How to Lose Your Major Donors
Let’s pretend for a moment that you are the proud owner of five franchise fast-food restaurants around town. All five of your restaurants — let’s call them Uncle Jeff’s Greaseburgers — faithfully follow the famous Uncle Jeff’s formula. The menu, marketing and décor are exactly the same.
For reasons you haven’t yet figured out, Uncle Jeff’s No. 3 generates twice the revenue of any of the others. Month in and month out, restaurant No. 3 is pouring revenue onto your bottom line.
What does a smart franchisee do? One thing I’m sure you won’t do is make big changes to Uncle Jeff’s No. 3. It’s the one where the formula works best.
If you have the mind-set of many nonprofit fundraisers, however, changing Uncle Jeff’s Greaseburgers No. 3 would be your top priority. You’d hurry down to the restaurant, remodel it, take down the signs, create a more expensive menu and convert the parking lot into a sculpture garden.
Crazy? Yes. But that’s what a lot of fundraisers do: They hand-pick the donors who are most responsive to their fundraising programs — and put them in a radically different program. And it’s probably costing them significant revenue.
Why do they do it? It’s usually because they have very strong ideas about what major donors are like. They believe these donors are smarter than the others, more sophisticated and deserving of more respect.
Here’s what the communication program for these cherished donors tends to look like:
* Fewer impacts — sometimes dramatically fewer, on the belief that these donors shouldn’t be “bothered.”
* More “businesslike” style — closed-face envelopes, fancy stationery design, fewer images, less color. This is thought to be more appealing to these donors.
* Softer fundraising style — toned-down urgency, less emotion, more facts. It’s meant to be a better match for these left-brained and businesslike donors.