Beware the Bus-Stop Broadside Fundraiser
Let’s do it better
If this sounds like common sense, well then, you’re on to me. This column, a new one here at FundRaising Success, is going to focus on the common sense we always forget. It’s about forgotten fundamentals — those immutable laws of marketing that are so easy to recognize and so hard to remember to do. And the fundamental we forget most often is this: To succeed in fundraising, we need to focus on our audience and not just ourselves.
I can speak with great authority on this topic because I’m constantly forgetting this fundamental. I forget that not everyone wakes up first thing in the morning thinking about online giving, which is the focus of my work at Network for Good. It slips my mind that my cocktail party companions might not share my zeal for all things marketing. I have a recurring case of mission myopia. The only cure is self-awareness and regular booster shots of an anti-nonprofit-narcissism vaccine.
Last year, Network for Good processed its 100 millionth dollar for nonprofits; a huge milestone for us. I started to draft a press release, but sanity prevailed. “Who would care?” I thought. No one, I realized. So I thought about why people should care. And what I realized was we were sitting on a fascinating set of data about giving. What if we celebrated our $100 million mark by analyzing our $100 million in giving — who gives online, where, what time of day, etc. — and sending our study to media and nonprofits? It would help media covering the charity beat, and it would help nonprofits fundraise more effectively. The result? A lot of attention and coverage of our work that continues to this day.
Happy birthday … but to whom?
I was reminded of that study a few weeks ago when I was drafting a year-end e-mail to Network for Good’s friends and funders. The occasion was our sixth birthday, and the purpose of the note was to talk about the great things we’d achieved the past year. Then I realized that our birthday wasn’t really an occasion at all. Who cares, besides the people in my office, that we’re 6? And why should we be beating our chests, taking all the credit for the good we’d done? I was doing the bus-stop broadside.