibit. So you can have a zoo experience with your kids at home, or, like the Phoenix Ballet rather than doing their Gala. They started having their dancers do like Zoom calls with just a few donors. And then they could answer ask questions like, hey, how did you get into dance? Like how you know, all of this, like, they would have never done that kind of thing?

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Cool. Is that also cool. And so I think it's spawning some great innovation, I hope it continues. I hope we just don't fall back into, oh, we do our big expensive Gala. Yeah, we really lean into innovation. Well, and even I know, this isn't the topic for today. But I just want to throw it out there even on like the topic of how you serve, like what your nonprofit does, like who you serve. So we've been talking about donors, but like, obviously, we have to be creative with the revenue that we're generating, from, like, I think about Boys and Girls Clubs that can't actually that have the same capacity. So they're still having to pay for the same staff, but they don't have the same number of kids that are coming into their facility. Depending on your state, right. Um, I think about like my daughter's in the nonprofit theater program. And they've done something really cool where now they're doing radio plays. So they're teaching the kids voiceover and sound effects. So that they can still do it all over Zoom. And they can all do it safely. And they can still record it live and sell tickets, virtual tickets for, you know, the parents and all of us to like, hear this live radio play.

So it's been really fun to see how people have tried to pivot to still serve their audience, serve them well, and continue to grow and, and communicate with us as donors to say like, we have your back. We're still here, we're still doing things well. And we still need you to support us.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, yeah. And I think a huge part of that, that you kind of alluded to there is you in order to do that you have to know your donors. Yeah. And COVID, you have to know are, are they panicked? Are they worried? Where are they at emotionally? What are they most interested in? Like? What would they like to see from us? What adds value? And so as nonprofits, we have to lean in to be better listener. So they're not just names in a database or an ATM machine, but they're, they're actual people that we care for? And how do we listen, so we know how to respond in real time and deliver value that way? I love it. And I think that's a perfect thought to kind of end this discussion on I don't know, unless you have a brilliant thought you'd like to add after that. But I thought that was pretty good. That's awesome.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] So Gabe, you know, you gave us so many good things to think about if people want to learn more about you and your company, like how do they kind of find out more about you guys?

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, so if you want to learn more about us go to virtuous.org. And some of the stuff we talked about today, just click on what is responsive on the website or go to https://virtuous.org/responsive. There's actually a responsive fundraising playbook there with 28 plays. So kind of like I talked about what the new donor welcome series. There's that one, but there's 27 more just like it in there. So if you're trying to lean into this and get better at it, that's a great place to start.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] That's awesome. And we will link all of this up in the show notes that you guys can get at https://www.thefirstclick.net/podcast. But Gabe, thank you so much for joining me. This was an amazingly fun conversation.

[GABE COOPER] Yeah, thanks for having me.

[CLOSING] Huge thank you again to Gabe for joining me on this episode. All of the resources that we talked about will be available on our show notes at https://www.thefirstclick.net/podcast \. So make sure you check them out. I would love to hear from you how you're going to automate or how you're going to love on your donors and give them some good feelings good vibes if you're going to write a welcome sequence, whatnot, but make sure you check out gabes download on that for sure in the show notes. For now, I hope you will subscribe wherever you listen so you don't miss out on a single episode and I look forward to seeing you in the next one.


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