Fundraisers, Don't Ignore the Competition
Maybe it's a result of the Great Recession and a realization that jobs are uncertain, or it's an offshoot of the "if we aren't happy, we'll find someone else who promises us happiness" tendency of some nonprofits. But too often we're not honest about our fundraising expectations and results. And by doing the same things over and over, we only perpetuate the problem.
Start by looking at what else is demanding your donors' attention.
Whatever your donors are thinking about right this minute, there's a good chance it isn't your cause. But you can affect that — and probably are with some of your donors. The warm, personal touches we lavish on our major donors are really about building relationships. But we need to build better relationships with all our donors, regardless of their giving levels. And we can do it without spending any more!
First, look at your thank-you program. Are your messages sincere? Are they personal? Or do they read like the recorded message you get when you call the electric company? You know the type — bureaucratic, fake sincerity, repetitive. Instead, invest the same amount of time in writing sincere messages of appreciation. Update them with current information that shows your organization is still moving forward, showing progress. Even your "canned" thank-you should sound warm and sincere, and be refreshed monthly.
Second, read your direct-mail and e-appeal copy out load. Does the message sound like a conversation you are having with a friend, or does it sound like a scholarly article? Yes, many of us are raising funds for serious causes; we don't want to be flippant about cancer, behavioral health disorders, threatened species or starving people. But a passionate conversation does not equal superficial. It is sincere but approachable by the average donor who isn't an expert but wants to make a difference.
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.