Easier Said Than Done: Choose Your Budget-Cut Battles Wisely
Every fundraising campaign you launch will do worse than it should because you’re missing those donors. It’s not just fewer bodies. It’s fewer committed supporters. And that empty donor class continues to echo through your fundraising. The pain tends to peak three to four years after the cuts, but it will be meaningful and measurable for seven to 10 years.
Do your budget-cutters know this? Would they still make the “easy” cuts to donor acquisition if they did? They might think that cutting acquisition is no worse than getting a bad haircut. But it’s actually more like amputating your legs.
The one to let go
You might do better in the critical battle to protect donor acquisition if you’re willing to give the knife guys something they can slash without a huge fight.
This is going to make me spectacularly unpopular in some quarters, but I’m putting the whole class of branding and awareness activities in the go-ahead-and-cut category. That’s because there’s no direct, measurable connection between those expenses and any meaningful impact on your bottom line.
Spending on advertising is largely an act of faith. Faith can be a beautiful thing, but it’s not the best basis for business decisions. In hard times, you’ve got to put your dollars into measurable activities.
Some brand advocates will tell you their work is measurable. They’ll cite a metric like “unaided recall” — meaning that when surveyed, more people mention your organization’s name than did before — or “aided recall,” where people claim to have heard your name when they hear it.
Pardon me, but do you mind if I roll my eyes? Measuring “recall” and things like it is almost completely bogus.
It’s possibly true (though it can’t be proven) that someone who’s heard of you is a bit more likely to give a gift than someone who hasn’t heard of you. But that’s not a fact you can take to the bank. For one thing, nobody writes a check when she tells you she’s heard of you — it’s just a thought, an idea. For another thing, as all direct marketers know, the divide between what people say and what they actually do is wide. Since we’re talking budgets here, stuff you can take to the bank is pretty much the whole thing.