The 11 Commandments of Fundraising, Part 2
Last week, I proclaimed my first four "commandments" for fundraising success. These are:
- Commandment No. 1: Thou shalt not "take time off."
- Commandment No. 2: Thou shalt not ignore all the options available to you.
- Commandment No. 3: Thou shalt not bore.
- Commandment No. 4: Thou shalt not pander to …
Following are the next three commandments that I have learned to follow over my years in fundraising.
Commandment No. 5: Thou shalt learn from others, but never assume
"Wow! Really Big Nonprofit is doing that, so it must work!" Have you ever thought that (or worse, heard your CEO or a board member say it)? It's easy to assume that the biggest nonprofits or those that have been around "forever" only do things that are proven to be fantastically successful. And often, that's true.
But sometimes they can afford to ignore a few best practices or do something simply because they think it's interesting — even if they sacrifice some income in the process. After all, it's not like they have to raise enough from this one mailing just to make payroll.
Definitely look at what others are doing. Attend seminars and be an active donor so you get other nonprofits' mail and e-mail. But always run everything you hear and see — from large and small nonprofits — through the filter of what you know works best for your donor file and in your experience. Don't blindly follow the lead of a huge nonprofit just because you figure it must know the best path to fundraising success.
Commandment No. 6: Thou shalt not muddle your 'ask'
What do you want your donors to do? Figure that out; then tell them. Too often, we give donors a rabbit hole to escape down. Religious nonprofits do this by asking donors to give and pray. Others ask donors to sign a petition and donate. Sometimes we ask donors to "tell a friend" and send in a gift.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.