The Great Fundraising Mandala

blog_pic_2-3-16_squareThe dynamics of successful direct response fundraising has been described as a three-legged stool: Strategy (analytics) drives Creative (tactics) drives Performance (data), from which Strategy generates analytics. That brings us back to the first leg of the stool.

Remove one leg from the relationship and the stool falls over. Simple.

But there is an inherent weakness in the simplicity of this construct. It leaves out the most integral component, namely the donor. More specific, his or her attitudinal and behavioral fabric.

After all, donors react emotionally and rationally — or not — to the strategically considered, tactically rendered communication sitting before them. That’s the reality behind “Performance,”  and it directly influences the direction of subsequent strategies and tactics.

Perhaps better to visualize the fundraising dynamics as a wheel, or, because of the cyclical, concentric, and interdependent nature of its components, a mandala (to borrow from Eastern philosophies.)

On the outer ring of the wheel, our traditional players: Strategy, Creative, Performance. But inside that ring of general descriptors lies a ring of very real determinants that underpin the big notions in the outer ring.

Strategists historically relied on RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) performance data, to draw conclusions about campaign successes across and within active and prospective donor audiences. Increasingly, however, strategists are looking for deeper understanding, the behavioral science behind RFM data that may shed light on donor attitudes and preferences.

This market intelligence is invaluable as both Strategists and Creatives try to frame tactical campaign plans with real traction with their target audiences. This enables writers and designers to create messaging that strikes the “sweet spot” balance between emotional and rational messaging.

This sweet spot, or creative equation, unique to each organization, properly aligns content that resonates in the donor’s heart with content that demonstrates in the donor’s brain that giving to this charity at this time represents a best investment in the mission.

And of course, the concentric rings can and will go deeper and with greater detail, changing across file segments, channels, giving cycles, external conditions, and more, each condition with its own attitudinal and creative nuances.

With unprecedented competition, generational and channel shifts in giving, and financial insecurity driving downturns in donor acquisition, the movement among nonprofits to understand this granular intelligence will no doubt increase in time, especially with ever more sophisticated tools at our disposal.

The Fundraising Mandala is complex, subtle, and unique to every organization, and understanding it takes time, effort, and investment. But considering the critical value of growing a committed donor base today and well into the future, it is imperative that nonprofits invest in unlocking its secrets.


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