A Pre-Holiday Gift for Fundraisers: More Time
I recently received an email from a fundraiser at a nonprofit. The message was similar to ones I get regularly: "Sorry — moving quickly between this project, a grant proposal and an upcoming event." I feel your pain; I really have "been there, done that."
Unless you work for one of the mega-nonprofits, there is a good chance you wear many hats. Fundraisers generally learn quickly how to do a lot of things, often with little or no coaching. The fact that you've never written a grant proposal, pulled together a gala for 500 people or studied marketing is moot because you're Super Fundraiser!
Well, that's what "they" think (whoever "they" is in your organization), and based on personal observations, few fundraisers say "no." As a group, we are "roll up our sleeves and figure it out" kind of people. It's something in the genetic code, I guess. But that doesn't mean we wouldn't welcome a bit of help from time to time. And, oh yeah — more time would be nice, too.
If you are hoping for a personal copy of Hermione's time turner, I can't help you (sorry, non-Harry Potter fans), but if you are already using outside resources (writers, designers, full-service agencies, etc.) for your donor communications, there are ways you can free up more of your time without spending more money. Here are some "system tweaks" that may help.
Write out general instructions — often called "mandatories." Note your address for the outer envelope and a different one (if applicable) for the reply envelope. Include the phone number and Web address you want on the mailing or email, the full name of the signer and his or her title, your mission, key phrases you use to describe your work, and the names and titles of other staff members who may be referenced in copy. Add information about typeface and colors, plus any formatting issues ("We always italicize names of programs" or "We never use lower-case when referring to deity) and preferences (i.e., "Never quote this person" or "Use only first names when referring to people we help). Create (or have created) standard data instructions; at a minimum, note the fields you have available — i.e., can the writer address the recipient as "Mary" or are you limited to a single field that includes both first and last name (i.e., "Mary Brown")? Bottom line: If you have already or expect to give the same information to more than one outside resource, put it in your mandatories. It's better to provide a supplier with a bit too much information than to scramble for it when time is tight.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.