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The new keys to success in fundraising today: New signposts for the road (Part 2)
Mal Warwick

October, 2010

Before you read this, in case you did not read Part II -please go to http://txnp.org/Article/?ArticleID=12142. Jackie

In recent months, I’ve been developing a new perspective on fundraising, born of the increasing frustration I’ve felt trying to understand today’s fundraising environment through the lens of yesterday’s truths. Below is the second part of a long article I’ve drafted to begin laying out my new approach. Please let me know what you think.

To achieve success in fundraising today and tomorrow, you need to know and obey the new rules of the road. You can’t approach fundraising through a collection of specialized silos, such as major gifts and email fundraising, and expect to bring in buckets of money. Nor can you play the old numbers game so popular in direct marketing. For most people involved in it, the objective of this game was to build the largest possible donor list, no matter what the value of their donors or how many of them gave just once and then never again.

Today, best practice in fundraising follows four guidelines or principles of donor care, and I’m going to examine each of them in detail.

Principle #1: Choice

The first of these overriding principles is choice—meaning “donor choice.” Now, you’ve probably heard about “donor choice” in the past. For many years now, we’ve been hearing that community-wide fundraising campaigns like those of United Way were encountering more and more resistance from donors. And many individual nonprofit organizations have been reporting lately that they’re having trouble attracting enough support with generalized or institutional campaigns. What we’re hearing is that we’ve got to offer “donor choice.” But rarely does anyone really explain what donors want to choose—or what’s likely to happen when you give them the opportunity to do so. I’ll take a look at all that.

Principle #2: Information

The second of the principles is information. No doubt you’ve heard people urging you to give more information to your donors. But what kind of information? And how do you give it to them? I’ll look into those questions.

Now, keep in mind the difference between data and information. One way to describe the distinction is to say that data is all that stuff people are throwing at us all day, every day—online, by mail and phone, on TV, and now even on our mobile phones. Practically none of that is interesting to us. We regard it as “spam” or “junk mail” or worse. It’s all data. By contrast, information is data that’s put together in a way that makes it understandable . . . delivered in a way and in a time and place that makes us notice it . . . and, most important of all, is relevant to us.

Principle #3: Engagement

The third of the principles I’ll address in this article is engagement. You’ve probably heard it referred to as “donor involvement,” which seems like it’s more or less the same thing. However, I use the term engagement to mean something at least a little deeper and more meaningful than involvement. After all, in direct mail we speak about “involvement devices.” Usually, all an involvement device requires you to do is sign your name or move a sticker from one sheet to another or fill out a short and simple survey. Engagement in the sense I talk about requires a lot more than that. I’ll take a look at what that means—and at different ways you can bring it about.

Principle #4: Commitment

Fourth is commitment. Now, some of us have been measuring commitment for a long time. We call that measurement “Long-Term Donor Value” (or, sometimes, “Life-Time Value”). There’s no question that’s an important concept. In a way, all of us in fundraising are supposed to be working to increase our donors’ Long-Term Value. But how often do we think about how to go about that? What can we actually do, day-to-day, to build Long-Term Value?

That’s what I’ll try to do as I examine donor commitment in its many forms and stages. I’ll make an effort to understand what commitment is all about—and how to deepen it.

So, if you remember nothing else from the time you spend reading this article, please commit these four words to memory: Choice, Information, Engagement, Commitment. These are the new signposts on the road to fundraising success.



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