Cost containment strategy for fundraising

Leverage personnel resources as a cost containment strategy for fundraising

Very few organizations have the luxury to spend uncontrollably without consideration of revenue, donations, or income. Typically, executives are accountable to make decisions that drive financial growth while containing and often reducing costs. Two cost containment options available for fundraising organizations are both difficult and painful: hiring or firing. Cutting costs while increasing income is a double edge sword for both options and can wreak havoc on your fundraising strategy.

The option to hire more people with the goal to generate more dollars competes with the mission to reduce costs. Upfront hiring expenses such as onboarding combined with lack of experience does not translate nor guarantee rapid financial returns.

Decreasing staff, either through attrition or the agonizing process of layoffs, meets the requirement to reduce costs. However, the remaining gift officers will most likely suffer from morale issues and uncertainty, coupled with the overwhelming task of connecting with a much larger pool of prospective donors.

An alternative cost containment strategy for fundraising – maximize existing talent with technology

Universities need to maximize the gift officer talent they have before adding expensive new talent or indiscriminately cutting jobs. Strategic use of data resources can help. Providing unbiased insights to prospect portfolios allows gift officers to focus on prospective donors most likely to give. Additionally, it maximizes time, effort, and ability to generate donations. Thoughtful implementation of technology is a worthwhile consideration to help gift officers succeed.

Customer Relationship Manager

A well-organized customer relationship management (CRM) system allows gift officers to manage their portfolios and have a view to prospective donor information.  A well designed CRM includes consistent capturing prospect information and interactions with potential donors.  The processes by which gift officers and managers utilize the CRM must be clear and tie into the processes that cultivate donors. Although some flexibility is necessary, the CRM should require consistent entries across fields and stages. Developing the CRM requires a strong cooperative relationship between business intelligence (BI) and fundraising management.

Data Management

Not all data management systems are the same. Regardless of the capabilities, size, and number of data sources associated with a storage repository, usability is the most important characteristic. A clean central repository is free of duplicates and uses unique identifiers in each data set. Generally, historical information is stored effectively in fact tables, somewhere easily joined back onto a tidy dimension table. Clean, up-to-date data will pay dividends and save many headaches in the long run. Maintaining clean data is best left to an experienced data manager.

Predictive analytics

Flat data found in the CRM and data warehouse lack the additional insight artificial intelligence and machine learning delivers. Predictive analytics provide gift officer with the greatest opportunity to be successful by ensuring focus on most likely donors and reducing misspent time on unlikely prospects. Adding a dimensional view to prospects, allows gift officers to focus their attention based on unbiased, precise, data driven opportunity probabilities. This is the single most impactful tool to maximize staff productivity.

Scoring contacts with data – as it changes

Timing often means the difference between success and failure.  Prospective donors’ interest levels ebb and flow. So, these donors are easily missed, and therefore, often not on anyone’s radar.  However, effective contact scoring results from updated scores that reflect changing data and point to increased prospect interest. Putting highly qualified leads in the hands of experienced gift officers can reap large rewards.

Training as part of cost containment strategy for fundraising

All the data tools in the world will not help without proper system and soft skills training. Soft skills utilize gift officers’ communication talents and ability to engage and interact with prospects. Many organizations have a protocol for gift officers to follow throughout the donation cycle.  Often it will be a script which has a ‘flow chart’ of next steps dependent on prospects’ responses.

Systems training needs to pair with the purpose and processes used to achieve donations.  Once again, this is a cooperative effort between BI teams and fundraising teams. BI teams need to have technological tools in place that help gift officers track progress, information and provide information as they continue to engage existing and new contacts. And, they must collaborate with fundraising to provide specific detailed use practices. Proper training of gift officers for available systems may include: updating stages, filling in fields, and documenting activities. These measures allow effective pipeline management and give managers a more consistent view of activity.

In conclusion, fundraisers implementing cost containment strategies will use the best tools for the job, and apply training and discipline to fundraising practices. In this manner, fundraising organizations will maximize current donation efforts and effectively position themselves to weather even the harshest economic storms.