Take Action Before The Trump Bump Slumps

March 15, 2019      Roger Craver

As we head into board meeting season and the discussion around preliminary budgeting for 2020 many advocacy organization leaders will be touting the magnificent rise in both income and numbers of donors over the past two years.

What frightens me is that some may believe this bonanza will last.  It won’t.

If experience holds, many groups will see a decline of between 20% and 35% in numbers of donors and nearly that much in revenue.  “Bumps” inevitably turn into “Slumps.”

What troubles me even more is that most of the beneficiaries of the “Trump Bump” have done little by way of investing in actions that could mitigate the downward spiral that’s coming. As best I can tell from interviews and by what appears in my postal and digital mailboxes most advocacy organizations are taking few or no steps weather proof their donor bases against the coming Slump.

No sane fundraiser, board or CEO should believe this extra boost will last forever.

Two years ago in a post titled Rejoice In The ‘Trump Bump’, BUT Prepare Now For The ‘Trump Slump ’I noted that “I’ve been through various ‘bumps’ on the left side of the ideological spectrum over the past 45 years — from Roe v. Wade, to Nixon’s Watergate, and Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contragate  to name a few — and in every instance, as the political climate cooled or changed, those donors who had rushed onboard with their contributions in the heat of the moment were quick to abandon ship.”

Of course, none of us can accurately predict when the “bump” will end.  There are already early signs of decline (drop in frequency of gifts, lower renewal rates, less upgrading) in some major advocacy organizations. And the early and aggressive fundraising on the part of Democratic presidential candidates will further hasten the decline by siphoning off donors attracted by these candidates and their issues.

It’s Not Too Late to Act

I believe there’s still time to take effective action to reinforce retention and prevent hemorrhaging in your donor base.

Doing so will require a change of mindset; away from “business-as-usual” practices with their hyper-concentration on “acquisition” to a far more deliberate and detailed focus –and investment—on current donors.

Here are my recommendations for a few effective steps you should be taking now to prevent or mitigate disaster down the road.

·     Concentrate on the Most Committed Donors.   Although it’s always tempting to try “saving” everyone, use your limited resources on saving the best.  And spend time and money doing it using some of the recommendations/techniques that follow.

Use Predictive Analytics to quickly and inexpensively identify that segment of your file who are most committed and target your special effort on that group. Chances are they account for 80%-90% your organization’s net revenue.

[ In less than 5 days you can get an analysis from our sister company DonorTrends. Just contact Corky Miller at cmiller@donortrends.com  ]

·     Understand and Use Donor Identity.  One of the reasons we’ve been devoting so much coverage to the importance of donor identity (the reason a donor gives) is because the chances are great that many of the donors you acquired in the “Trump Bump” are not like the donors you were getting two or three years ago.

As Nick so succinctly puts it, “Someone who rage-donates because of the tweet that broke the camel’s back has a different reason for donating, connection to the organization, and personal identity than someone who has donated to you for 20 years despite, not because of, your organization’s ideological inclinations.  And treating one like the other will lose that one at best and both at worst.”

The more your messages and appeals and other communications reflect the donor’s identity the more likely he/she is to stick with you.

We’ll be dealing with this more in the immediate future, but do yourself a favor and check out Nick’s March 11th post on testing donor identities. You’ll find a whole range of posts on the subject by clicking on “Donor Identity” in the Agitator Archives.

·     Show Impact.  According to DonorVoice research of more than 250 U.S. and U.K. nonprofits and thousands and thousands of their donors, the main reason why donors quit is because the organization has failed to show it’s achieving the impact the donor expects.

Make sure donor communications contain plenty of great stories of the victories the donor’s generosity made possible and the battles that lie ahead.  Remember, the donor hired you to help him/her win a victory or stop a threat, not to be reminded about how great you are.

·     Say Thank You– Again and Again. According to the DonorVoice research among the top 5 reasons donors quit is because they aren’t thanked and/or don’t think their involvement is appreciated.

It’s bad enough in “normal” times to neglect this simple, inexpensive element of donor care, but at a time when the rage of “rage donors” is waning and they’re hearing the siren call of a new issue or candidate, they’ll be far more willing to walk away if you’ve failed to thank and recognize their central importance to the fight.

Sure, it might cost some extra bucks to send a few thank you letters, or a communication recognizing the heroic and important role the donor has played in the battle. A donor with a lifetime value between $500 and $1000.  Given what’s at stake I’d not only be thanking them for what they accomplished, I’d be mailing  them a special card or photo depicting the fight on the anniversary of their first gift.  (If you want “thank you” and recognition ideas just go to the Agitator Archives.)

CEOs, Boards, CFOs or Fundraisers who treat donor recognition as a cost center to be starved are fools. 

Especially, as the Trump Bump begins to Slump.  Get into the budget fight and go to the wall for the funds necessary to frequently thank and recognize your donors—they’re what make this battle possible.

Please don’t ignore the inevitable. Take steps now to prevent your Trump Bump from becoming a Trump Dump.


P.S.  The Agitator and our readers would appreciate your sharing any steps you are taking.


2 responses to “Take Action Before The Trump Bump Slumps”

  1. Pamela Grow says:

    “CEOs, Boards, CFOs or Fundraisers who treat donor recognition as a cost center to be starved are fools.” AMEN!

    And I appreciate your admonition to concentrate on your most committed donors. When one of our students lavished some extra care on her most committed donors, she saw an 84% increase in funding with her year-end appeal.

  2. […] “CEOs, Boards, CFOs or Fundraisers who treat donor recognition as a cost center to be starved are fools.” AMEN! Roger Craver with Take Action Before The Trump Bump Slumps. […]