Are you BEGS-ing?

The following post is by Sheetal Persaud at hjc New Media, a Convio partner in Canada. Hjc specializes in integrated fundraising, brand building, and campaigning. Since 1992, they have expertly worked with nonprofits to bring online and other channels together. Thanks for contributing Sheetal!

Branding, Engagement, Giving and Stewardship: The new donor lifecycle

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!)


Whatever size of organization you work for, the chances are you could use some branding. If you are about to start an acquisition program – really consider doing some branding work first that lays the foundation of who you are and makes the case for giving. Whether it’s paid media, social media, earned media or public relations – a strategic integration of branding will positively impact your acquisition rates.


Increasingly we’re finding that the warmest lists you have for acquisition are of 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. The 2011 Convio Online Marketing Benchmark Study shows that online advocacy files are an area of rapid growth, with almost 20% average list growth from last year. This goes to show that people like taking advocacy actions. The study also shows that email newsletters have higher open rates and click through rates then other kinds of email. Whatever the form of engagement is, just make sure you have ways for people to get involved before you make an ask. Engagement is fun, and well…engaging!


Donors give in a multitude of ways and this means that you need to have multiple giving options for your acquisition campaigns.

Also consider who you are reaching with your acquisition programs. Too many organizations spend a lot of money renting prospect lists. Instead, try targeting lists that are already engaged with you such as your enews subscribers, clients of the services your non profit provides or your advocates. You’ll have a much higher likelihood of success. Convio’s Online Marketing Benchmark study shows that the average organization only has 6.42% of their advocates also donating. What this tells us is that the majority of organizations are not converting their advocates to donors effectively.


Don’t start an acquisition program until you have the best stewardship program for your organization – it won’t pay off in the long term. When you think about how to improve stewardship at your organization, think about the Four Seasons hotel chain- it’s a brand that can charge 30% more for each hotel room just because of the customer experience.  Isadore Sharp, Four Seasons Hotel Group founder, gave the following explanation of how he ensures his customers get the best experience – and how this can help non profits

“You know, the Four Seasons doesn’t hire anyone with hotel experience, except for the senior management level.” Instead they have a training culture that provides staff with an opportunity to learn how to give great customer experience. They hire people who:

  1. Are natural problem solvers
  2. Like direct contact with others (they simply like people!)

Do we hire people with these qualities as fundraisers?

His advice to nonprofits is to “have a better commitment to training, to staff, to give a better experience, they would probably raise more money and be better respected.”