Great branding supports fundraising by creating an environment in which the fundraising works better. The best nonprofits understand that branding that doesn't support fundraising is not great branding. It's diversionary. And costly. We're actually seeing cases of budgets being shifted away from proven revenue-generating strategies in the "hope" that an unproven fundraising strategy will hit the jackpot. Which nonprofits can afford to do this?
But that's not the only way many nonprofits defeat their own purposes. I've actually heard nonprofit executives opine that "people just don't want to get so many letters," and based on that opinion rather than on testing, they've decided to reduce the amount of contact with donors.
Others have decided to cut costs by shifting printing and postage budgets into social media because they're convinced it's the next big thing. Still others have shifted their fundraising focus to the next generation: those in their 20s and 30s with hip, edgy marketing campaigns. And when the campaigns invariably fail to raise sufficient dollars, they excuse them by claiming that they're sowing seeds to develop donors of the future.
I wish we could raise more money with less mail. I wish we could raise more revenue and save money and trees by switching entirely to digital (I don't go anywhere without my iPad, and I can't go a day without connecting via Facebook). I wish the 20- and 30-somethings gave generously to hip campaigns.
But wishin' don't make it so.
What's the answer? How do we create successful direct-response fundraising programs?
We do need more focus on building our nonprofit brands. People can't give to you if they don't know you're there, and people won't give to you unless or until they're convinced of the importance of your work. But rather than building a brand in a vacuum, we need to design the brand campaigns to support fundraising.