Are You Addicted to Acquisition (AA)?

Published by Ece Ünver on

“Hi, I am fundraiser and I’m addicted to acquisition.”drug-addiction

Dear fundraiser, let’s start our day by admitting our addiction. We’re all obsessed with the idea of “new”: our new fundraising campaign, testing crowd-funding, creating best call to actions to attract prospects. Our final campaign was cutting edge; we achieved raising more than we planned. We’re great fundraisers; our CEO’s and Board’s love us! Our success should be awarded…

Hey, stop for a minute and look back; we were also in the same place while our retention rates were going down and our donors were leaving us one by one. Did we really care? Did we ever consider that the way we recruit new donors could actually destroy our retention rates? How many times, as a fundraising professional, have you raised the “attrition problem” to your line managers or to the senior management? Are we really that amazing?

Retention is not new, yet a buzzword that pops up everywhere. We hear, we see, we try to understand, but we can’t focus. Only a few international organizations really take action to solve the problem of attrition. Do you know why? It’s because we’re all addicted to acquisition. A CEO is usually curious about the number of new donors and how much we raised, but is never really concerned about retention rates or what our donors want. Market always rewards your efforts to gain new donors. Like all pleasure-giving substances, it makes you feel good; you enjoy the success and become motivated. Our effort-reward mechanisms keep us away from focusing on retention.

open-uri20120922-14573-119enfqAcquisition is an addiction, an all-time winner. However, there is also another life; a healthier and a more productive one where your donors stay in your organization for a long time. It’s not easy to break habits, but we can and if we do, every single colleague and even your senior management could get on board, too. As fundraising professionals, we’re the ones who’ll lead the way by changing ourselves first.
It is not easy to overcome an addiction but millions of people do it every year. They hold on to a new life. If you were addicted to something even once in your life, you’re probably very aware of the below steps. However, if you’ve never been, here are the steps that are summarized by the American Psychological Association to give up addiction. The process involves the following:

  • Admitting that you cannot control your addiction or compulsion;
  • recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
  • examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
  • making amends for these errors;
  • learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
  • helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

I hope we, as fundraisers, can also use the same remedy to give up our addiction. Let’s try;

– I admit that I cannot control my addiction to new donor acquisition, but I want to change.
– There is a higher power that can make me stronger. That is my motivation for keeping our donors for a long time in our organization.
– I should start reading books, blog posts; examine retention case studies, talk to retention experts to spot my previous mistakes.
– I should immediately call donors, thank them and express their importance to my organization. I should ask and listen to their opinions about my organization.
– I should put the attrition problem on my organization’s agenda. Start investing the retention program.
– As a last step, I should really help my colleagues who suffer from the same addiction. I should share my knowledge, experience, success, and failure.

Dear fundraiser, it is time to change! Not because addiction affects you badly, but also for your loved ones, your donors! Isn’t it worth considering?

Ece Ünver

Ece has more than 5 years of fundraising experience in non-profit and 2 years of finance and public relations experience in for profit sector. She's worked for WWF-Turkey and is currently based in Istanbul as the Head of Loyalty in Greenpeace Mediterranean. She has been blogging about FR in Turkey since 2012 at fundraisingokulu.org and a trainer in Turkish School of Fundraising Program.


Mary Ellen Matheson · January 26, 2015 at 16:58

I couldn’t agree more. Acquisition becomes a “must do” better, faster than others. Let’s not forget that acquisition is more costly and takes much more time than re-engaging and building relationships with existing donors who already support the cause.

Stephen Pidgeon · January 26, 2015 at 19:04

Ece, you’re absolutely right, thank you. Your ‘higher power’ could well be my book, out TODAY (forgive my exuberance!), and called ‘How to Love your Donors to Death’. It gives dozens of ideas and examples on how to treat donors properly and you’re right, it requires a complete change of attitude, starting right at the top. I’m pretty critical of senior management and the way they treat ordinary donors but come running when a major donor appears. I’m a fundraiser but I’m no longer addicted to acquisition

Fundraisingwoche vom 26.01.-01.02.2015 | sozialmarketing.de - wir lieben Fundraising · February 2, 2015 at 18:02

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