The Right Moves
What are your top all-around, be-all-and-end-all tips for fundraisers?
President, PJBarden Inc.
1. Use many of the fundraising options available to you. The more legs you have on your stool, the more likely you are to stay steady when the earth starts rocking. Remember what grandma used to say: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Who knew grandma had a fundraiser's good sense?
2. Don't look to save money on the outer envelope of an appeal mailing. No matter what's inside, it's wasted if the envelope doesn't compel the donor to open it.
3. Invest in your star team members. I'm not ready to say the monthly calls from headhunters to top performers will be back in 2012, but as more opportunities open up, quality fundraisers will have options that were absent the last three years. Make sure they know there are growth opportunities right where they are.
President, Jean Block Consulting
1. Promote your successes and outcomes.
2. Link the donor to outcomes of his gift.
3. Focus, focus, focus on the benefits to the donor — no sob stories!
4. Learn the value of the You:Me ratio in ALL fundraising.
Creative director, TrueSense Marketing
Raise funds from your donors, not yourself. Remember that you are not your audience, and when you create messages that please you, you miss your donors. Fundraisers who embrace this concept always raise more funds, innovate smart and learn useful new things.
Social-media manager, fundraisinisfun.com
1. Rapid response: In today's wired world, people expect immediate answers. When donors get in touch, one should try their best to respond quickly and answer the donor's inquiry. Donors appreciate this, and it helps further the conversation.
2. Listen: It's the hardest thing for us to do because we have so much to say about our organization. But sometimes, it's best to just listen to what the donor is saying. You may pick up a nugget or two that will be valuable for future communications.
3. The times they are a changin': Old school — aka direct mail — may still be king. But e-mail, Web, social media and mobile are creeping ever closer. Get on the bandwagon before it's too late
National senior director of philanthropy, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America
1. Fundraisers need to stay sharp and always be on top of their game.
2. Look at best-of-class examples.
3. Always learn from every experience.
Director of nonprofit services, Care2
1. Don't be afraid to ask!
2. Innovate: Never stop trying new things!
3. Continue to invest in online strategies!
Fundraising expert and radio-show host
1. Electronically screen your database for wealth.
2. Develop your fundraising campaign strategy around those who have proven wealth and are donors.
3. Develop a strong, easy-to-navigate website with integrated social media and online fundraising tools.
Founder, Lighthouse Counsel
1. Develop sincere relationships on behalf of an organization/cause that you are passionate about.
2. Be focused, positive and highly ethical.
Principal and president, Non-Profit Group, DMW Direct
1. You must acquire more donors than you lose every year, or you begin an unstoppable slide. For most direct-response programs that means adding mail-acquired donors.
2. Donors give to meet their needs, not yours. Communicate with them about their passion, not your mission. Show donors that your efforts help fulfill their dreams.
3. When building an expense budget to support an annual fund, take perhaps 5 percent of it and create a "Revolving Opportunity Fund." When a good, but unfunded, fundraising idea comes along midyear, invest from the fund. When the revenue comes in, pay back the Opportunity Fund first, then take to the bank the additional dollars. Do this several times per year.
Director of Internet solutions, Blackbaud
1. Always segment.
2. Always use multiple channels.
3. Always test.
4. Always follow up quickly.
5. Always say thank you.
President/creative director, McPherson Associates
Plan a huge "Thanks and Preview of 2012 Programs" in early January 2012 for all 2011 donors — and for all prospects, e.g., e-news subscribers who are not donors.
Fundraising consultant and author, Fired-Up Fundraising
Focus on renewing last year's donors and all your lapsed donors. It's not a great time to go after new donors. And it can cost up to 10 times more to secure a new donor than it does to get a former donor to renew. Look in your donor files for lapsed donors. Add up the dollar value of gifts they've given. After you faint, pick yourself off the floor and go after your lapsed donors with this message: "We love you. We miss you. We want you back!" Who could resist?
Fundraising coach and consultant
1. Keep your eye on the prize: Never forget why you are raising money. You are changing lives and making a difference in the world.
2. It's not about you or your organization.
3. Build relationships.
Executive director, NTEN
Personalize. First name does not count anymore. You better know why I'm involved and what I hope to accomplish with my donation, and you better show me in your messaging. There's just no excuse anymore.
Senior partner, Veritus Group
1. Focus on your donors. Know them, understand their passion and why they give to your organization.
2. Be disciplined with the core of your fundraising program. It's easy to be distracted with "new and exciting" tactics that do not raise revenue.
3. You must have joy in your work. Fundraising is hard. If you don't enjoy your work it will affect the quality of your work, your co-workers' work and your donors.
Freelance copywriter and creative strategist
1. Don't cut the acquisition program out of your budget entirely to hit this year's numbers; it's a short-term fix that will cost you (potentially a lot) years out.
2. Don't be afraid to send more appeals; just be sure you have the segmentation right.
3. Fix whatever is preventing you from raising more money (messy donor records or the crappy, limping-along database, etc.).
President, Mail Enterprises
Hold on to what works, but always be testing.
1. Know your donor! And remember that he or she is not you. You cannot afford to project your personal feelings, tastes or preferences onto your donor. Empathy — truly seeing through your donor's eyes does more to help build a strong relationship than all the premiums or fancy creative in the world.
2. Donors really only want one thing: to feel good about helping you fulfill your mission. Everything you do to enhance that feeling will raise results. Anything you do to dampen that feeling will suppress results.
3. Integration isn't just for media. It's unfortunate that, this late in the game, so many organizations have yet to tear down the silos between development, marketing, online and other departments.
My favorite trend right now is ______. I would like to see _____ just go away.
I continue to be excited about the fundraising catalog, because it engages donors and it requires nonprofits to be more specific about what it is they do. This does double duty as it helps them build offers and make the case for support. And maybe it is just boredom on my part, but I would like to play taps for the No. 10 white, window envelope. There's nothing about it that says "Open Me" when I take it out of my mailbox. Yes, I know it's cheap, it works, it gets a good ROI, etc. But it also reinforces the "junk mail" stigma of fundraising mail.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is the trend toward diversifying revenue through earned income. I would like to see sob stories, hand-wringing and excuses just go away.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is specific fundraising that allows donors to tightly designate their giving to things of their choice. I would like to see false claims that social media, apps, QR codes are about to become meaningful to fundraisers just go away.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is online auctions. I would like to see state registrations just go away.
My favorite fundraising trend is growth in online giving. Having said that, total focus should not be on technical, impersonal programs for growth. You must continue to be an educator, facilitator and motivator, and stress emphasis, where possible, on a balanced program of annual gifts, major gifts and planned gifts with a sound development-services support system in place!
President and CEO, Russ Reid
My favorite fundraising trend right now is multichannel fundraising. I would like to see mobile go away — until we can get larger gifts and have the ability to cultivate the donors.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is people-to-people campaigns. I would like to see unaffiliated, unsolicited direct mail go away.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is a real embrace by many organizations to create true sustainer programs. This approach rewards donor loyalty, stabilizes giving programs and allows organizations to develop real relationships with their donors beyond making constant appeals.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is finding effective ways to connect with donors, including social media. I would like to see social media for nonprofits without goals and measurable results just go away.
Vice president, MINDset Direct
My favorite fundraising trend right now is multichannel program integration. I would like to see organizational silos just go away.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is multichannel campaigns that leverage online and offline channels. I'd like to see shiny objects just go away. There is still too much preoccupation with tools and tactics without enough focus on the strategy and outcomes.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is online aggregators like Kickstarter. I would like to see boring, dated annual reports just go away.
I don't like trends because they seem to be the new, bright, shiny object that people hope will rescue them from having to do the hard work of fundraising. That said, I like the new trend toward everything happening online. I would like to see trying to raise money from special events just go away.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is social media, because it levels the playing field for all nonprofits and can give us such a wonderful glimpse into the lives of our donors. I wish telemarketing would go away!
My favorite fundraising trend right now is monthly sustaining gifts. I would like to see pennies taped to direct-mail letters just go away.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is too hard to pick. I would like to see the silver-bullet mentality just go away.
My favorite fundraising trend right now is the focus on donor retention. I would like to see continually upping the premium ante in acquisition just go away.
What do you anticipate as we head into 2012?
Nonprofits, especially small ones, are going to continue to look for the "holy grail" somewhere in online fundraising. There's so much attention being invested online, and figuring out how to monetize social media remains a focus. I don't see this changing. What I do see changing is nonprofits getting more balanced, adding back some offline activities that were scaled back in the lean years. Figuring out the right mix is essential, as is adjusting that mix as needed to fit the ever-changing reality. This means more midterm adjustments to long-term plans.
Nonprofits will HAVE to get smart about diversifying their revenue through social enterprise and rely less on traditional funding sources.
We are crawling slowly out of the hole, with an ever-so-slowly improving environment — except for those fundraisers who are unable to put their donors first. They will be in a recession for the rest of their careers.
Stronger growth midyear with solid gains at year end.
A tough year but one that brings positive changes. The recession doesn't seem to be going away — something which does not bode well for fundraising. However, this means that organizations will have to explore new avenues of fundraising: online campaigns, social media, mobile and more. So while money may be hard to come by, NPOs will hopefully step up their game to meet this challenge and find other ways to engage, cultivate relationships and fundraise.
I expect continued uncertainly in 2012, with the election year, unstable global markets and donors worried about self-preservation before charity.
I am always leery of fundraising during a presidential election year. And with the nearly infinite amount of money the Super PACs will invest, I'm worried political campaigns may suck the wind out of traditional causes.
Continued positive trends, even in a challenging environment, for causes with a great vision, inspiring leadership, sound plan and effective execution.
For organizations that don't integrate, program declines. For those that do, slow, gradual increases in revenue.
Things are going to continue to get better, but nonprofits can't go back to the same bad habits. You must acquire, retain and develop your supporters. Use the new year as an opportunity to start diversifying your fundraising sources. Ask yourself two key questions: What if it was all about retaining existing donors? What would we do differently? Then go do it.
A brutal election year will create an appetite among donors for messages that offer unity through shared vision and "can-do" hope, not messages that whine about organizational need.
Hope, hope, hope that things will stabilize. But I'm afraid that the New Normal is with us for a while. I anticipate that the nonprofits who are smart and strategic will get the resources they need. The ones that are not willing to change and invest will be the ones who fail.
I think we'll see more organizations getting back to the basics — telling their story, asking for a gift, building relationships.
I think that we'll see the smart nonprofits get closer and closer to real integration of their fundraising efforts. E-mail campaigns will align with direct mail, which will align with social messages.
Great things. More and more, I believe people are waking to the idea that they have to create personal relationships with their donors. Whenever this happens, incredible things begin. I see it over and over.
Continuing uncertainty, both in regular giving and return on investment in social media. Yes, people might want to be your Facebook friends; they may even want you to tweet them. But just because they opt in doesn't mean they'll give in the future.
Donor confidence follows consumer confidence — so largely, uncertainty, with the exception of political giving among a pretty much universally pissed-off and disgusted electorate.
And the Next Big Thing is ____, but don't forget _____.
I've never been good at predicting the next big thing! However, there is more and more emphasis on formal fundraising training, and people from the for-profit sector have been attending classes the last few years to transition into what they hope is a more stable job market in the not-for-profit sector. The value of education over experience should become clear as more people with fundraising degrees and certificates enter the workforce. The verdict is still out, but I predict a blend of both will be the winning combination (as is true in most fields).
Mobile. But don't forget about person-to-person solicitation.
Figuring out the social network once and for all, but don't forget to continue to invest in e-mail acquisition.
I have no idea what the Next Big Thing is. I just hope it's an effective fundraising tool. The last few NBTs have been distractions, at best.
Making it easy for people to donate from their cell phone, but don't forget to keep some form of snail-mail program (asking and thanking).
Social, but don't forget that it's not about raising money [via social media] right now. It's about integrating social into your CRM so you have a more detailed picture of who your donor is, allowing you to personalize that message even more for higher results across other channels. FS