Grabbing the Wheel: How to Raise Funds Amidst Chaos

June 19, 2020

global pandemic. Historic job loss. Civil unrest. Any one of these factors could hamper your development plans—and at this writing, the U.S. is experiencing all three.

Thankfully, fundraising has never been a career for the faint of heart. And while some businesses may be holding back in deference to the economy or the appearance of propriety, there’s a strong case to be made for getting out into the fray. In a nutshell, that case is agency. In these most uncertain and worrisome of times, people (including your prospects) are seeking stability, decisive action, and ways to connect with others. The savvy development officer can help facilitate that agency and connection, provided they do so with grace and sensitivity.

That means first pinpointing what it is that your organization does—or can do—to help hasten the world’s physical, financial, and social recovery. Perhaps you work for a university with a strong biomedical or medical ethics program. Maybe your institution is known for its work in mental health or social justice. Or perhaps your organization works to treat chemical dependency or prevent abuse. Almost any business has a part to play in improving the current landscape. You just need to identify that part, and then hone it into a message of hope (and action!) for these times.

Identifying that link and message is crucial, but it’s just the first half of your chaos-busting development plan. The second is to identify those prospects that are interested in helping and have the means to do so. That’s where predictive modeling comes in.

Say you work for a university with a strong research profile in the sciences. Several faculty members are experts in infectious disease and have (safely) kept their labs running in order to study COVID. Using data on science-related alumni (and gift history in general), you can commission the creation of a propensity-to-donate model to help you identify and approach leads who are more likely to give. The same method can be applied to any scenario in which there is a link between what’s happening in the world, how your organization is working to offset or solve it, and the interests and values of your prospects. Knowing who has both the means and interest to help can save you enormous amounts of time and help create easier, more natural conversations between you and your contacts.

Now is the also right time to set or adjust goals for your institution’s capital campaign, and predictive modeling can help there, too. You’ve already seen above how propensity-to-donate models can help you target your best prospects and hit your goals during tumultuous times. Now imagine using the same methodology to impress your boss or board with your ability to forecast overall campaign goals and milestones. That’s entirely doable, because custom donor likelihood models don’t just predict a prospect’s likelihood to give, but also how MUCH each prospect is likely to give. Armed with that knowledge and an extra helping of sensitivity and stewardship, you’ll be able to leapfrog today’s crises and get to your silver lining all that faster. And that’s good for everybody.

To read more about the benefits of using a data-driven approach to fundraising, check out our previous blog post on the subject. To learn more about how a customized donor likelihood model can work for your business, contact us.