Advice From the Fundraising Sages

One of the things that has always impressed me about the fundraising profession is that people are so willing to share advice with others traveling along the same road. Whether in seminars, blogs, articles or just answering the phone when you call to ask a question, our industry has always been generous with assistance to those who are seeking it.

So to begin 2013, I asked four of my colleagues, all seasoned professionals with years of hands-on fundraising experience, to contribute one piece of advice for fundraising in this new year. Here’s what they told me.

Yes, you’re hearing voices …
“Take time to listen to the voices of your donors,” says Dana Heter, founder and president of DirectStrategies, a direct-response agency focused on strategy for fund development. “You do not have a homogeneous donor base. You have a compendium of donor bases — each with distinct profiles, interests, motivations for giving and desires for what they want out of the relationship.

“You need to communicate in ways that are perfectly tuned to who each donor is, what they believe individually and the sense of fulfillment each one receives when contributing to your organization. Going deeper into your data to truly hear what donors are saying is essential to succeed,” he adds.

No case = no support
Rick Felton, founder and president of Matthew Five Sixteen, focuses on major donors programs, and that means he’s also focusing on things like the fiscal cliff, IRS tax code changes and the stock market. He suggests that the first thing we need to do is “remind major donors — or at least remind ourselves — that their investments are in good shape. We are not back to the highs in the Dow in 2007, but we are well off the lows of 2009. In fact, at around 13,300, the Dow has more than doubled since the low.

“In addition, the endowments of foundations have steadily increased over the last three years and should provide the necessary resources for more aggressive investments in the work of nonprofits,” he adds. “To tap in to charitable dollars from both individuals and foundations, the need for a strong, compelling and well-written case for support will continue to be critical. I also believe it will be important to remind individuals of other major gifts given by individuals to show that the climate is changing and people are feeling more hopeful about their financial well-being.”

They’re talking about you
“Adopt and adapt to a ‘market to and through your constituents’ mentality,” says Eric Streiff, president of Oculus Direct. “People support organizations they believe in and have an affinity to, but they are also being far more selective about which organizations they support. Their gratification comes from doing more than just giving money — it comes from being a part of something bigger than themselves, which means participation and active engagement at multiple levels.

“In addition to this, the new donor is more likely than previous generations to share information about whom they support and how they support their favorite charity,” he adds. “Nonprofits that embrace this new reality may find themselves with fewer supporters in the end, but their donors will demonstrate greater loyalty, affinity and advocacy, and have a higher likelihood of being a substantial supporter over a longer period of time.”

It’s time (once again) to invest
Let’s face it — donor acquisition is tough on the bottom line. But Donna Packer, president of Packer List Inc., gives us a timely reminder that list attrition did not take a break in the recession. “Too many nonprofits are faced with smaller donor files, and that’s leading to less money and no growth in program — creating a vicious cycle if there is no acquisition to offset donors lost to attrition. In 2013, nonprofits have to invest in acquisition methods that have been proven to work. Yes, direct-mail acquisition isn’t a shiny new bullet, but nonprofits consistently grow their donor file (and therefore, their income) through a strategic mail plan.

“There are new lists that have come on the market, and better ways to ‘slice and dice’ data to get the names that are most likely to respond to your offer,” Packer adds. “Challenge your list broker to bring something new to the table. Don’t settle for the same lists and segments you used pre-recession. Now is the time to rent smarter to achieve the results you need.”

Oh, you were looking for a magic formula to make all your fundraising projects super-successful at a fraction of the cost you paid last year? Sorry, no magic here — but the advice from these four who have a combined 125 years in the fundraising business can lead you to the winning path for 2013 success.

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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