Propensity vs. Capacity to Give

cultivate donors

Propensity vs. Capacity to Give

As fundraisers, we love donors (or investors, as we prefer to think of them) who possess high propensities and high capacities to give. Their passion perfectly aligns with the organization, and they tend to be at the top of lists for capital campaign chairs and committees.

What about recent investors who have either strong propensity or strong capacity, but not both?  Are you properly investing in those relationships? After all, Asking Rights™ are not granted for life.

No matter when your next capital campaign takes place, investments in pre-campaign cultivation and stewardship today can make sure you maintain those Asking Rights.

Let’s compare two propensity vs. capacity groups as campaign audiences.  As you read, remember that I’m not thinking of investors in your nonprofit just as individuals.  They can also be companies, foundations, and other types of organizations.

High Capacity, Low Propensity

Wealth screening, personal conversations, and past gifts indicate wealth, yet this particular investor is inconsistent with their generosity to your organization. I would encourage you to take a closer look at this relationship.

First, what have you communicated since their last gift?  Is it unique and personalized?  Do you send information relevant to the donor’s individual gift or interests or are you sending mainly one-size-fits-all mass email or direct mail updates?

Second, what is your frequency of non-solicitation communication?  It happens to many nonprofit organizations.  The calendar gets too focused on solicitations and, unfortunately, cultivation and stewardship get lost in the shuffle.

Here are three suggestions to enhance your pre-campaign relationships with this audience:

  • Hold intimate VIP-style group receptions featuring one or more of your organization’s experts. Make it a direct conversation between your expert(s) and investors. Give this valuable group some inside scoop – maybe even provide material exclusive to that event – designed to grow propensity.
  • Email short video updates a few times annually. You don’t need expensive equipment or software, and videos only need to be a couple of minutes long.  It is critical that the information is fresh, relevant, and keeps the investor “in the know.”
  • Develop short, personal on-site tours related to the specific area of the investor’s interest and past giving. This will vary depending on your organizational focus and assets.

High Propensity, Low Capacity

This investor cares deeply and consistently makes gifts, but unfortunately doesn’t have deep pockets. Yet, consider the following scenarios:

  • Does an individual’s low capacity exist because the investor is an entrepreneur who recently started a new business? Today’s start-up could be tomorrow’s IPO.
  • These investors often hold significant influence in social media circles. This may especially be the case if your organization is popular with a younger audience.  You’ll want these influencers involved in the campaign’s public phase.
  • Is the investor only low capacity in cash flow, but is of retirement age with the ability to make planned gifts?

Do not take high propensity, low capacity individuals for granted.  Investments in these relationships today can set a solid foundation for the public phase of your next campaign.  Here are three suggestions:

  • For social media influencers, engage them in a personal manner and ask for help to enhance your current social media profile.
  • Conduct exclusive, live Q&A sessions online featuring your organization’s leaders. Focus on how smaller (and possibly frequent) gifts have mattered.
  • Hold an evening or weekend “open house” style reception. Have tangible examples on site to showcase how you’ve used lower capacity gifts to further your organization and cause.  Make this a fun event.

Investments in Pre-Campaign Cultivation and Stewardship Matter

Think about how you established relationships with high propensity, high capacity investors over the years.  You probably gave them personalized attention, created unique opportunities, and in general made them feel special.

Pre-campaign presents a terrific opportunity to build upon your organizational successes with the two additional groups featured in this post.  Investing in your donor relationships today will set a solid foundation for a successful campaign tomorrow.

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About the author

Chris Hughes

Chris brings to Convergent clients nearly a quarter century of fundraising, marketing, publicity, and planning experience and expertise, including work with more than 50 organizations of all types and sizes. His comprehensive, fundamentals-based approach has resulted in surpassing revenue and other priority goals for projects throughout the U.S.