Responsive fundraising requires agility, experimentation and failure.

3 Critical Elements of Responsive Fundraising

Mckenna Bailey

Adopting change can be hard for any organization. It’s particularly difficult for nonprofits, who need to juggle multiple stakeholders at once. But it’s not impossible — and, in fact, it gets easier when you know exactly what to expect. 

Integrating responsive fundraising strategies into your nonprofit will come with challenges. While we know the reward is worth the obstacles, we want to do everything we can to set your organization up to thrive. 

Here are some details on what to expect as you explore responsive fundraising and adopt The Responsive Framework at your organization. 

What Is The Responsive Framework? 

The Responsive Framework is the cycle that responsive fundraisers use to treat every donor with the same personalized attention that they deserve. Through listen, connect and suggest, responsive nonprofits learn more about what is important to their donors and how to provide the most value. 

In a hyper-connected world, donors need to feel like they are part of a community. They need to feel tied to the impact of their favorite nonprofits. Most importantly, they want to be acknowledged for their generosity. 

Responsive fundraisers use all the tools available to them in order to create deep connections that serve donors in the right way. 

Read our ebook on Responsive Fundraising to learn why The Responsive Framework is essential for growing your nonprofit. 

Responsive Fundraising Requires Experimentation

Responsive fundraising is a departure from traditional fundraising tactics. Instead of nonprofits leading the way for donors, responsive nonprofits follow where their donors lead. Fundraisers listen for what their donors respond to most and do what they can to deliver that. 

The result is a need for experimentation. Donors often request new information or the same information delivered a different way. Your team must be willing and able to experiment with the perfect engagements.

At first, nonprofits find this to be a bit unsettling. The high stakes of ever-increasing fundraising goals that get more difficult to achieve every year make experimentation frightening. However, responsive fundraisers know that it is precisely the lack of experimentation that created such a difficult fundraising environment with today’s modern donors. 

If we do what’s always been done, we will continue to see the same results. Responsive fundraisers know that they cannot continue the same generalized engagements if they want to inspire more generosity from donors. Instead, they dedicate themselves to creative, experimental ideas based on donor signals.

When you’re guiding your organization towards being a more responsive nonprofit, encourage all ideas. Bring cross-departmental teams together to brainstorm ideas, without consideration for budget or timing. Foster a trusting environment where new ideas are offered and supported. Then, use the data from your donors to understand which ideas to try. Save the unused ideas for later, when the data supports it. 

The more you encourage your team to experiment with the ways they serve your donors, the better returns you’ll see from your donors. 

Responsive Fundraising Strategies Are Agile

In the hyper-connected world of the modern donor, things change quickly. It only takes a matter of minutes for new information to change the way donors feel connected to your cause. In the past, nonprofits might have remained in the dark about these changes. They might not feel the disconnect with donors until their year-end fundraising efforts. 

Responsive nonprofits stay connected to donors, constantly adjusting to new information and needs. To be effective at responsive fundraising, your organization must remain agile. 

Agility comes in many forms. One of the simplest ways to be agile and responsive is through A/B testing. You can test any donor-facing engagement to see which messages, channels or CTAs inspire the best reaction from your donors. When you’re setting up the testing strategies, make sure that you have subsequent variables to test to remain agile and responsive. 

For example, don’t stop at learning which headline grabs the most attention from users on Facebook. Plan to test the photos, the landing pages, and the follow up engagements as well. With a roadmap in place, you can constantly update your strategies and adapt to what you learn during each phase. 

Agility in Donor Relationships

Prioritizing agility will also allow you to rethink under-performing donor relationship strategies. In the past, nonprofits would take a strategy like direct mail and simply send more to reach the same conversion rates as previous years. Responsive nonprofits are more agile and thoughtful about their optimization strategies. 

In this case, responsive fundraisers might segment their donor base to send more relevant information to a specific donor persona. Then, they might turn the direct-mail information into an online experience for a second donor persona to get better conversion rates. 

When your responsive nonprofit is dedicated to being agile, all options should be considered. You might find that you should abandon your current newsletter in favor of an SMS text message strategy to keep donors in the loop. Donor signals may reveal that 15-minute calls result in more giving than 30-minute calls. As a responsive nonprofit, you should keep yourself open to making this changes as soon as the data reveals the right strategy to you. 

As you make changes quickly and strategically, you’ll see better relationships and increased giving.  

Prepare for Some Responsive Fundraising Strategies to Fail

Lastly, as a responsive nonprofit, you must prepare to fail. Some things just aren’t going to work. Donor signals might point you in a certain direction that simply wasn’t the right choice. Especially when you’re optimizing quickly and trying new approaches, some campaigns will fail. That’s all part of the process. 

The difference between failures of the past and failures as a responsive nonprofit is the relationship with your donors. Donors who are treated like ATMs, only contacted with new asks for more money, don’t have patience for failure. They see your failed attempts as a waste of resources that should be going to your beneficiaries. 

On the other hand, donors with deep connections to your organization see every step that leads to each failure. They recognize your strategy and the why behind your campaigns. If you do happen to fail, donors trust that you made the best decision based on the best information at the time. They don’t worry that you’re wasting money. Donors see the ways you’re allocating resources and appreciate your full transparency. 

Internally, you must also earn the trust of your team. They need to know that failure will not result in the loss of their job. In order to pull the best ideas out of your team, they must feel safe and supported no matter what the results. Of course, you want to ask the right questions to feel confident that each idea is rooted in data and the right insights. But, you should also leave enough space for creativity and a little fun. 

Failure will come. What responsive fundraisers know is that failure can lead to exponential growth — as long as you respond in ways that serve your donors. 

Get More Information on How to Make Your Nonprofit More Responsive

To learn more about what makes a nonprofit a responsive nonprofit, check out our library of on-demand videos from The Responsive Nonprofit Summit. You’ll get over 5 hours of practical philosophy and strategic campaign ideas your nonprofit can use right now. 

Take a tour of the Virtuous Platform

Learn more about how the Virtuous can help you save time and build better relationships with your donors.

Take a Product Tour