In Part 8 of The Agitator’s Barriers To Growth series I cited “Insufficient Collaboration” as one of the principal barriers.

Of the more than 1 million nonprofits in the U.S., nearly 75% post annual revenues below $500,000. I noted that “this leaves little or no room for the ‘science’ part of fundraising like data analytics, predictive modeling and other higher cost skills that can aid in growth.”

“It shouldn’t be this way,” I lamented. “Why in the world should organizations of like mission, or proximate geographic location, wastefully duplicate infrastructure, technology, and data applications, when one set of tools could be cooperatively employed by all?”

Back then I called attention to  an outstanding example of fundraising collaboration, The Contributor Development Partnership, a cooperative that includes 100+ independent public broadcasting stations. CDP shares information and makes bulk purchases of telemarketing, face-to-face canvassing and other related services.

So I was mighty pleased to see that the Spring Issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (subscription only) features a piece titled “Collaborative Fundraising” that tells how CDP is “revitalizing public broadcasting with a fundraising model that can help other large profits with local affiliates”.

CDP owes a good deal of its success to the pioneering spirit, patience and persistence of Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud’s Chief Scientist, a decades’ long proponent of both collaboration and documentation of best practices.

In a nutshell, here’s what CDP has accomplished in collaboration with the stations:

  • Provided a data-driven approach to fundraising as well as software and services that small stations simply couldn’t afford on their own.
  • A uniform — but station-customized — set of donate buttons, forms and back-end responses for giving.
  • Analysis of missed revenue opportunities — far more than mere benchmarking — to alert stations to focus on monthly giving and renewal giving.
  • The Revenue Opportunity and Action Report (ROAR), a one-page quarterly bulletin produced for each station. Based on 24 key metrics it provides stations with a simple traffic-light icon indicating strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. “Green is good. Yellow means look carefully at this. And red means you need to fix it,” says Steve MacLaughlin, Blackbaud’s VP for Analytics who participates in the project.
  • In addition to data and analytics CDP also provides shared services for initiatives like thank you calls, face-to-face canvassing and car donation programs.
  • The stations pay a monthly fee to outsource these services to the nonprofit CDP.

Best of all, in my opinion, is requirement by CDP that, while stations can choose to use particular programs, they cannot tinker with techniques and approaches. As Michal Heiplik, CDP’s director puts it, “If you had each station trying to modify best practice, you’d never get scale.”

By maintaining consistency and avoiding whimsy in favor of data, CDP has posted some impressive gains for the stations.

  • Popular. 133 of U.S. 180 public television stations are signed up, plus 68 radio stations.
  • In its first year, the “thank you call” program generated 56% increase in first-year donor retention, 72% increase in first-year retention revenue.

No doubt in my mind that federated organizations with local/international affiliates can follow this model.  Habitat. Special Olympics. Oxfam. Save the Children. Salvation Army, etc.

In addition to federated groups, why not disparate organizations that operate in the same geographic area? I see no reason, other than overcoming inertia and territorial fears (no small barriers) why 10 or 20 or even more community groups couldn’t combine to benefit immensely.

I fully realize this is not a simple as I’m making it sound, but seldom in this trade are significant gains ever made without a lot of effort backed by a solid vision.

What do you think? Have you had any experiences with collaboration you can share?

Finally, an Agitator raise to Chuck Longfield and Steve MacLaughlin of Blackbaud and Michal Heiplik of CDP … PLUS to the participating stations for sticking with this bold and successful experiment in collaborative fundraising.





This article was posted in: Breaking Out of the Status Quo, Fundraising analytics / data, Fundraising philosophy/profession, Innovation, Nonprofit management.
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