Fundraising: Are You Open Minded?
Within the last week, I have received three three calendars in the mail. Two are from organizations I support with a small yearly gift. One is acquisition.
There’s no question that these packages stand out in the mailbox. In fact, they dwarf the No. 10 standard left window envelope in more ways than one. And I know calendars are good fundraising workhorses—for cultivation and acquisition.
In the last month, I have also received address labels, a nickel, a dime, a pocket planner, a bumper sticker, a membership card and a music CD—all freemiums from nonprofits hoping I will make a donation.
And then there are the premiums—items that will be sent to me after I give. A few are even more “lasting” than the water bottle or book—opportunities to have my name permanently displayed because of my generosity.
I am not bashing these offers—actually, it’s quite the opposite! As much as premiums and freemiums lend themselves to sneers from some fundraising purists, one fact remains: they work. Not every time, but sometimes.
For most of my career, I have focused on direct response fundraising. Oh, I’ve done just about everything else from campaigns to events, but direct response was what I really loved (probably because of the relatively fast gratification from seeing results as donations come in). But in recent years, direct response that is not online seems to have gone out of vogue. My students chuckle benevolently when I show the most enthusiasm when teaching the direct mail module. At major conferences, finding sessions on direct mail is like searching for a four-leaf clover. Direct mail practitioners like me often feel like dinosaurs that somehow missed the memo telling us to adapt or become extinct.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.