Fundraising Success Depends on A, B, C

Yet another year is coming to a close, and for many nonprofits, it’s about time — 2011 hasn’t been an easy year, what with the continued economic malaise worldwide and increasing demands to expand the platforms we use to spread our messages. More options vie for nonprofits’ attention (and investment), adding to the stress of the fundraiser’s job.

Whatever 2012 holds, we all need to prioritize our efforts. That’s always the challenge for nonprofit fundraising: Our budgets are limited, and our supporters expect us to invest the majority of their donated money in programs.

Fundraisers that succeed in 2012 will remember A, B, C: alignment, balance and clarity.

Whatever channels you use, be sure they align with your audience. There’s no shame in not being everywhere on- and offline — as long as you are where your donors (and potential donors) are.

Working for a nonprofit is about compromise. Few can “do it all” and maintain an acceptable cost of fundraising. You’re wise to “hang out” where your audience is and leave the rest for others. You may not win an award for innovation, but you’re investing where you can have the most impact with limited dollars.

Give your donors variety in your communications. Everything you do shouldn’t say, “The sky is falling!” Of course, if it really is falling, you need to emphasize that, but we all get desensitized to even the worst possible news over time. (Case in point: When was the last time you really took airport screening seriously?)

Make sure your donors know that there is still a need, but you are slowly but surely chipping away at it. We’re all tired of “black holes,” and we don’t want to throw more money into them. Show the need, but in appropriate communications, demonstrate how you are having an impact.

What do you want your donors to do? Make it easy to understand and simple to accomplish. Keep the request in your direct mail or e-mail concise. If you give multiple options, most donors gravitate to the easiest one.

A lot of reply cards are getting overcomplicated with too many options crowded on the front. As a result, the choices detract from your central message: donate.

Websites are often equally as confusing. Click on “Give a Gift!” and you are presented with a half dozen options about ways to donate. I am not advocating taking planned giving, gifts-in-kind, volunteering, etc., off your website. Just make sure that your navigation is simple and your donors and potential supporters end up where they expect when they click a link.

As you celebrate the holidays, take time to relax and put aside all the typos, the printing errors, the irate donor letters and the ideas that just didn’t work from 2011. That’s the best thing about fundraising — it’s over. Nothing was carved in stone or set in cement. We’re all about to get a fresh start. And then, when you get back to work, remember A, B, C. Here’s to fundraising success in 2012!

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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