3 Folders You Need in Your Fundraiser's 'Fail File'
- Results: Failure is relative. It's only failure compared to your expectations. If a package didn't bring in the response rate or average gift you were hoping for, make sure those expectations were reasonable. Were the projections realistic? What other campaigns was this one compared to? What are the industry benchmarks? It's not enough to shrug and say, "I guess vouchers (or whatever) just don't work for us."
- Reasons: Unless you're doing very narrow and tightly controlled tests, (which are becoming increasingly cost-prohibitive), evaluating why a campaign fell short is bound to be somewhat subjective. But consider questions like: What other packages mailed on either side of this one? Have similar packages worked in the past? If so, has your donor base evolved? Was the response/gift size too small, or was it that the package failed to overcome its cost? There are dozens of question like this you can develop that will help you know what to avoid, as well as what to keep, going forward.
- Rectifications: So you've got a problem package. How will you rectify the situation? For each reason you pinpoint for the problem, create a corresponding checklist of possible solutions. Maybe there's a way to make the same creative idea less expensive. Maybe you need more inserts and involvement devices. Maybe you need fewer. Maybe your message is too complicated. Maybe it's too simple (though this is rarely the case in fundraising). Your rectification folder will give you the chance to make educated guesses about what not to do the next time out.
In the creative business, failure is a fact of life. Just make sure that, when you're picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, that your package's postmortem is comprehensive enough to serve you well in the future.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.