Diversity is one of those hot button topics that is particularly relevant in the philanthropic community. Whether we are applying for a grant, or rubbing elbows in our charitable circles, diversity always finds a way to enter the conversation. For the purpose of this post, I would like us to take a different look at diversity as it pertains to our fundraising efforts. How effective is your organizations at diversifying your fundraising efforts. Are you receiving income from corporations, grants, annual giving, estate planning, major gifts, sponsorships, events, and all the other great avenues for revenue creation.
Most consulting organizations have their strong suit, or their niche’ market, but when was the last time your organization sat down and looked at a comprehensive fundraising strategy. Few would argue with the wisdom of allocating time and resources in the most effective and efficient manner, but there is a danger of neglecting some avenues of fundraising because they are time intensive, and for some reason seem to bring in fewer dollars. We need to be careful because this can be a short-sighted approach to strategic planning. Each area of fundraising has it’s strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly – it serves a specific objective in your overall strategy.
Over the next several series of blog posts, we are going to walk you through developing a diversified strategy of fundraising, allocation of resources, and most importantly the purpose behind each objective. Let’s begin with the most mundane – direct marketing, or direct mail marketing.
Direct Mail Marketing that works!
I will begin by admitting I have an unhealthy affinity to direct marketing. I cut my teeth in the direct marketing / target marketing field over 30 years while doing statistical analysis for the recreational marine industry. Direct mail is expensive, it has a low return on investment, and it is rapidly being replaced by other direct marketing resources (email, text messages, blog posts, podcasting, etc.). So how does it fit into our strategic plan?
Objective: Direct mail serves a very narrow and specific function in the fundraising community. Here are the areas it can and should be used to improve your development department.
Personalized correspondence such as thank you notes, follow up letters, and at times seasonal campaigns. A soup kitchen may send a very personalized appeal to purchase meals for the hungry during Thanksgiving or Christmas and get a powerful response if designed correctly.
Donor acquisition. Direct mail is a difficult avenue of donor acquisition, mostly because it is used incorrectly. In the campaign mentioned above – this is a great way to introduce your mission to new people. Another nonprofit we worked with sent out an event invitation card with two tea bags, and asked their committed donors to invite someone over for tea and make a personal ask for them to attend the upcoming event.
Person to person communication. Tools and resources that motivate your board and volunteers to engage others are always practical ways to recruit new prospects. Providing volunteers with pre-printed materials they can hand deliver, or mail with a personal note card can be very effective in reaching new prospects.
The challenge comes when a charity says, “It’s time to mail our quarterly newsletter.” There are more cost effective ways to communicate with the masses, most of these through social media and online communication tools.
I chose direct mail to begin our conversation because it should be on one of the lowest rungs of the fundraising ladder. We don’t want to invest a lot of time, energy, and resources towards direct mail; but like every avenue we discuss over the next several weeks – it can have a role in our overall strategic plan.