Avoid These Fundraising Turkeys in 2013

In just a week, those of us in the U.S. will enjoy the annual ritual of the 3 F’s: family, food and football. But for many of us, fundraising won’t be far from our minds, either.
That’s because Thanksgiving kicks off the critical year-end giving season. And then, 40 days later, it will be 2013. A fresh start (more or less) for our fundraising. For some, a new budget (depending on your fiscal year). And for donors, a new year to choose to support charities new and old.

As you finish up your work in 2012 and plan for the New Year, keep these turkeys in mind so they don’t sneak into your fundraising program come Jan. 1.

Turkey No. 1: Well, I’m just saying that I don’t like that…
Why is it that everyone who works for a nonprofit organization seems to have an opinion about fundraising – and no fear in expressing it? No one ever asked me how to dig a well in sub-Sahara Africa or how to do cost accounting (for good reason), but colleagues often shared how they thought copy should be written and photos presented

If you’re experiencing this, you have to put a stop to it in 2013. This doesn’t mean being rude or never again eating in the employee lunchroom. Instead, offer to make a presentation in a staff meeting about direct response and show examples of what is working right now. Encourage colleagues to bring in samples of mail they receive at home, or to forward you the e-mails they receive from other nonprofits.

You’re not going to win them all over, but some colleagues will become another set of eyes, finding great fundraising examples you can learn from. For the others, just practice smiling slightly and saying, “Thanks for the idea. We’re always testing to make sure we’re effectively investing our fundraising dollars to raise the most money for our programs.” And then walk away. Quickly.

Turkey No. 2: Donor acquisition is too expensive. With our great website, we’ll get all the new donors we need.
If you are a regular reader of this e-newsletter, then you’ve heard me say it before. Donors don’t wake up and say, “Wow! Today would be a great day to send some of my hard-earned cash to a nonprofit that does {fill in the blank with whatever it is your nonprofit does].” Instead, we have to interrupt their day and remind them that there is this huge need, we have a great solution, and we could do more of that great solution if they only send in a donation.

Great websites are important. But there are a zillion great websites. Finding yours by chance can happen, but so can hitting a home run your very first time up to bat in Little League. Possible – but not probable.

Every year is a new opportunity for misguided people to suggest the best way to improve the bottom line is to eliminate that pesky and expensive donor acquisition. Don’t let them prevail. It’s the leading cause of slow but certain suicide by attrition.

Turkey No. 3: Let’s stay positive.
Yes, donors need to hear about results and know that their investment is making a difference. Results are encouraging. Photos showing success makes your supporters feel good.

But need is what people support.

It’s back to what I said earlier: There is this huge need, we have a great solution, and we could do more of that great solution if you send in a donation. Talk about the need. Use your words to paint a picture of a problem. Make readers feel some emotion when they think about the need. And then explain how they can help solve the need.

Donors want to make a difference with their gifts. So as you plan for the New Year, focus on what works in fundraising (not what makes your colleagues happy), be aggressive in looking for more people who will support your cause, and always tell them how they can eliminate a problem by giving.

That way, you’ll avoid some turkeys that can lead to fundraising indigestion.

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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