3 R’s for Time-Strapped Fundraisers

How we learn depends on who we are. Some of us prefer to hear, others to read and still others to experience.

It’s really no different with our donors. Some of them enjoy our letters and newsletters, and are pleased to see them in their mailboxes. Others want everything to arrive via their inboxes. Some like photos and truly believe a picture is worth 1,000 words. And another group will search YouTube for videos of your work.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. We all have our own preferences — and sometimes those vary from day to day, depending on other factors present at the time.

The bottom line? There is no “one size fits all” in fundraising. Getting our message out in a variety of ways is essential if we are going to maximize our results. Doing that, given budget and time constraints, can be daunting.

By using these three R’s throughout 2012, you may be able to talk to your donors in more ways and still have time left over to have a life.

Step 1: Repurpose

Whatever you invest in developing, look for ways to use it for other purposes. The DVD you prepared for your annual dinner can be mailed to major donors who weren’t able to attend and posted online. The acquisition mailing your consultant wrote can be revised for lapsed donors.

In other words, if you are strapped for time and/or money, look at everything and ask how else you can use it. Sometimes a small, inexpensive change can give a single-purpose fundraising piece additional functions for other audiences.

Step 2: Recycle

There is no reason why you have to start from scratch every time you create a fundraising communication. Although we like to look back at what we did and reminisce about the project, our donors generally don’t remember. So if you have a great mailing from 2010, recycle it by freshening up the statistics and maybe changing the story and photo. Your special campaign can become the “2nd Annual.” That great newsletter feature may be perfect content for your blog.

There’s no reason to reinvent everything every time. When you’re short of time or budget, see what you can recycle for today’s fundraising need.

Step 3: Restore
Sometimes we stop fundraising programs out of boredom — ours, not donors’. Are there great ideas that worked well in the past that you should consider restoring? For example, did you have an annual fundraising campaign that you replaced, wanting something fresh — even though it was still pulling in donations?

Obviously, don’t bring back something that was tired, dated and a poor performer. But take a look at the past to see if there is something worth restoring. A good tagline, a smart offer, a format — all of these are possibilities to consider bringing back, perhaps in a new format, in 2012.

There are no easy shortcuts to a successful fundraising program. But sometimes we can find inspiration by looking at what we did in the past. There’s always room for improvement, but it may be the basic foundation of a fundraising program for a new platform is lurking in your archives. It’s worth blowing off the dust and seeing if you have some hidden gems in there.

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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