The request for proposal can sometimes be the official “first date” for most agency/nonprofit organization relationships. It sets the tone for the partnership and provides a road map for future success.
In today’s high-tech fundraising world, why wade into an old-fashioned topic like carrier-envelope design? The reasons actually are quite simple. First, direct mail is still the medium of choice for most large and small direct-response fundraisers. These days it’s fashionable to discuss the Internet and other alternative media, but the fact is that direct mail generates vastly more gifts than any of them. So improving direct-mail performance can have a huge effect on a whole donations program. And, experts I polled agree that the design of the simple outside carrier envelope can dramatically affect response rates.
The 800-pound elephant in the room at the DMA Nonprofit Federation’s 2009 Washington Nonprofit Conference that took place in Washington, D.C., in January was, of course, the economy and how fundraising execs planned to cope with what could be a very tough time for charities.
News of the challenges of fundraising this summer and fall is streaming into DMW Worldwide from stations around the country. The fundraising “perfect storm” we feared did strike some public-television stations. The distraction of the Olympics, the hard-fought political season and a totally unforeseen worldwide economic crisis has affected some stations much more than others. It’s hard to get members to focus when their personal finances are in peril and many aren’t sure their local banks will be around next week. Two questions are being asked by nearly everyone: 1. What’s happening? 2. What should I do? Let’s take them in order. According
I ’ve had the privilege of working for international fundraisers for the past few years. And that’s given me the advantage of seeing great ideas born and developed around the globe.
Until then, my view of new techniques was limited to thinking that fundraising, particularly direct-response fundraising, pretty much was an American institution.
This column has always been true to its name, giving you a view from the trenches of technical topics ranging from merge-purge techniques to lettershop relationships. It’s the kind of stuff only direct-response geeks like us could love.
This month, I’m shifting gears and writing the column I always wanted to write.
For those of us who manage prospecting campaigns, there is a span of a month or two between ordering lists and dropping the direct-mail appeals in the mail stream. Usually that time is spent putting the finishing touches on the creative packages and getting the materials ready to go.
But while we fuss over the creative, something else is happening that’s every bit as important to the campaign. Down in the data crypt, thousands, and perhaps millions, of names from many sources are brought together for a complex process called a merge/purge.
Sending a timely, relevant thank-you letter in return for a gift is the prudent and polite thing to do — both in our private lives and in fundraising. It’s all about preserving a relationship, communicating appropriately, and establishing and maintaining a personal style.
Ms. Manners taught us the rules of etiquette when writing personal thank-you notes, but what about a donor program with thousands of people to thank? What are the rules? And who gets to write them?
President John F. Kennedy gave NASA a decade to get to the moon. My kids give Santa a year to come through with presents. But I wonder if the rocket scientists and St. Nick have the same “under-the-gun” feeling that many direct mail fundraisers have when preparing the next big campaign.
Both experienced and newbie fundraisers alike know that successful campaigns require an investment of financial resources and time. We’ve dealt with the financial issues, now let’s deal with time — the one resource of which we all have the same amount to spend.
The first time I set foot in a lettershop, I was in awe of all those big machines that take huge volumes of paper material and somehow create direct mail. As I stumbled around pallets and forklifts, my guide was busy giving me a lesson on cut-sheet versus continuous-form laser technology. When we finally exited the cavernous room to the relative quiet of the foyer, I thought I had just gotten off a wild carnival ride.
There are many ways to measure the performance of a donor program. Gross and net revenue, the number of active donors and their corresponding lifetime values all are critical. But the rise of donor attrition is one insidious statistic that, if ignored, will rob a new donor program of needed growth and put a mature program on a plateau.
If Sir Isaac Newton had been a fundraiser, his first law might have read: “A donor at rest tends to stay at rest, and a donor who contributes regularly tends to keep contributing.”
But most nonprofit organizations defy Newton’s Law. Today, most contributors sporadically give small amounts and respond infrequently. They force charities into expensive searches for new low-dollar donors to compensate for the unpredictable contribution stream.
Selecting a fundraising agency to build your donor or membership program can be a tough decision, with many factors to consider. It makes sense, then, to prepare a Request for Proposal that gives responding agencies the proper information and asks the right questions.
The RFP can sometimes be the official “first date” for most agency/nonprofit organization relationships. It sets the tone for the partnership and provides a road map for future success.
Saving money is imperative in today’s economy. With budgets being slashed and revenues down, nonprofit organizations are under tremendous pressure to cut costs. It’s a challenge, especially when trying to maintain an appropriate image.
In direct mail print production, doing more with less always has been the name of the game. But now more than ever, finding hidden savings means reviewing all the options — suppliers, equipment and the many factors that influence cost, including paper, sheet sizes and printing techniques.