A Note To Non-Profits: Embrace Smaller, Tighter, Groups

October 22, 2009Comments Off on A Note To Non-Profits: Embrace Smaller, Tighter, Groups

Looks at the top 30 Causes competing in America’s Giving Challenge. You will notice two major things.

1) You probably haven’t heard of any of them. Most of the big names are absent or fail to scrape in to the top 50.

2) The list is dominated by causes with less than 1000 members. Smaller groups, with less than 1,000 members are beating causes with six to seven figure members. Colorado Heritage camps, with 200 members, is beating Campaign for Cancer Prevention, with 5m members. Wow.

This isn’t an exhaustive, definitive, analysis – but when a tight group of 200 members can solicit more donations than a group of 5 million you know there are implications.

Going for size now actively works against you. Being big motivates big thinking. Being big encourages you to be bigger and your strategy is geared towards growth. Which newspaper do we need to be in to get more members? Being small, however, focuses you on being tight and your strategy reflects how to bring your donors close together.

This close group concept should really change how we handle manage donors. Don’t put together lists based upon geography, campaigns or even interest. Build up smaller, tighter, groups of people that can

At UNHCR we’re experimenting with a few small-focused ideas. We ask on Facebook and Twitter for people interested in being more involved. Invite these people to join a mailing list and spend time asking for ideas and helping members get to know each other.

So far the results have been remarkable. One group of 50, managed by one person, has raised several thousand dollars. More so, they have giving friends and, at the drop of the hat, will help us spread any message, raise money or launch a new campaign.

There is no cap on the number of these lists and smaller, focused, groups you can have. One person, managing several different groups (don’t be tempted to collect them into one super-group) can do a huge amount of good. This is real management of donors. This is bonding disparate, unconnected, donors into powerful small groups.

I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on donor relationships, but I feel comfortable predicting there is a great future for people and organizations that can build effective small groups.

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