OK, I’ve been harping for a few days on harnessing your nonprofit’s "missionaries" — and empowering them with online social marketing tools — to bolster your fundraising efforts.

So, Agitator reader Patricia Perkins asked me, how would I find my missionaries in the first place? Great question. Were I starting from scratch, here’s what I’d do.

I’d start by combing through my current donor files, looking for individuals who had demonstrated either: a) some special loyalty or commitment in their actual giving, and/or b) some engagement with my organization beyond giving. Examples:

  • Long tenure donors
  • Sustainers
  • Higher dollar donors
  • Donors who have purchased merchandise (e.g., our calendar or t-shirt or book)
  • Donors who have participated in some real world event we sponsored (e.g., a forum or meeting, a fundraiser)
  • Donors who had engaged online (e.g., responded to action alert, downloaded from website, responded to a survey, commented on our blog, registered for e-newsletter, forwarded a viral message, etc)
  • Donors who had communicated positively with us (e.g., complimenting a program or victory, or even updating their mailing address) via our 800# or by letter or email.

In each case, the operative hypothesis is that these behaviors suggest a commitment to my organization beyond the normal … I’m building a missionary prospect file.

But that commitment isn’t enough. Beyond commitment, a missionary is defined by their willingness to actually recommend my organization to others … some committed donors are comfortable in a proselytizing role, others are not.

How do I find out which of my missionary prospects has the "right stuff"? Until we have a scoring model that can pre-identfy these folks in a donor file (something our partner DonorTrends is working on) I guess there’s no substitute … I have to ask or "test" them!

So, I’d come up with a simple missionary request for my prospects (actually, a few requests over time to really probe my prospect pool) … something that involved outreach — such as passing along a message or sending in a prospect name.

The donors who responded would be my missionaries. I’d be thrilled if this group represented maybe 15% of my original donor base.

I’d then attempt to "graduate" them to some explicit donor-to-friend fundraising promotion. I’d conduct as much of this program online as possible, using the latest viral marketing and social networking tools. And I’d create a recognition program to keep my missionaries motivated.

By the way, I’d also test my missionary request against the donors who did not yet meet the giving or engagement criteria I had devised. By doing so, I might pull some more missionaries out of the woodwork, plus I’d have a control group against which to evaluate the performance of my presumed missionaries. In effect, I’d be ascertaining the validity of my missionary prospect screening criteria.

So that’s what I’d do. It’s pretty straighforward. And I believe the searching and filtering process would be worth it.

Would anyone approach it differently?



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This article was posted in: Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Fundraising analytics / data, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media.
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