Why Responsive Fundraising is the Future

Published by Gabe Cooper on

Responsive Giving

Fundraising in the digital age has myriad challenges. And, it’s become even more challenging in the last 10 years as technology has been rapidly transforming all aspects of your donor’s life.

Her attention has become fractured by digital advertising. She is daily berated by thousands of messages so she retreats to personal feeds and friend recommendations when choosing brands or causes to connect with. And what’s worse, even if you earn her attention, there’s a 75% chance she’ll never give to your nonprofit again.

So, if you’re struggling to raise funds, you’re not alone. Most nonprofits are handcuffed to outdated fundraising models that reserve their personalized connections for a select few donors.

Meanwhile, the rest of the donor database (by far the largest segment) receives impersonal, unresponsive tactics designed simply to get a fraction of the list to respond.

The effect of this approach is to push most donors away, creating distance between the giver and the good.

The result?

Low donor retention, limited sustainability, and fundraiser burnout.

But, the truth is, some nonprofits are freeing themselves from this outdated model by adopting a new, more personalized approach to fundraising.

These organizations are already seeing tremendous growth as a result. This new approach is called Responsive Fundraising.

What is Responsive Fundraising?

The fundamental principle behind this approach is simple: Responsive Fundraising aligns with what people expect from the organizations they love. They want to be included as part of the cause, rather than treated simply as a number.

Responsive nonprofits understand this shift, and have found meaningful ways to connect with their donors, but those who have done so is few. 

And, the great news is that for-profit companies have already proven that this model works. I’m talking about delivering personalized experiences for every donor.

In fact, these companies have dramatically reshaped how individuals interact with brands (whether for-profit or nonprofit) so that your donors now expect it from you. And they don’t care whether or not you can deliver. They’ll simply turn to the responsive nonprofits that can.  

Today’s nonprofit must become experts in continually listening to and connecting personally with donors. From there, you’re able to build stronger donor loyalty and grow your fundraising with ease. And yet, it turns out that this is not as hard to execute as you may think. Here’s how your nonprofit can adopt Responsive Fundraising.

The responsive nonprofit establishes trust above all else

We talk about donors as a collective group, but we should recognize that each donor is an individual. Each is connected (or was once connected, or potentially could be connected) to your nonprofit for different reasons. They felt compelled to give because they saw something in your cause that moved them.

Why then, do nonprofits treat donors as one homogeneous group or segments defined by the number of zeros in their last gift?

Specifically, I’m referring to batch-and-blast communications where the same message is sent to the entire donor base, in the same way, on the same day. 

Today, people don’t appreciate generic marketing messages with generic asks.

Evidence: only about 2% of people will respond to this type of marketing.

Worse, this is the messaging that tends to alienate and lose far more than that by deploying this tactic too many times. If we use for-profit organizations as a guide, we see that nearly half of all customers will stop doing business with a company if trust is compromised.

When your donors lose trust in your organization, their giving (time, money, and advocacy) goes away and is very difficult to get back.

When you foster donor relationships that are based on trust — that you won’t spam them; that you see them as more than a checking account; that you’ve taken the time to connect with them personally — it will yield a higher rate of return, equate to more giving on a more regular basis, and organic growth through word of mouth. 

If you’ve been mass marketing your donor base, don’t worry. It’s never too late to switch gears. A great place to start is by asking insightful questions, listening to the answers, and then engaging based on what you learn. This simple action helps your donors understand this is a two-sided relationship.

Consider including 2-3 questions in your next email or mailing a short survey to those who’ve given in the last 24 months. The answers donors provide will help you segment them into groups, so you can automate more personalized marketing in the future.

This is similar to how Netflix and Amazon observe and listen to your activity and then make personal and relevant suggestions on what you should do next.

The more donors engage, the more you learn about them, the more you can personalize the connection, the more they feel you value them, the more they want to give…

See the cycle? It works. This is foundational to responsive fundraising.

The responsive nonprofit builds personal relationships with all donors, not just the big ones

Responsive nonprofits have recognized something critically important:  

  1. Individual donors should be the foundation of your fundraising base, and
  2. Sustainable giving is achieved by building personalized relationships with all individual donors (both major and everyday donors), not just a select few 

Individual donors contribute nearly 70% of the $400+ billion given to charities each year. This makes individual donor giving a priority and major area of opportunity for most nonprofits. 

Yet, as donor expectations of personalized connection has grown, it’s also upped the ante for growing donor loyalty. These expectations require your team to be intentionally focused on serving all donors in order to drive lasting engagement and build sustainable giving.

Antiquated fundraising tactics, such as only personalizing your communications to your largest donors, promotes donor inequality. When you only focus on who can give your organization the most money, you ignore the largest base with the most growth opportunity. 

So how do you go about developing relationships with potentially thousands of individuals?

It would be daunting if not for the fact that there are technology solutions designed to help you do exactly that.

Instead of blasting out impersonal mass communication that interrupts your donors and steals their attention, responsive fundraising combines software platforms, data intelligence, and donor-centric giving experiences to foster genuine conversations and create personalized engagement for every donor.

Using these systems, nonprofits are able to personalize communications to every existing and potential donor. This allows organizations share progress updates, stories of how they’re doing good, and offer a variety of ways for individuals to support the cause in the ways that they want.

The key is to engage with the right message, at the right time, with the right ask to inspire involvement.

The fact is, donors want to feel connected to causes and become a part of those associated communities. It’s up to you to get them the information they want to inspire giving.  


By listening, connecting, and suggesting personal engagement opportunities for each of your donors, you’ll find that you naturally won’t have to convince them to stick around. Responsive fundraising creates personalized donor journeys for all donors that build trust above all else and result in lasting relationships.

Gabe Cooper

Gabe Cooper

Gabe Cooper is the Founder and CEO of Virtuous Software, the responsive CRM and fundraising platform that helps your nonprofit easily create personalized donor experiences at scale and grow giving.. His drive stems from a passion to create market-defining software and help charities reimagine generosity. He frequently writes and speaks about empowering nonprofits to grow generosity through technology.


Chandan Dabi · August 25, 2020 at 16:15

I will try to follow your suggestion

padel game · February 13, 2024 at 21:41


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