'Twas the week before Christmas, and out front of the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The mailbox hung by the front door with care, Anticipating that a deluge soon would be there.
Adams Hussey and Associates
I’m confident that few of my colleagues who’ve been in the business over the past two decades will disagree when I say that potential donors are far more skeptical about fundraising solicitations than they were 20 years ago.
The evidence can be found in numerous places: comments noted on response forms or to telemarketers making calls; inquiries made to the Better Business Bureau or to state attorneys; more and more additions to the National Do-Not-Call Registry and the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service.
No one wants to listen to complaints every day. Whether the complainer is a spouse (“Put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher!”), one of your kids (“Why can’t you take me to the mall?”) or a donor (“Stop sending me so much mail!”), it might seem easier to ignore the situation than to do something about it.
But just as you don’t want your spouse to file for divorce or your child to hitch a ride to the mall from a stranger, you also don’t want a valuable donor to say goodbye to you.
Grueling is the word that crossed the lips of the intrepid judges for our 2006 Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence as they made their way out of our offices one hot afternoon in August.
Not that we’re particularly demanding taskmasters, but the competition was, indeed, fierce. Much to our glee, it grew from 33 packages in 2005 to nearly 90 this year (sent in by 21 agencies and four nonprofit organizations). Some of the categories remained the same, but we added a few and tweaked a few others.
I’ve decided to offer my advice to those with inquiries concerning their fundraising troubles … a sort of “Dear Abby” column for the fundraising forlorn. I’m even willing to dole out this advice free of charge. Those with questions need not fear a monthly retainer bill or any other type of charge. Just please don’t tell any of my clients I’m giving it away for nothing!
One of the most frequent questions I hear as a fundraising consultant is, “Do you believe in using premiums to recruit donors?” It disturbs me, because it almost always is positioned as a “yes” or “no” question. But it’s really not that simple.
On one hand, premiums can be viewed as a wonderful cure to the problem of low response rates. The offer of a low-cost/high-value item as a reward for a contribution often will generate much higher response rates than offers that provide nothing.
Something disturbing happened at the 2006 DMA Annual Washington Nonprofit Conference in February. It occurred at the beginning of the question-and-answer phase of a panel discussion titled “How to Beat a Long-Standing Control.” According to accounts, a member of the audience stood up and harangued the DMA for allowing one of the participants — who works for the national office of Planned Parenthood — to be on the panel. He lectured the audience and the panel about the supposed evils of Planned Parenthood, and he upset many of those who attended. When he finished, another person stood up to offer a countering
Sure, e-philanthropy is hot, but most nonprofit organizations still rely on direct mail as their fundraising workhorses. And the outer envelope is the wrapper for your all-important ask. It’s the first thing recipients see, feel and interact with.
As such, it requires a well- reasoned strategy that depends a lot on an organization’s mission, target audience and competition in the mail. Something that works for an advocacy group might not be right for a health organization. One thing that worked 10 years ago might still fly, while another favorite tactic could flop. It’s a testing game for each organization.