In the Trenches: Nine Successful Habits of Direct-Response Fundraisers
This column has always been true to its name, giving you a view from the trenches of technical topics ranging from merge-purge techniques to lettershop relationships. It’s the kind of stuff only direct-response geeks like us could love.
This month, I’m shifting gears and writing the column I always wanted to write.
As an agency guy, I’ve worked directly with many folks from nonprofit organizations over the last 20 years. All have been a delight to know, but some seem to struggle to get things done while others just go with the flow and never seem to break a sweat.
So, at the risk of stating the obvious, here’s a collection of what I believe are nine habits of effective fundraising managers. I can’t prove these habits will lower your blood pressure, but they sure will make your service providers want to go the extra mile for you.
1. Have an annual plan. That doesn’t mean taking last year’s actual numbers and adding 5 percent. If individual contributions make up a significant portion of your revenue, decide before beginning the year if file growth or an increase in net revenue is the goal. Unless you’re willing to invest a lot more in a donor program, you can’t make major headway in both growth and revenue. I see many managers trying to do both, with great frustration. Write a plan for the year to acquire more donors than you will lose, and make sure your current donor file is managed to show positive net revenue.
2. Give clear instructions. The value of this habit should be obvious. However, I remember many creative input sessions where clients simply were not prepared to clearly state what they were looking for — and then were disappointed with drafts coming from the designers and writers. The same holds true for defining the right data selects for appeals. One of the biggest culprits I see here is vaguely worded e-mails. Or long strings of forwarded messages that the recipient has to decipher. Tell the next person in the process chain exactly what you expect or, better yet, ask his or her advice. Always clearly communicate what you want.