The Best Point of Entry? Your Door.

doorGood development professionals put a lot of time and effort into creating points of entry for prospective donors to their organizations. You may be familiar with this strategy from Terry Axelrod’s point of entry event model, but the concept of creating opportunities for prospective donors to discover and become engaged in your organization has long been at the heart of development.

In direct response membership development, major points of entry include:

Direct mail. When an individual makes an initial gift to a direct mail solicitation, they self-identify as someone who is interested in your work and who may be interested in building on their investment in your organization.

Website/Email. Offering your donors a reason to register/subscribe on your website helps open the door to further dialogue and deeper engagement with your organization through giving or volunteering.

Social media. Interacting with people via your blog and in social media also opens the door to further dialogue that can lead to giving.

For many organizations, these are the three most trafficked points of entry to membership and sustained giving. But there’s one more, often overlooked in direct response membership development, that also merits attention: your organization’s front door.

If you’re the type of organization that people visit – like a theater, museum, zoo, animal shelter, hospital or a park – you are in the fortunate position of having prospective donors experience what you have to offer by walking through your door, literally or figuratively, every day. But to turn those prospective donors into real ones, you also need to have a solid strategy and process in place for continuing the dialogue with them after they leave.

Ideally, you already collect email and land addresses of people who visit you. You make brochures containing giving opportunties available to visitors in your lobby. And you provide easy communications sign-up opportunities.

But these are passive asks and passive name collection strategies. And if you follow up by merely rolling registrants into pre-existing, passive cultivation communications (like your newsletter or email communications), or solicitations designed for donors (like your year end appeal), then you’re probably missing opportunities to convert visitors into donors.

For example, let’s say you’re an organization with tangible membership benefits that give members access to your programming, and expire if not renewed – like a museum, an association or a fitness and recreation organization. Your members experience what you have to offer every time they walk through your doors, but for some reason they never seem to respond well to your Annual Fund solicitations. Why? It’s a weak way of bridging the gap from member to donor because  it doesn’t acknowledge the member’s unique relationship with you.

A better strategy for converting members to donors begins with thinking about your relationship with your members and their perception of your organization. Why do individuals become members of your organization? When are members most likely to make an additional gift? What are the obstacles to giving? Do your members know that you are a nonprofit organization and/or perceive the need for your work?

When you look at it this way you may find that the better conversion dialogue with your members begins with their experience with your organization, their satisfaction with their membership, what they enjoyed on their last visit, and the opportunity to give you advice on how you can improve your services. And when you ask them to share more about themselves with you, you in turn can begin share more about yourself with them. Like how much you appreciate your members, what exciting new programs you have coming up, and the fact that you rely on additional gifts from members to keep your doors open and your programs thriving.

So as wonderful prospective donors come through your doors and enjoy what you have to offer, think about how you can move beyond “join our mailing list” and “please take a brochure,” to build more meaningful, rewarding relationships with your visitors and members.  

Have a success story or idea on building relationships with visitors and members? Share it here by commenting below, or email us at topics@nthfactor.com


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