6 Baby Steps to Transition to a Full Direct-Response Fundraising Program
I was talking a few days ago to a seasoned fundraiser who is having difficulty moving a nonprofit from “the way we’ve always done it” in terms of fundraising to a more stable base that includes a core direct-response program. The goal is to build a program that targets people who will consistently donate $35, $100, $250 or more through monthly pledges, e-appeals and direct mail — and in general, provide the not-as-sexy funding that bridges the time between one grant, major gift or bequest to the next.
This fundraiser said to me that one thing he had learned is he needed to let the organizational leadership take baby steps first rather than insist on them immediately from zero to 100 in the organization's fundraising. Yes, this meant giving up some strategies that fundraisers know increase response, but it also meant that he could start the process toward gaining acceptance of those very practices rather than insisting it has to be all or nothing.
While I hate to see best practices ignored (after all, who of us wants to leave money on the table?), this fundraiser was right: He had to teach the organization to take baby steps before he could get them to embrace the full-out fundraising marathon. Sound familiar? If so, here are some baby steps that can help you ease the transition to a full-out direct-response program that is supported from the top down.
Baby step 1
Talk about “you” the donor, not “us” the organization. Whether it’s an appeal, a newsletter or a thank-you note, show the donor that he or she is important to the success of your mission. Let donors share in the success and see how important they are to future progress. Celebrate the partnership you’re building with the donor.
Baby step 2
Talk to the donor. This goes hand-in-hand with the first baby step. Stay away (as much as possible) from acronyms, technical terms and explanations that leave a donor confused instead of enthusiastic about your work. This truly isn’t “dumbing down” your organization’s work; it’s finding ways to communicate the complexity in language your target audience will understand.