Friday, January 20, 2012

"Soft Asking" To Upgrade Donors

Upgrading donors can be quite a dilemma for nonprofit organizations.  On one hand, donors might want to become more engaged with an organization, but donor fatigue can set in if they receive too many mailings.  This is where the idea of "soft asking" comes into play.

In an article that recently appeared in The NonProfit Times, we looked at how the National Baseball Hall of Fame (NBHF) used this process when upgrading donors.  Instead of asking donors to upgrade their membership, the Cooperstown, N.Y.-based organization asks for an additional gift, which upgrades them into their annual donor fund.  NBHF uses the same direct mail they send to non-members as part of the soft asking process.  Ken Meifert, senior director of development for the organization, estimates they have converted 20 percent of their members (or 6,000) to the annual fund.

The amount of times a nonprofit goes through with a soft ask can make a big difference.  Baltimore, Md.-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) upgrades its donors by recognizing their first gift and encouraging more through mailings.  According to Jean Simmons, director of annual giving at CRS, the organization usually sends requests to join a monthly giving campaign once a year to its members.  Last year, however, the organization tried a different approach.  It sent two mailings: The first was a monthly ask, while the second asked for a one-time only gift or a monthly gift.  The result was the strongest increase CRS had seen in the past six to seven years.  From their house file of between 280,000 and 300,000 people, Simmons said that 1,487 people ended up opting into the program.

The soft ask can be a very effective way for a nonprofit to upgrade their current donors.  Is it the right choice for your organization?  Read the full article in The NonProfit Times to find out.

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