We all learn from our successes and failures. But it’s easier to focus on the successes and to ignore the failures. That’s why this magazine is called FundRaising Success. No one wants to discuss their failures with colleagues. Whoever’s mug is on the cover of this issue surely wouldn’t have posed gladly if the magazine’s moniker was FundRaising Failures instead.
Nonetheless, let me pass on to you a few of the fundraising mistakes I’ve played a role in, with the hope that these stories will be just as informative as crowing about some of my successes.
Always practice safe mail
While working with an organization fighting the spread of AIDS and HIV, someone in our firm had the idea of enclosing a condom within a direct-mail package. My staff and the development staff of the client thought this was a brilliant idea. After all, can you think of any other up-front premium that has been better suited to an issue?
We spent several months working with vendors, securing affordable pricing and figuring out how to attach the condoms to one of the interior components. The initial mock-up of the package looked fantastic.
However, before the package went to the print shop, someone who worked on safe-sex issues within the organization saw the package and flipped out. He pointed out that once the condom went through the various insertion machines at the mail shop and the sorting machines at the post office, then endured both heat and cold during shipping, its viability would be compromised.
If we had proceeded, we would have sent out hundreds of thousands of potentially flawed condoms — to promote safe sex.
Lesson learned: Always check out a fundraising concept early with the people who actually work on the issue.
Don’t trust Ross Perot
While working with one of the Democratic Party committees during the 1992 presidential election, we scored a coup by securing the use of a fundraising letter from then-Gov. Bill Clinton to be mailed the day after his acceptance of his nomination at the national convention.