This post is based on a podcast with Trent Ricker. If you’d like to listen to more #FlipMyFunnel Podcast episodes, you can check them out here and listen to this episode below!
Trent and I talked about how to Flip the Funnel on nonprofit fundraising.
Here’s what we’re unpacking today:
- Fun Fact: Fairways to Heaven
- Storytelling Lessons from Pixar
- What Pursuant Does
- The Two Types of Nonprofits
- Flipping the Funnel on Nonprofits
- Sangram’s Summary
- Trent’s Challenge
Fun Fact: Fairways to Heaven
Over two decades ago, Ricker and a buddy drove 26,000 miles around the country playing on 92 public access golf courses. They wrote a golf guidebook called Fairways to Heaven.
Storytelling Lessons from Pixar
Pursuant creates small events where nonprofits and for-profits can learn from each other.
Recently, Ricker invited a speaker from Pixar to inspire nonprofits and for-profits about the art of storytelling.
When the Pixar artist spoke about how they storyboard a film to appeal to an audience of little kids as well as adults, Ricker realized that is exactly the approach that nonprofits have to take with both new donors and long-time major gift donors.
You have to bring different sales messages to different audiences, but in both cases you need to provoke emotions.
The best nonprofits create emotions.
What Pursuant Does
Creating an effective charity means more than just moving people emotionally. You need to move them to act.
Pursuant Group helps charities use business tactics to better execute on their mission goals. Using a model outlined in Good to Great and The Social Sectors by Jim Collins, Pursuant is a full-service fundraising agency with a relentless focus on data-driven strategies.
They help nonprofit organizations elevate their brand and more deeply engage with their constituents, so they can raise more money and do more life-changing work.
Using B2C modeling, Pursuant looks at what will inspire a spontaneous small donation, and what sort of customer loyalty programs can keep the donors giving.
It helps nonprofits allocate scarce fundraising resources to yield maximum ROI by trying to squeeze the most out of each persona segment.
For many nonprofits, modern sales funnel/buyer persona practices are virtually unknown, and they require a lot of handholding.
The Two Types of Non-Profits
The professional nonprofit, such as higher education and hospitals, are run like businesses. They typically have a lot of folks in leadership with diverse backgrounds. Because their core product (education or healthcare) drives a lot of that revenue (tuition or healthcare costs), the foundational elements are a minor part of what they’re doing. They spend most of their time running the revenue part of their organization.
In contrast, there are mission-based organizations which count on either government or individual donors to drive the operational costs. Those could be health charities, ministries, etc. Those types of organizations are usually led by folks who are passionate about a cause, but not necessarily well-grounded in business experience
Occasionally, you’ll see an organization like Charity Water that has a professional team behind it. They use all the best marketing and fundraising practices. They offer a really high touch customer experience.
For example, a $25 donor can watch the webcam of “their” water well. They can see the impact of their small donation. They also get a sense of financial stewardship from the charity that reinforces more giving.
In the charity world, marketing is your brand awareness, and sales is converting that into donations, volunteer hours, participating in an event, or coming to a gala. Sales “closes the deal” with donors.
Flipping the Funnel on Nonprofits
“Sometimes the media will call them out for their practices of overpaying for great talent, not being good stewards, or the cost to raise a dollar. Then I scratch my head because if they are trying to cure cancer, wouldn’t you continue to invest?” says Ricker.
Ricker imagines a nonprofit world where they flip the funnel.
He imagines a world where fundraising effectiveness is measured, not in terms of how little you spend on your fundraising versus how much you raise, but how effective the dollars you invest turn into more money for that organization.
For a deeper dive into the topic of nonprofit fundraising incentives, Ricker recommends Dan Pallotta’s Ted Talk: “The way we think about charity is dead wrong.” Also, check out Pallotta’s book Uncharitable.
First, I need to check out Ricker’s book Fairways to Heaven.
The first big idea is events, bringing people that talk about branding, storytelling, emotions, and crossing the line between B2B and B2C. Pursuant treats their customers like they’re changing the world.
The second big idea is what if we flip the funnel on this thing? What if you nonprofits flipped it to challenge yourselves. Maybe you’re creating some level of impact, but what if you flipped it and just focused on a few things? Maybe one thing. Would you double down on that one?
You’ve got to do as much listening as selling. You’ve got to build trust. You’ve got to evaluate what your customers are telling you.
If you’re listening, you’ll realize that a problem you thought they had could be changing, or you might have been wrong. You can’t be afraid to really listen. A lot of marketers, a lot of businesses, are afraid to hear what their customers might tell them because they don’t want to be wrong.
We all need to humble up, stay simple, stay focused. We’re all on the same team. We are trying to solve a problem, and when you’re doing that, you’re doing it together.