Don't Rob Peter to Pay Paul
A few years ago, a school I attended launched a multi-million dollar capital campaign. Because I regularly give to its annual appeal and a few other random appeals each year, the school probably considers me a mid-level donor — reliable for some support but not necessarily worth a lot of face-to-face cultivation.
I probably had received several appeals for this big campaign without realizing they were unusual. It was late in the game when I got a newsletter with a big cover-page story about “why this campaign is different,” and it finally dawned on me that some of those e-mails, newsletters and letters I’d received recently might have been about a special capital campaign I might want to support. Duh.
Since I spend the majority of my professional hours working on fundraising communications of one kind or another, I imagine that I look at what comes in the mail a bit more closely than most. But I also juggle a few other realities: a young family of my own, a large extended family, friends and the fact that, like most Americans, I’m on the receiving end of almost 5,000 marketing messages every day — many of which now come from nonprofits. I fit squarely into a traditional donor profile, and I give regularly to approximately a dozen organizations.
No doubt, you’ve asked yourself how you can get your distracted but desirable donors, perhaps like me, to wake up and smell the campaign coffee. You’ve wondered how your appeals will get and hold attention — particularly when your prospects also are being cultivated, stewarded and solicited by several other organizations simultaneously.
Make it different …
Many organizations worry that their capital, endowment or mixed campaign will “steal” support away from operations. They worry that donors will respond like I did: They’ll miss the distinction between the special campaign and the regular appeal. Worse, they might support the campaign and neglect operations.
Sarah Durham is president of Big Duck, a New York City-based branding, marketing and fundraising firm for nonprofits. She serves on the boards of the National Brain Tumor Society and the New York Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).