Goofus, Gallant and You

When I was growing up, one of the best days of the month was when our Highlights Magazine was delivered. In addition to finding the hidden pictures and doing the simple science experiments, I always turned to see what advice Goofus and Gallant had for me. Basically, Goofus told us what not to do, while Gallant demonstrated what should be done in a given situation.

Sometimes, being a fundraiser means figuring out who is the Goofus – and who is the Gallant – in your life. Well-meaning folks have opinions about fundraising. While some are interesting points of view, others can lead us down dangerous paths. For example. . . .

Nobody would ever. . . . (fill in the blank)
Unfortunately, this message too often comes from board members, fellow staff and key volunteers. One thinks a letter is too long, another is sure an ask too strong or a photo too vivid.

The problem is, as someone put it so succinctly today in a meeting I was part of, “It’s not about you.” As employees or volunteers, we know more and understand better – so we don’t need as much information to help us grasp the need and the difference a gift can make.

Avoid giving in to any Goofus in your life who tells you how to do your fundraising without basing this advice on testing and relevant experience. When you talk to donors and prospects, they depend on you to help them understand.

Always say “Thank you”
I read an interesting article recently about whether or not a thank you from a nonprofit matters to the donor. But as Gallant would remind us, it’s always right to say thanks.

While a donor may say he or she doesn’t need a thank you, it’s hard to imagine a situation when (assuming it is appropriate) it would hurt. Isn’t it a pleasant surprise when the cashier genuinely thanks you for your purchase (not just the canned “thankyouforyourpurchase” that is mumbled with no eye contact or enunciation)?

Giving our donors pleasant surprises is a good way to build a relationship – and donors who have a relationship with your nonprofit often give again and again. Saying “thank you” is a great way to add a brick to that relationship you’re building.

Change is risky. Don’t do it.
Change is risky. That’s why smart fundraisers take careful steps when they are making changes. They base decisions on facts, and they measure over and over.

Some changes seem intuitive – “If we go to a four-color newsletter, our donors will like it more (and read it more) than the two-color one.” You’re probably right. But be prepared for a bit of a dip while the more timid catch their breath and adjust.

Other changes are much riskier. For example, while cancelling your printed newsletter and going only to an electronic version will save money, will it generate the income your newsletter is producing? Can you cut out your annual event, which is labor intensive, without losing your volunteers and donors who enjoy being part of the event?

Ask the right questions, and then measure the results. And if you have to, change back. It’s far better to have tried it and concluded the old way was better than to continually miss out on significant improvements because you were afraid to try.

Know when to stop talking – and when to listen
Gallant would remind us that sometimes it isbest to listen and learn – and that’s true with donors, too. There’s a time to stop mailing, e-mailing, calling, etc. Sometimes a donor stops giving – and nothing you do can change that. Continuing to “talk” at them is just white noise in their lives.

One place I see this most frequently is when a donor makes a single gift for a special purpose – for example, a memorial gift or a sponsorship of a person participating in an event. Their loyalty for that gift may not be your organization, but rather the person they were giving on behalf of.

I am still receiving mailings from a major national organization to which I gave a memorialgift seven years ago. It even followed me halfway across the country. My total lack of response is a loud message – I am not interested in giving again. But because it has refused to listen for these many, many years, it has been diverting money from its important mission to stalk me.

What other “Goofus and Gallant” advice do you have for your colleagues reading this column? Share it below!

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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