When Fundraisers Lose Control
While I am grateful that I am not experiencing the cold and snowy weather that is affecting so much of the U.S. these days, every news report I see or hear reminds me that weather is one of the totally uncontrollable factors of our lives. And for fundraisers, it can be a disaster in more ways than one as weather can cancel an event, delay a mailing, interfere with a key meeting with a major donor — in short, wreak havoc with our carefully made plans.
But weather isn't alone. Natural disasters, sporting events, terrorist threats, elections, labor strikes, unexpected illness — all these and more can prevent success when it comes to fundraising.
A few years back, I was at an afternoon event that was a major fundraiser for a nonprofit. The emcee thanked everyone for coming — especially when there was a football game between two area rivals taking place at that very moment. Of course, that led to many attendees surreptitiously pulling out their smartphones so scores could be checked. Just like that, a well-intentioned remark hijacked the attention of the potential funders.
When things are out of our control, when no amount of planning and tenacious attention to a schedule can keep them from happening, fundraising activities can be hijacked. People miss events when a traffic jam makes the roads impassable. Mail languishes on a dock when bad weather gets in the way of the post office's unofficial motto that "neither snow nor rain …" While no one can plan around every potential problem noted above because by their very nature these problems are unpredictable, there are ways to help ensure that funds continue to flow even when everything else seems to have shut down.
Never rely on one source of income. By now, you've hopefully gotten the message: Multichannel is king. But when planning for a big event (for example) consumes all your energy, it's tempting to postpone other fundraising activities. Make sure you are still talking to your donors, building relationships, providing response mechanisms, placing current information in front of your market — in short, keeping your multichannel program smoothly operating.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.