Converting Visitors to Donors

Dear Kim:

How can we turn visitors to our community center into donors? What is the best way to prospect and cultivate the thousands of people from the general public (event attendees, clients of tenants, tourists) who pass through our doors, in order to capture more revenue and build our existing base of community donors? What percent of response can we expect?

Don’t Leave Just Yet

Dear Just Yet:

There are a number of ways to turn some of your visitors into donors, and I will suggest a few here. I think a great way to see how this is done is to go to museums, park headquarters, historical sites and so on and see how they do it. Walk in and note how obvious it is that donors are important to the functioning of the organization and how much you are encouraged (or not) to become a donor. You will find that the main variable, as it is in all fundraising, is the personal touch. The people stationed at the reception area need to be friendly, outgoing, and they need to invite people to look around, ask questions, and then they need to invite people who seem interested to consider donating.

As I travel the country and visit many kinds of places that could use extra money, I see the difference the front desk people make. Sometimes they are reading a book or chatting with each other and glance at visitors as if identifying the source of a bad smell. Other times, the person makes sure to smile at everyone, and even to initiate conversation, “Let me know if I can answer any questions,” or “Don’t miss the wonderful mural on the third floor.” So the primary way to convert visitors into donors is to train all the people who work in your community center to do that.

To help your workers, though, you need several visual reminders that your community center depends on the donations of visitors for its financial health. A large poster or banner that outlines giving possibilities should be prominently featured. A Plexiglas box (so that people can see money already in it) should sit at the front desk to receive spare change. A cheap but attractive brochure should be handed to everyone and should be available in plastic holders at key points in the center. Where possible, programs and rooms should be identified as having been paid for by individual donors.

The vast majority of people who pass through your community center will not become regular donors. An acquisition rate of 2-3% would be good. However, if you also have an e-newsletter that people can sign up for at the center, you can then convert more of them later.

In terms of straight revenue, consider a gift shop or gift items. Any item that you sell should go out with a brochure about your community center.

You are smart to be thinking about how to invite everyone who comes through the door to be a donor.

Good luck!

Kim Klein