There is no way around it. Asking for money is hard work. Crafting a powerful appeal, gathering lists, managing the process takes real energy. Then the day comes when you drop it in the mail. For non-profits this stage often requires a lot of emotional energy and a bit of angst. Will people respond? Will it raise the money needed? Is it worth all the work it took to get it in the mail?
The bad news
Sometimes it flops. Sometimes it doesn’t deliver on the financial goal desired. There are tons of variables that effect results, some of them are beyond one’s control. A printer shared with me the following horror story. The post office never delivered the mailing – a trailer sized mailing – and the client received zero responses.
The good news
I have reminded clients that sending direct mail and specifically appeals provides other tangible value. Some times the good news is hidden. For example, I remember a campaign that didn’t bring in the desired monetary goal, but new donors outnumbered existing donors – a very encouraging result indeed.
It is important to remember that direct mail cultivates new donors – it often takes multiple touches to get someone to give. It is ancedotal, but I always feel that the response is always better on the next campaign after one that was disappointing. Direct mail reinforces and reminds donors of the good work you do – I always aim to try to make appeals Spire2 develops feel like a gift and sometimes they are!
I work with a larger non-profit that has signficantly reduced their direct mail budget. They invested in an analytics tool that helps them pinpoint who is the most likely to give from their list. I think this is awesome. I think technology like this is going to eventually be available to a wider percentage of organizations. This is why I have partnered with Hubspot. It is data driven and allows organizations to make marketing decisions based on numbers instead of whim. But there is a hidden danger –when we make all our decisions based on data, we miss seeing the forest because we are looking only at the trees. The client above has eliminated broader messaging in favor of simple appeals. In light of some very negative publicity where I would have reinforced broader themes of mission and organizational value the fundraising has continued to hunt numbers. Short term results might not show anything, but I think long term brand trust is being risked with this approach.
Fundraising needs to raise money, but it must not forget its role in inspiring and trasmitting the mission and values of an organization.
So move onward towards more data driven decisions, but make sure someone is also balancing the big picture and not just crunching numbers.
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