The 10 Commandments for Optimizing Fundraising Success, Part 3
[Editor's note: This is part 3 of a three-part series on the session, "The 10 Commandments: 10 Ageless, Irrefutable, Non-Negotiable Keys to Optimizing Your Fundraising Success," by veteran fundraising consultant Tom Gaffny, at the DMA Nonprofit Federation's New York Nonprofit Conference. Click here to view part 1 and here to view part 2.]
7. Use all five basic human motivators
The five great human motivators, Gaffny said, are fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity and the chance to be God.
Gaffny shared an example of a letter from Paralyzed Veterans of America that hit on all five motivators. It read:
"These beautiful holiday address labels I've enclosed today are a free gift to you without obligation.
"At the same time your continued support of America's paralyzed veterans is so greatly appreciated, but if you've decided not to donate at this time — please, keep our gift and use them for your holiday letters and cards.
"If, however, you're considering a donation, I hope you'll do it today because our paralyzed veterans need your help."
Gaffny said it's important to understand why people give to you:
- They like you.
- They believe in your mission.
- They need you/a friend needs you.
- They like your premiums.
- They have a desire for affiliation.
- They have a desire for recognition.
- They have a sense of obligation.
- And because "it's time."
That last one, Gaffny said, is the single most underrated, underappreciated, untapped and overlooked appeal — yet one of the strongest motivators. People give the most at the end of the year and during big annual fund drives "because it's time."
"Every program should have a mixture of two to four 'it's time' appeals every year, such as an annual fund drive, annual donor drive or summer/winter/fall campaign," Gaffny said.
Something as simple as a billing statement that gets the point across that it's time to give works well. It's the "equivalent to the basket being passed around church," Gaffny said.
Gaffny then shared his secret weapon that leverages all the human motivators and is "guaranteed to dramatically lift response, increase retention and increase revenue" — using multiple stamps on the reply device.
8. People give to solve problems, not celebrate solutions
More times than not, the negative spin on a story produces better fundraising results than the positive spin.
"Negative imaging works much better because people give to solve problems, not support successes," Gaffny said.
He provided a case study from girls advocacy group Girls Inc. Girls Inc. rolled out two versions of a direct-mail piece in an A/B test, one with a "Girls Can't" theme — describing stereotypes of what girls can't do — and one with a "Girls Can" theme — debunking those stereotypes and reinforcing that girls can do anything boys can do.
In the end, the "Girls Can't" (negative spin) was the winner, receiving a 27 percent higher response rate, 12 percent higher average gift and 18 percent more revenue per thousand.
9. Don't reinvent the world — the world's not sitting around waiting for you to reinvent it
Run with the winners, Gaffny said. They are winners for a reason, after all — they're good at raising funds. Don't always go looking for reasons to pick them apart.
"Warren Buffet said it best … 'There's something about human nature that we want to pick the flowers and water the weeds," Gaffny said.
Gaffny said to proceed with caution when you hear phrases such as:
- "I know that works every time, but — insert one — the board/the donors/I am sick of seeing it."
- "I know that works, but I think we need to try to be more creative."
"If something keeps working, keeping sending it for 10, 20, 30, 40 years," Gaffny said. "But don't be afraid to tweak it to see what [might work better]. You never know what may help bump response even more."
Your winners work because they create the perfect alignment of your marketing and human nature, Gaffny said, and until human nature changes, your winners will still be winners.
10. Direct mail still works
The word of direct mail's demise has been pervasive for the past decade-plus due to the onslaught of new technologies, but direct mail still brings in more fundraising dollars than any other channel.
The key to embracing new technologies and channels is not abandoning direct mail — it's integrating direct mail with e-mail, social media and any other channel that fits your organization and its donors, Gaffny said.