Fundraisers, Don't Ignore the Competition
Today's mail wasn't bad — no bills, three catalogs, a handwritten note from friend … and six fundraising letters. (At least in my household, rumors of direct mail's demise aren't getting much traction.) Four of these were acquisition appeals, and two were cultivation. Not a bad haul for a direct-mail junkie.
There was one thing all six appeals — and the catalogs, the handwritten note and the grocery store ads — had in common: All were competing for my attention. And on top of all that messaging from charities, I also heard a radio commercial this morning from one and saw a billboard on the highway for another. When time is limited (and isn't it always?), some things get set aside, but a lot goes right into the recycling bin — literally or figuratively.
What is the fate of your message?
I've often heard this comment: "Oh, our donors love us so they wouldn't ignore our mail" (or call, visit or email). But given attrition rates in the average nonprofit, I dare say some ignoring is taking place.
To break through and have a chance of getting your donor's attention — and her donation — takes more than a great offer. Sorry, but there are thousands, even tens of thousands, of good offers out there. Many align with my thinking politically, religiously, environmentally, locally, internationally, compassionately (and a whole bunch of other adverbs).
But that doesn't equal a gift, especially in the cluttered fundraising climate of the last quarter of the year.
Take a realistic look at your fundraising
More and more, I am sensing that fundraisers are living the dream — and in this case, that's not good. Instead of looking at the numbers to see trends that are portents of bad news, we report on what's good. Instead of asking donors what they think, we decide they think what we want them to think. Instead of accepting that our donors are not totally loyal to us, we assume they love us and will stand by us, no matter what.
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.