Ann and I work with groups that range from multi-million dollar enterprises to small grassroots fundraising efforts. And we like it that way. It means we can bring some of the learning from the big organizations that can afford to try things (and fail sometimes) to our smaller clients.
But frequently, when we carry that learning to development directors and executive directors working at the smaller end of the scale, we get some funny looks, some dubious scowls, and some shaking heads.
Here are the top three “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” moments with clients:
Increase e-mail frequency: Inevitably, when I am working with a smaller client or a client that has little experience with e-mail, I get strong push-back when I suggest building a relationship through more frequent e-mail. Some smaller organizations truly blanch at sending anything more than an occasional newsletter and a request for funds at the end of the year.
But think about this for a moment. If you want someone to actually make a gift online to your organization online, don’t you have to warm them to your great cause first? What if you only heard from someone when they only wanted money? Would you give?
The inevitable response I hear is that when the organization has tried to send more e-mail, people unsubscribe. But this is absolutely NOT a bad outcome. If you are providing clear, inspirational updates about your work and someone unsubscribes, they are an unlikely prospect to give to your organization online in any case. Does it matter if your e-mail list gets smaller as long as it is made up of people that like you? What good is a bigger e-mail list if it doesn’t generate funds?
Two pages are better than one: Some of you know that I love direct mail. I love to write the copy, I love to get packages myself, and I love to see it inspire people to get involved and give. But many nonprofit fundraisers see it as something to limit because THEY don’t like it. This defies all logic as direct mail continues to wipe the floor with any other direct response fundraising technique ever developed by nonprofits. But, still I get staff who want to send just one letter a year or send a one-page letter so as not to terribly disturb the prospect.
First of all, sending one letter a year is probably leaving money on the table (a larger subject for another blog). But just writing a short one-page letter is definitely going to depress your response. If you get someone to actually read your letter, shouldn’t it be chock full of the reasons WHY their support is so critical? And why would you leave the back of a sheet of paper blank? You really don’t have more to say? (I also mention that testing for larger organizations has shown that one-page letters don’t do very well as compared to longer letters.)
Ask your volunteers: Oh, man, this is the one that is hardest to overcome and I think it’s because so many of the people that do fundraising feel a bit overtaxed by their own work. I always hear, “But they already do so much for the organization” or “They don’t really have any money.”
I’m here to tell you, after making hundreds of thank you calls for several organizations and seeing the data from dozens of others, the volunteer is your most dedicated donor. And while some volunteers might decline to support you financially, many of them will give and give for a long time. They will be your monthly donors, your long-terms donors, and your bequest donors.
It occurs to me that in each of these three cases, we (fundraisers) are making the decisions around giving for our donors before they even get the piece of mail, the personal call, or the e-mail blast. We are making these decisions based on our personal preferences or what WE feel the donor must feel. But WE are not the donor.
Are you making choices for your donors?