Create a Fundraising Feedback Loop

I was planning a totally different blog post when I came across this article in Wired magazine on feedback loops and I thought:  Yes, this is how the development process (should) work.

Those who are really interested can read the entire article, but here is the part that really resonated for me:
“A feedback loop involves four distinct stages. First comes the data: A behavior must be measured, captured, and stored. This is the evidence stage. Second, the information must be relayed to the individual, not in the raw-data form in which it was captured but in a context that makes it emotionally resonant. This is the relevance stage. But even compelling information is useless if we don’t know what to make of it, so we need a third stage: consequence. The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead. And finally, the fourth stage: action. There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals.”

Doesn’t this describe the best fundraising methods?

First, create your case.  To do this effectively, you must show that there is a need for what your organization does.  You do that by gathering data (evidence).  There wouldn’t be a need for stop smoking programs, for example, if either no one smoked or if smoking was proven to be healthful rather than harmful.

Then you have let prospects know that you exist, why you exist and how you make a difference.  More, you must show why this difference matters to them.  Or, as Thomas Goetz puts it, you must make it “emotionally resonant.”  He calls that the relevance stage—we call it cultivation.

But all the cultivation in the world won’t matter if we don’t connect the dots and show that not only does what we do matter, the prospect can be a part of it. Solicitation. Show your prospect the ways he or she can become part of the solution your organization provides.

And finally, show your now (hopefully) donor, how the action he or she took (to make a gift) did, indeed, make a difference.  This is what we call stewardship and it is the part of the feedback loop too often missing.

This is the piece that Goetz labels “action” and you could think that would be the solicitation—but you would be wrong.  Asking for—even getting—the gift is not the final frontier.  By itself, that doesn’t change behaviors.  That takes seeing that the action you took once was a good action;  it provided consequences you’d like to see repeated.  Ensuring that your donors see their gifts in action, know that what they did provided something positive and you will stimulate new giving that will help to bring both you and your donors closer to your goals.

Janet Levine is a consultant who works with organizations, helping them to transform and grow their fundraising capacity, build stronger boards, and more confident staff.  Learn more about her services at


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
This entry was posted in case statements, development, fundraising, relationships and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Create a Fundraising Feedback Loop

  1. I recently read about some free open-source databases with fundraising features: namely, InfoCentral, VisibleResults, CiviCRM, and ebase. Is anyone were familiar with them and would recommend for use with a very small school district? We need to cultivate donors both locally and outside of our immediate community as we are very rural and have a very small industrial or retail base.

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