Never Stop Asking Why
Ah, childhood! The simplicity, the joy of discovering something new every day, the determination of asking why instead of simply accepting things as "the way it is."
That latter is a childhood trait that we need to rediscover if we are serious about improving our fundraising ability.
After all, much of what we do in fundraising can become autopilot. If it's a newsletter, we need five articles and seven photos. If it's an e-appeal, we need an offer that is $40 or $50. If it's a dinner event, we need a video presentation and chicken ...
But do we? What if, instead of simply going with the flow, we started asking why? I certainly am not suggesting that by asking why we'll throw everything out and start over. After all, that would mean years of learning and making mistakes were wasted. Expertise gained from doing, not just talking about doing, would be ignored. And, bottom line, money would be wasted.
But that doesn't mean we can't ask why. It simply means that we have to be willing to listen to the answer and then ask ourselves if it makes sense or if it's just based on unsubstantiated personal opinions, outdated research or sheer laziness that refuses to look for alternatives lest they take more effort.
Here are some things worth asking why about:
1. Why are we excluding donors from all mail when they just say they are receiving too much mail? Frankly, there's no excuse for determining that a donor either gets all the mail or none of the mail. There are nearly unlimited options between those two extremes. Create alternative options for mail that you can offer donors (if they call) or put into place using a step-down approach if they write in.
How does this work? Suppose a donor writes, "I get too much mail!" So, you look and see that she is getting all your direct-mail letters, all your e-appeals, all your newsletters and all your other mailings. A logical step down — and a reasonable response to the donor's complaint — is to reduce direct mail to quarterly, but continue the balance of the mail.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.