There’s a lot to be said about failure. Mainly that it stinks. No, seriously — failure helps you appreciate success a little more, right? And on a less existential level, it can teach you a lot about what not to do next time around. That’s no more apparent than in the world of direct-mail fundraising efforts. And from what we hear, it happens to the best of them. So to prove you’re not alone when one of your ideas isn’t as all-fire successful as you had hoped, here are a few failure stories from fundraising pros. Hear Ye, Hear Ye … Don’t Traumatize Your
Few universities are as indebted to their alumni as the University of Notre Dame. Case in point: In 1879, when a fire destroyed its Main Building — which at the time housed virtually the entire university — only 35 years after it was founded, it was alumni from Chicago who rallied to raise funds to rebuild it. Their support not only got the university back on its feet, but it also set it on a path of growth that hasn’t yielded to this day.
“I often visit nonprofit websites where it takes multiple steps to get to the online donation page and then the online donation page takes multiple steps to fill out and I think back to [a presentation on reaching donors under 40 that I attended a few years ago] and the donor under 40 who said ‘If your online donation page doesn’t load within 6 seconds and doesn’t work with Google autofill forget it, I’m not donating to your organization.’ These donors are busy and because they grew up in the Amazon era, they expect technology to be easy to use and they expect
Yesterday I opened a fat envelope from Donors Choose, an innovative, education-funding nonprofit I’d given to earlier this year. The contents -- a dozen photos of giddy fourth-graders painting on canvases I’d paid for and delightful, hand-scrawled “thank you” notes from the class. That’s Ms. Bolling’s class. When developing a plan to raise money online, you’re not likely to find a better lesson plan than this offline example, courtesy of Ms. Bolling and Donors Choose. They nailed it. Nothing has changed No doubt the Web is a powerful tool for raising money. That’s why I’m an Internet strategist and not, say, a telephone strategist.
After getting laid off by Enron during its financial-document falsification scandal and eventual collapse, Brian Cruver authored a book, Anatomy of Greed, which gives an insider’s view of the debacle. The book became a CBS television movie, The Crooked E. With the money earned from the book and movie deals, Cruver wanted to start a company that would benefit society.
Imagine if your next online fundraising campaign had to include an additional $5 fee per donation because someone had patented the very technique you use to ask your supporters to reach out to friends and family members.
What’s more, imagine that out of every $50 donation you collect, 10 percent of it would go to a company that hired a patent lawyer and got its application through the overloaded and understaffed U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That’s $5 that never would be used for your mission.
Not many Americans understand the cruel reach of Crohn’s disease. Perhaps because it’s a disease that, while afflicting millions of people of all ages, makes folks undeniably squeamish. It involves blood and guts and diarrhea. It inflames your digestive and gastrointestinal tract and eats away at your colon.
But Roger F. Koman, former for-profit marketing maven and current vice president of new enterprises and new business development for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, wants to shatter those perceptions, raise awareness and funds, and afford patients, families and anyone who will listen a comfortable forum to speak freely about the disease.