Branding, engagement, giving, stewardship: the new donor life cycle

publication date: May 6, 2011
author/source: hjc new media
Some time ago in the office at hjc, a few of our consultants and senior staff were talking through how we approach multi-channel acquisition campaigns for our clients. We needed to fit our bespoke program onto a PowerPoint slide and have everyone in the room understand our approach. We'd been doing this for years, but had never coined a name - and so it was born - our BEGS model.

BEGS is our paradigm for successful donor acquisition. If you are running an acquisition campaign, make sure you are focusing on each of these key areas: Branding, Engagement, Giving and Stewardship. Here are a few thoughts on each stage. (And yes we know that BEGS is funny - us being fundraisers and all!) 

Branding You face increasing media competition for your prospects' attention. That means you need to have your brand front and centre in their minds. Whether you are a huge brand and everyone knows your name, or you're a tiny brand and no one knows your name, you could probably use some branding. 

Often, what your marketing department puts out in terms of your brand has no connection to the fundraising campaigns you run, and no connection to why someone should give to you. If you are about to start an acquisition program, consider doing some branding work first to lay the foundation of who you are and make the case for giving, perhaps without directly asking for gifts. Whether you do it through paid media, social media, earned media or public relations, a strategic integration of branding will positively impact your acquisition rates.

Engagement More and more, we're finding that the warmest list you have for acquisition comprises people who have already had some kind of non-monetary interaction with you. They may have attended your event, or signed a petition on your behalf, or perhaps just signed up for email from you. Whatever the form of engagement is, just make sure you have ways for people to get involved before you make an ask. You'll see much higher response rates from people who are already engaged with you.

Giving Your best donors are your multi-channel donors - and this is increasingly becoming the norm. It's true whether donors are young or old. And it means that you need to have multiple giving options in your acquisition program. 

Online forms, direct mail, in-bound and out-bound calling, and face-to-face solicitation are some of the channels you might already be using. If you are, do they all look the same? Does your pitch in the mail sound and look like the pitch on the street? Is your online giving form easy to understand and user-friendly?

This portion of your acquisition campaign is key. So spend some time on it. Test your giving options with focus groups and make sure you have something that is interesting, tangible and emotional.


Stewardship is all about the customer experience - the donor experience. Starting an acquisition program before you have the best stewardship program for your organization won't pay off in the long term.

Think about the Four Seasons hotel chain as a brand that's been created from the bottom up. It's a brand that can charge 30% more for each hotel room because of the customer experience, the brand experience. Isadore Sharp, Four Seasons Hotel Group founder, explains how he ensures his customers get the best experience - and how this can help nonprofits.

"You know, the Four Seasons doesn't hire anyone with hotel experience, except for the senior management level." It hires people who are natural problem solvers and like direct contact with others. Then they train them how to give a great customer experience and a great brand experience.

Do we hire people with these qualities as fundraisers? As a committed philanthropist, he finds that nonprofits are just terrible at concentrating on the customer experience. He says, "If they could just have a better commitment to training, to staff, to give a better experience, they would probably raise more money and be better respected." 

hjc specializes in integrated fundraising, brand building, and campaigning. Since 1992, we have worked with nonprofits to bring online and other channels together. hjc's strategic consulting team brings together some of the most innovative thinkers in the nonprofit sector. And our in-house production team of designers, programmers and copywriters can do it all - delivering complete programs. For more information, or email.

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List