The beginning of a new year, like the start of a new job, is a good time to decide what matters and where you want to focus your energies. It seems to be the norm in nonprofits to have too much to get done and too few qualified people to help out. So we have to make compromises to survive (and hopefully thrive).
To help you make 2013 the best year possible for fundraising, here are some of the shortest — and most practical — job descriptions you’ll find for many of the things and people that matter in fundraising.
Carrier envelope: Its job is to get opened (and to hold the contents in place, but we’ll assume that’s a given). The only reason for a teaser on it is to increase the likelihood of it getting opened. The only reason not to use a teaser (or a photo or illustration) is to increase the likelihood of it getting opened. Would someone who isn’t your colleague or your mother actually open that envelope? If not, it’s failed in its job.
Ditto on the e-mail subject line. Its job is to get the recipient to open the e-mail. Getting through spam filters is essential, of course. But if it passes that test only to be so uninteresting or predictable that it goes right into the delete folder, it’s failed in its job.
Copy: The job of the copy is to be read and to drive people to take action (i.e., give a gift). How long should your copy be? Long enough to get the job done. That may be two paragraphs, or it may be six pages. Neither is better. The best is the copy that drives readers to make a gift.
Design: The task of the design is to make people want to read the copy. It’s not about winning design awards or having the most creative look. Design has to make reading the copy (that leads to giving the gift) easier and more enjoyable. Choose a font, type size, design elements and photos that help move you to that goal. Otherwise it’s just art. We want action, not awards.
Receipt: The job of your receipt is to thank a donor and make him or her want to give again. That happens when the donor feels genuinely thanked in a timely manner and understands that the gift made a difference. It also happens when your receipt facilitates another gift. Look at your receipt. Does it scream “thank you” and make a donor feel very good about giving to you? Or is it simply an accounting function, about as exciting as a form from your health insurance provider?
Copywriter: Yes, I know we covered “copy” before, but the people who write copy that goes to your donors have very important jobs, and they deserve special mention. Their jobs are to get people to take action, as in give a gift. Beautiful words or flowing sentence structure is nice. But the question is, “Will it raise money?” If your writer is too married to his or her words, or is more concerned about sentence structure than results, it’s time for a change.
But don’t forget: Writers don’t write great copy when they are left in the dark. Tell your writer about your donors and the kinds of results you get from mailings. Show them which appeals (printed or electronic) raised the most net income and the highest average gifts. Make them insiders, and you’ll get copy that is more likely to speak to your donors and drive giving.
Strategic consultant: This may be an outside professional, or it may be you. Either way, the task is to keep bringing new things to the table. Some may be crazy, but those rabbit trails can occasionally lead to the next breakthrough. If you’re not setting time aside for strategizing new approaches and messages, you could be holding your program back.
List broker: Again, this may be an outside professional, or it may be someone internal in your nonprofit. Either way, the job is to bring fresh thinking to list selections. This doesn’t mean ideas that are so far out of the box that they left the time zone, but it does call for suggestions about new lists to test, alternate ways to slice and dice the best-performing lists, and lists to let rest for a time. Your list broker’s recommendation should not repeatedly look like “same song, next verse.”
Major-donor staff: Your major-donor staff’s job is to ask for a gift and close on many of those asks. Yes, he or she needs to build relationships and take time to understand what the donor is looking for in terms of a nonprofit to invest in. But there has to be a strategy that leads regularly to asking. It’s easy (and fun) to build relationships; the real job is closing on the “sale.”
Program staff: The people who select and manage the programs of your nonprofit have an important job for fundraising, as well. They must work with you to find the aspects of the programs that are most appealing to donors and make sure you have the information to communicate that to your donors. This doesn’t mean you can sabotage a program’s design to make it attractive to donors, but it does mean that you work together to understand what it is about the program that will resonate with donors and how you can position it to make it understandable to the average donor. If you can’t break through the program-speak, you’re fighting a battle to get donor support. And program staff also has to provide the stories and photos that you can use in fundraising. This is not a “when I get time” task; it has to be a priority every single day.
Database administrator: This person should be one of your best friends in 2013. The No. 1 job here is to get you the information you need to make good decisions. That includes income (of course), average gift, attrition rate, new-donor conversion (to a second gift), lapsed-donor renewal, conversion of info-only names to donors, conversion of event donors to ongoing supporters, retention of monthly partners, and on and on. You need data that is incredibly current and totally accurate. Make friends with your database administrator if you haven’t already. He or she can make you a star in 2013.
These aren’t all the jobs in a fundraising department, but I hope this gets you thinking about the “one thing” everything you do has to accomplish. Winning awards is fun. Getting praises from the board of directors is fulfilling. Producing fundraising packages that make you proud is exhilarating.
But nothing beats the amazing, awesome, incredible thrill of raising more money for your mission than ever before. Here’s to your success in 2013!
Originally published in NonProfit Pro.