Unraveling Development Means Unraveling Research, Yes There’s More

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In my previous column, I talked about the research you have to read. Go out, find it and read it. Then use it.

Now, let’s talk about the research you have to conduct . . . the research about your own donors. I’m not suggesting you do major academic research. I’m not suggesting that you hire professional researchers and spend lots of money that you may not have or want to spend in other ways.

But I am saying that you have to analyze your own database. You have to gather data and analyze the trends and implications. And, yes, you have to talk about the trends and implications with your staff colleagues and your CEO and your Fund Development Committee and the Board of Directors, too.

One of my April 2010 columns talked about measures, “What Gets Measured Gets Done.” Check out that column to jump-start your thinking.

 Now think about what you want to know about your donors. Maybe things like:

  • gender and generation
  • interests and disinterests
  • the emotional triggers that work best for each person
  • why a donor gave his or her first give
  • why the donor keeps on giving
  • how satisfied your donors are with your customer / donor service
  • what they think are the most important things you do – and why they think that
  • what they know about your financing – and how important their gifts are to you

You can identify overall trends and implications by conducting a donor survey. Check out the survey used by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, included in the book Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships. Read Adrian Sargeant’s book Building Donor Loyalty and you’ll see all the questions he used in his huge individual donor survey.

Conduct focus groups. Invite donors in and ask them questions as a group. Collect their anecdotal remarks to further inform your understanding about why they give and how they view your organization.

And, of course, meet one-on-one with donors. Talk with your donors. Collect their stories. Ask them questions. See my columns “Collecting stories from your donors” and “Talking with donors. Talking with other people, too.”

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