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5 Signs You Need an Affinity Program

Gone are the days of boring ol' giving circles. Let's bid farewell to bringing on a new donor, and then only following up with a tax deduction letter the next January. We can do better!

Let's create communities centered around your mission! Let's develop donors who are on fire for the work of your organization! The kind of donors who tell all their friends! If you've been considering an affinity group for your organization, see if any of the 5 signs below sound like your current situation. You might find that NOW is the perfect time to launch!

  1. Your donors are bored. Engagement is minimal. And other than an annual fundraising event, they don't hear much from your organization. Great news! Affinity programs are a great way to bring energy and enthusiasm to your organization. If you identify a strong area of affinity, something they can rally behind, you'll see a drastic uptick in engagement! Tip: Develop a 12-month communication plan to maintain consistent touchpoints with members. Touchpoints don't have to be time-sucking. They can be as simple as hosting a zoom meeting for members, calling donors on their birthdays, or handwritten thank you notes to welcome them to the affinity program. Simple & thoughtful touchpoints that are timely and consistent will deepen donor affinity. For your most engaged members, affinity group membership will be just the beginning of their philanthropy.

  2. Donor turnover is high. If you see a pattern with donors contributing once or twice and then never again, odds are they didn't feel appreciated or that their gifts didn't matter. Sometimes we are so busy trying to keep the lights on and operations running that we forget to say thank you. But as Kevin Fitzpatrick said on his One Visit Away podcast, "If you don't take care of the donors you have, you have no business looking for new ones." Great news! Affinity programs engage your current donors by giving you a place to provide consistent stewardship and engagement. Tip: Some of my colleagues encourage their major gift donors to join an affinity program because they'll experience increased awareness and communications from other areas of the organization. Every touchpoint matters! Affinity programs are a team sport.

  3. Your organization just finished a major transition. Has leadership changed recently? Have you hired a new gift officer this year? Are you a new organization all together? Great news! If you're stable and ready to dive headfirst into donor giving, an affinity program is a great place to start! Not only will your program provide a consistent source of revenue to your organization, it also provides you with a consistent donor base to engage. Tip: Make sure to check out my post on moves management strategies for growing your donors up to the next level.

  4. Your moves management isn't managing itself very well. If I ask a room full of fundraisers to explain how their communication plans are different for mid-level donors versus their annual fund donors, you'll hear crickets. That's because 9.9 out of 10 organizations treat mid-level donors the same as annual fund, but they're not! Remember the donor pyramid? You need a wide, wide bottom comprised of annual fund donors. These are the folks who contribute less than $1,000 every year, and collectively, those small donations add up. The next layer in your donor pyramid are mid-level donors. Communications should look and feel different with this group. Research shows mid-level donors are in the $1,000 to $10,000 annual contribution range (but that varies depending on the organization). You can't give constant one on one attention to someone giving $2,000 annually like you would someone giving $20,000 a year, but the feel of the communications with these mid-level donors should be more personal than annual fund. Great news! Affinity programs give you a reason to talk to your mid-level donors differently. You're speaking to a group of 10... or maybe 100, but not to an entire sea of people. It feels more... exclusive, like we're scaling major gift conversations with these mid-level donors. Make sense?

  5. Your organization should be seeing bigger fundraising numbers. I once worked for an organization that had a 1.5% alumni giving rate. ONE POINT FIVE PERCENT. If you're new to the industry, that's very, very bad. The university had been around for over 40 years, but alumni crossed the stage at graduation and never looked back. Great news! Affinity programs are the perfect way to re-engage a long lost population. This applies to more than just universities. If your organization used to be bustling years ago, and has gone quiet, it's time to re-engage those folks. It gives donors a sense of purpose to join an affinity program. Plus, they can see where their funds are being spent instead of writing a general check to the organization and hoping for something good to be done with it. Tip: When reaching out to prospective affinity group members, make your outreach as personalized as possible. Explain why the group and the organization would both benefit from this prospect's involvement. Example: Your name came up in a recent conversation with John Smith who raved about the way you've supported rescue animals. He said you've helped find homes for more than 10 cats - WOW! You are exactly the type of member we would benefit from having involved in our Cat Society.

Hopefully you found some clarity and ideas from this post. I would love to help you take steps toward implementing an affinity program at your own organization. If you have questions or need more ideas, I'm just an email away!

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