I Would Like to Propose a Test
Once upon a time, instead of presiding over my own agency, I was sitting on the other side of the desk as the vice president of development at the National Easter Seal Society.
Back then, I had the responsibility to pick and choose among the many direct-mail marketing agencies that came knocking on our door looking for new business and promising breakthrough results that would lead to higher income, lower costs, less attrition, greater efficiency and more loyal donors.
All the sales people had basically the same stories to tell, but, of course, some told their stories better than others. Indeed, some of these sales people were extremely well-spoken, while others were tall and good-looking. Some of them were very intelligent, while others were gregarious and very knowledgeable. There were long proposals, short proposals, detailed proposals, well-written proposals and pie-in-the-sky proposals.
I couldn’t make a good, informed decision about such a major purchase, one that would have a decidedly significant impact on our organization, based on a proposal alone.
Personally, I don’t think nonprofit organizations should be making any big decisions about the future of their fundraising programs based on proposals received from a short list of direct-response fundraising agencies.
Have you ever purchased anything of such size and scope without knowing more about the product? Would you buy a home without a tour? Would you buy a car without a test drive? Would you buy a chair without at least sitting in it first? Of course not.
A modest proposal
Here’s what I would like to propose: Don’t send out that RFP and trust that the best proposal necessarily represents the best agency for you. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your suitors’ references aren’t carefully selected to provide only the most flattering recommendations. Don’t mistake charisma for capability or promises for results.