As a fundraiser, you spend all day every day communicating with your donors — in person, over the phone, online, in print, via social media, and so on. It’s what you do and I’d wager you’re pretty good at it.
But according to a recent New York Times article, you’re missing the boat if you don’t hand over your donor communications to the marketing “pros.”
One advertising professional interviewed in the article says nonprofits who don’t hire marketing professionals “run the risk of losing their member base because they don’t feel as relevant to the consumer.”
Wait, who’s the consumer? Oh, I guess he means the donor. It is this distinction that highlights why the NYT article got it so wrong.
We’re all for partnering with marketing and branding experts to enhance fundraising. We do it all the time, with some really talented folks. But that certainly doesn’t supersede the perspective of the professional fundraiser.
I’ve been involved in nonprofits of all sizes and it’s true that many of them could do a better job of telling their stories. But, what really fuels them is authentic relationships with people who share their passion and outstanding programming that delivers real results.
A marketing and consumer orientation to donors just doesn’t get at the heart of the lasting relationships that inspire people to give to the same organizations for decades.
“If we’re not watching,” says one of the interviewees in the NYT article, “we’re risking the potential of any one of our donors being one click away from defecting to another not-for-profit.”
Well sure, but I don’t think advertising or branding or marketing will fix that!
Donor retention is king and stewardship is the unique bailiwick of the fundraiser because that’s where the relationship lies and where the ongoing communication takes place.
Of course, if you’re going to invest in media, do it well. But even then, I would argue that fundraisers should still be the backbone of the strategy. After all, who else is talking to donors every single day?
Fundraisers know how to listen to their donors, build their trust, and assure them that their money has been well spent. So that they give year after year after year.
I guess we weren’t the only ones who took umbrage with the NYT piece. The Agitator, in true form, wasn’t so keen.
As with so many things in life, we must be cautious of the bright and shiny, the expensive and new. Good old fashioned human relationships are where a successful fundraising program starts and ends.