In the Trenches: Nine Successful Habits of Direct-Response Fundraisers
3. Don’t be swayed by “the next big thing.” Be prepared to make technology work for you — don’t jump at promises that the new way is always better. Since I started producing direct-mail campaigns back in the ‘70s, I’ve seen personalization, database analytics, premiums, telemarketing, Web, e-mail and a host of other new ways to communicate with donors come on the scene. Like every tool on my workbench, each has an appropriate use. Remember, someone will invent the solution and then go looking for a problem to solve. Invest carefully in new tools for your workbench, and keep the old ones sharp and ready for action.
4. Keep to deadlines. Simple statement, but hard to do. A lot of folks still don’t realize that even if you’re only a day late with an approval or file transmission, you could cause a major delay in your campaign. Lose your place in line with a printer or a lettershop that was expecting your work on a certain day, and you might have to wait until after another job is produced. Develop a reputation for timeliness so that when you do have a deadline problem, those who serve you will recognize it as a real emergency and bend over backward to help you.
5. Pay your bills on time. If your organization has cash-flow problems, ‘fess up. Your providers will work with you to get your work done. But don’t allow your accounts-payable folks to become “slow pays” as a matter of habit. You’d be amazed at the extra cooperation you receive when you have a reputation for paying your bills on time. And beware of service providers who tolerate bad behavior. They aren’t necessarily being generous; they might be desperate and chasing any business, even bad business.
6. Always send clean data. Back in the old days when mainframes stored databases and the UPS guy delivered files on tape reels, quality-control checks were very important. Messing up meant a delay of days to re-run the file and even more time for delivery.