A Summer Checkup for Your Fundraising
When I was a kid, I went to summer camp for a week or two — and that inevitably meant a trip to the doctor to get the camp physical. The same was true when my daughter played summer sports. Getting a physical in May was pretty much the norm so we could enjoy our summer to the fullest.
Right now is a great time to get out your fundraising stethoscope and give your program its summer checkup, too. Like people, cars and many other things, a fundraising program works best with some routine care.
The good news is there are no shots or pills required. Just take a look at these three things that help your fundraising program stay strong — or regain strength, if needed — and make sure they have the necessary internal fortitude to carry on through the busy fourth quarter.
Check what supports you
Bottom line, is your data file serving you, or are you taking orders from it? “I’m sorry; I refuse to give you that information” should not be the response from your data every time you ask for something. (Granted, the message will be much more sophisticated and talk about a code that failed or a parameter that was invalid, but the bottom line is the same.)
I don’t deny it — donor data systems that work are expensive. You may not have the money. But are there any work-arounds to what’s lacking in your system? Go online and search for solutions others may have posted. If you know someone using the same system, pick up the phone and call. People in the nonprofit space are amazingly generous about helping one another.
If nothing else, make sure your instructions for entering data are clear. There is no magic button you can push that will turn sloppy entry into perfection. Inconsistencies are among the worst offenders; it’s nothing short of frustrating when you can’t use your salutation field in a letter because somewhere is a record that has the address entered in that field. You may not be able to fix it all, but at least fix (or find a work-around to) the few things that are the worst offenders when it comes to hindering your efforts to raise money.
Check what works hard all the time
Is your homepage welcoming to visitors? Is the news section of your website up-to-date? Are your emails easily read on a mobile device? Is it easy to make a donation online? Is the recording on your company’s phone and your personal phone current? (Let’s face it — a message that says you are out from June 1, 2013, through June 10, 2013, doesn’t instill confidence on June 11, 2013, let alone in 2014.)
Is your direct-mail reply form logical, providing large enough space for someone to actually write in an email address or credit card number? At the risk of ruffling feathers, your reply form should be designed with the donor in mind, not for the convenience of the data-entry people. Surely with a little effort, a compromise that does both pretty well is possible.
Finally, when you put a receipt in the mail to a donor, are you (a) thanking the donor; (b) making it convenient (but not offensive) for the donor to give another gift if and when he or she chooses; and (c) getting full value from your postage by including relevant inserts (i.e., planned giving, giving in honor of someone or a means of providing referrals)?
Check what sets you apart
While there are always similarities between your organization and some others, there needs to be something that is distinctive to you. After all, if you and Organization X (which happens to be 100 times larger) sound exactly the same in your fundraising, why does the world need you?
If you haven’t looked at your elevator speech lately (or don’t have one), it’s time to review it or write it. This is not your mission statement. Rather, it’s a very short (one minute or less) explanation, in language that is conversational and donor-focused, of what your organization does and the impact you have. Instead of, “We participate in the global effort to reduce the threat of the proliferation of …” an elevator speech says, “We focus every day on making sure that people living in poverty are not … Last year alone, we made life safer and happier for 10,000 families because we (something distinctive about your organization here).”
That’s a very simplistic explanation of an elevator speech; you can go online and find many articles that are far more detailed and can guide you through the process. My point now is simply that you need to know your distinctive trait, be able to communicate it in language that the average donor can understand and, finally, make sure that’s the message evident in every piece of fundraising you do. If I were to pick up your latest letter or e-appeal and any means of identifying the organization was removed, would I know it’s from you, or would it sound like it came from one of the many organizations doing the same kind of work that send me acquisition mail on a regular basis?
Last week, this old dog decided it was time to purge the mail sample files that were overflowing the closet to which they had been banished. The amount of mail that left me uninspired almost filled my large recycling bin — e-appeals and e-newsletters are the same; subject lines that get me to stop and look — but don’t deliver — leave me irritated.
So give your fundraising a summer physical. What needs a bit of preventative maintenance to make it stand out in the cluttered world of fundraising messages we all live in?
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 email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.