3 Christmas Wishes for Fundraising Joy

It’s that time of year — the time when pleasant trips to the mall are replaced by power-shopping, finding a good parking place matters more than winning the lottery and even your dentist sends you mailings with “holiday gift ideas.”

For fundraisers, our holiday wishes are simpler — good income, good income and, of course, good income! But looking ahead to 2012, here are three things I’d like to find under the tree Christmas morning that I guarantee will bring happiness to me through the new year.

A workable solution for the U.S. Postal Service
Some of you probably immediately thought, “E-mail is a great solution for the post office. Just stop snail-mailing!” But the U.S. Postal Service is important to fundraising. Oversized formats just lose something in e-mail. Good design and a great offer in acquisition can (sometimes) break through the clutter of life and get opened — and gain you a new donor. And giving a major donor a physical receipt with a sincere, hand-signed “thank you” often conveys gratitude better than an e-mailed receipt.

Let’s face it, we depend on the post office for at least some portion of our fundraising. We need a working post office that delivers mail efficiently for a price we can afford. Every increase in postage means something else in our budgets has to get trimmed. We may enjoy bashing the post office, but we need it. It’s a bit like an eccentric aunt; we joke about it, but we’ll miss it if it isn’t around.

Hopefully in 2012, a compromise can be found that keeps the post office affordable for fundraisers, gives us the service we need and operates in the black.

Genuine donor service
Why do we try to squeeze donors into our molds? E-mail is cheaper, so we expect our donors to switch to online communications. Mailing receipts costs money, so go online and print your own. All the answers to your questions are online, so please don’t call. Find our latest video on YouTube …

Honestly, I am not anti-technology. In fact, I love it and am surrounded by it. But I use it to do things I have to do and things I want to do: work, read (on my Kindle), listen to a custom playlist (on my iPod), play Solitaire, take photos …

But when we start expecting our donors to do our work, we’re assuming they want to partner with us enough to take the time to search out our information, keep our e-mails out of the junk-mail folder, print what they need for their taxes and, in general, do our jobs. Sorry to be curmudgeonly, but if it’s too hard to be a donor to your organization, donors will find someplace that doesn’t make them work as much. They want to give to you, but they don’t want to work for you.

Truly interesting communication
For those of you who are fans of Garrison Keillor and his Lake Woebegone monologues, you know he begins most of them by saying, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone …” He then tells stories of everyday things but makes you laugh so hard you find yourself wondering if just maybe there really is a Lake Woebegone — and what do houses cost up there anyway?

Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t get past the “it’s been a quiet week” in our fundraising copy. We tell the same stories month after month in our newsletters, or worse, we don’t tell stories at all. It’s hard work to collect the stories, get interesting quotes out of project recipients, write a great encounter before we move on to the next thing on our lists.

But taking that time is essential — both for your fundraising and for your own renewal as an overworked fundraiser. Several years ago, I was talking to a mother in Mozambique. At that time, it was the poorest country on Earth and surviving past your fifth birthday was more of a miracle than an expectation. I asked a young mother what her dreams were for her 2-year-old son. I’ll never forget her answer — for the longest time, it was simply a blank stare. Then she said, “I just want him to live.” The contrast between that and my dreams for my then-young daughter was startling.

And that’s a story my donors needed to hear. I can quote statistics all day long. I can talk about the painstaking process we go through in publication after publication. But until I share the “heart” of our work, it’s all words. In 2012, let’s engage our donors’ heads and their hearts!

What are your wishes for this holiday season for fundraising in 2012? What will help you change the world in the new year?

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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