4 Fundraising Questions I Can't Answer
I had an interesting discussion earlier this week with someone about "best practices" in fundraising. We both agreed that while some things are pretty well proven, others just don't have a long enough track record to be as definitive.
For fundraisers who need to be both donor-oriented and bottom-line-oriented — how much income did this net? — it can be frustrating when we really don't know but have to rely on a combination of our gut and what we've read (often written by people who don't have all the answers, either).
Yes, there are great tools "out there" that can help us find answers, but budgets or timetables may not allow us the luxury of using them. And often, what we can get our hands on isn't complete; for example, I receive a lot of mail that I can review for ideas — but does it work? I don't know. (I do assume if a nonprofit sends the same letter out every January, for example, it works. Why would they remail something again and again that failed? But I can't be sure …)
Here are some questions that have been haunting me lately.
1. Can digital income continue to grow on similar trajectories as it has been growing? It seems we budget each year for continual growth, and I read reports that by the year twenty-whatever, digital will be the big kahuna in fundraising. That may be true, but … can we really be totally sure? For now, smart fundraisers have to keep putting their budgets into multiple things. The horror stories of successful mail programs that were moved 100 percent online — and bombed — are real. In the absence of proof, I'd be hedging my bets.
2. Will all the "involved" supporters become financial supporters in time to help scrappy nonprofits gain a solid financial base? I am impressed when I see how many "Likes" nonprofit pages have. But are these truly committed people or people who (like me, at times) click "like" to please a closer friend? Is there a cost-effective way to turn thumbs-up clickers, petition-signers, movie viewers, etc., into cash-giving supporters? We all know that simply having followers and fans doesn't pay bills. So, the wise fundraiser needs to stay focused on what is bringing in funding while keeping as vibrant a social media presence alive as is possible, given pressing priorities like salaries, rent and electricity.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.