When I work with gift officers to find the donors who will be most responsive to our outreach, I encourage them to look first at recent cash giving. You will often hear fundraising consultants use the acronym “RFM” to reference an important quality of donors. This acronym stands for recency, frequency, and monetary amount. How recently have your donors given? If a donor has given during the last fiscal year, consider them someone who will at least pick up the phone. If the donor has given regularly for the last five years, consider them someone you will be able to have a productive phone call with. If the donor has given gifts in the four- to five-figure range or more, and they have also given recently and frequently, consider them your very best prospects.
You need not pay a large fee to access proprietary databases for this information. If your nonprofit has a record of donations, pull that information into a spreadsheet and sort appropriately. Following recent cash shows you those who are already invested in your nonprofit. Whatever you have been doing – direct mail appeals, volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, advocacy – these donors already know you well enough and believe deeply enough in your mission that they are invested. They’ve demonstrated their belief in you. Reach out to them first.
This list also provides an indication about which donors you should be stewarding. We will return to a full strategy for donor stewardship in a future study. For now, suffice it to say that a quick look at recent cash giving will help you see exactly which donors you should be calling, which ones you should be writing to, which ones you should be thanking. If your ROP turns up forty donors who have given your organization a total of $5,000 over the last five years, and you’ve only spoken to twenty of them, you know exactly which ones to contact first. If they are already giving at a leadership level without any stewardship, you know you’ve got some great donors on your hands. A simple thank you or phone call could go a long way in teeing those donors up to partner with you at an even more significant level.
Looking at recent giving will also help you identify potential problems. If a donor gave regularly for several years in a row then three years ago abruptly stopped, it is likely there was a reason. They may not have agreed with a particular decision, or they did not feel adequately thanked. It is now your responsibility to re-establish that relationship. And you have a reason to reach out.
For more on this topic, check out our e-book “How to Find the Donors You Already Have”.