Go On ... I Dare You
7. Ignore the watchdogs
Charity watchdogs are doing a lot of damage to nonprofits through their constant focus on financial efficiency. Trouble is, effectiveness isn't made up only of efficiency. Some causes are inherently less "efficient" than others. But the watchdog obsession with low administrative costs causes many organizations to badly distort their work to keep the percentages in line with watchdog preferences.
I talked recently with a development director at a large, well-respected nonprofit that has opted out of the ratings game. Its work, and the way the organization is run, puts it at the low end of watchdog ratings. It's extremely effective — a great investment for donors — but not by the watchdog system. Last year, when this organization gained nearly 100,000 new donors, a few hundred asked about its lack of watchdog ratings. Of those, fewer than 10 decided not to give as a result. The impact was virtually zero.
If you decide to ignore the watchdogs, that isn't carte blanche to be sloppy or conceal your financial details from donors. In fact, you should be at least as transparent as the watchdogs want you to be.
On the other hand, if you're fortunate enough to have a good watchdog rating, plaster it everywhere.
8. Get personal
Most donors feel more comfortable about giving to an organization if they feel they know someone there. Why, then, do so many nonprofits work hard to make their messaging sound like impersonal, bloodless business communications? It's utterly self-defeating. Make your communication personal, real — one person talking to another. Talk like you know your donors. Reveal things about your life. Be open about how you feel. A human talking like a human is refreshing these days.
9. Ask too much
If you're like a lot of fundraisers, you live in terror of soliciting your donors too much. You believe doing so will cause some kind of angry mass exodus. After all, you get the too-much-mail complaints, and half the experts warn you that you'll "fry the file" or otherwise cause deep damage. I've got news for you: I have yet to find a shred of evidence that more communication hurts — and I've searched for years. The only thing increased solicitation causes is increased revenue. Really.