More Strength Training Tips for Fundraisers
[Editor's Note: The cover story in the May issue of FundRaising Success, "Strength Training for Fundraisers," featured 12 tips from global fundraising consultant Ken Burnett to help nonprofits flex their fundraising muscles and build (or rebuild) an effective development department from the ground up. As promised in the issue, here is the next tip on Ken's list. Look for the remaining two on Thursday.]
13. I'd create an environment where innovation and creativity can flourish, so I could readily develop appropriate products and propositions designed to suit our donors
It pays to offer donors appropriate products they want to buy. These days if a nonprofit doesn't have monthly giving, high-value donor and legacy products, then it is already behind. Product design and development is a sophisticated field for fundraisers. Most new products fail, and that's as true in the nonprofit world as commercially. But that should never deter us from investing appropriately in new product development or from learning and borrowing from the experience of others.
A vast body of knowledge and experience has now been built of what works and what doesn't in fundraising, so this is a good area for creative plagiarism, for borrowing the best of what works for others.
Yet in the world our donors inhabit, lazy, look-alike fundraising abounds. Somewhere in the mists of time (or more likely, at a succession of quite recent fundraising seminars), fundraisers were taught and came to accept that there are fixed formulae to guide them; that to get the best responses we must slavishly follow the "right" procedures; that to obtain maximum savings and optimum returns our communications have to fit a limited range of standard shapes, styles and sizes; and that what works for one organization will surely also work for another.
They were right, those teachers who propounded these wisdoms. (Though I suspect that many of the fundraising gurus who teach at seminars and workshops also own direct-marketing and communications businesses that thrive when fundraisers all blindly follow the conventions of their trades.) Nevertheless, fundraisers all want to minimize costs and maximize returns, so by processes of testing and plagiarizing we have all wound up copying pretty much what everyone else does. The result for our poor donors (and even our rich donors) is that they wind up getting piles and piles of requests that all look pretty much the same. Yet we know that the beginning of success is to be different; the beginning of failure is to be the same.