It might seem self-serving when a consultant gives advice on how to work with consultants, but getting this right can lead to a much more financially healthy organization.
The Fundraising Authority has some suggestions, at 3 Tips for Successfully Working with Fundraising Consultants:
- Figure out What You Want
- Be Open and Honest with Your Consultant
- Find a Great Consultant – and Then Trust Him or Her
I’ll add one more:
Expect more, and you’ll get more. Make your consultant a partner. Make sure they own your success or failure as much as you do. You want them thinking ahead of the current assignment. You want them dreaming of new ideas. You want them looking for strengths to leverage and weaknesses to shore up. If your consultant is only a one-trick vendor, they can’t do that.
Every consultant in our business can tell horror stories of clients that carefully and deliberately drove their fundraising train right off a cliff because they weren’t interested in what the consultant had to say.
If you have consultants that don’t want to or aren’t able to own your success, get rid of them!
Very important point from Pro Copy Tips, at Why good copy goes bad: are you stupid or just ignorant? Here it is:
One of the worst mistakes you can make as a copywriter is to assume your job is about writing.
It’s true, I’m sad to say.
In fundraising, you’ll do better if you’re a fundraiser who writes well than if you’re a writer who’s stuck doing fundraising.
Because real-world professional fundraising writing is not about finding your voice or baring your innermost soul. It’s about knowing a lot of things about donors, how to motivate them, what a good offer is, and a dozen other details — and being able to write all that in clean, clear, vivid prose.
If you want to be a “pure” writer — a Sylvia Plath or a James Joyce whose writing is a form of art — you’re most likely going to live in poverty and obscurity.
If you want to make a difference — and a paycheck — your writing talent is merely one of many tools in a well-stocked toolbox.
This is often the first and hardest hurdle for young aspiring professional writers, in fundraising or any other writing profession. The quicker you get past it, the more happy and successful you’ll be.
I got this the other day in the mail from a local organization that I’m not a donor to. (I’ve hidden the identity, because it’s a local hard-working organization that really doesn’t deserve public ridicule.)
“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” Pretty clever. It might be a comfort to someone facing cancer, though I can’t help but think if I had cancer, I’d be saying I really don’t care about cancer in general; tell me about my cancer.
This is a case of sloganeering in lieu of fundraising. It’s a common error, caused by fundraisers mistakenly taking their cue from commercial brand advertising.
No matter how clever the slogan, it’s unlikely to work in fundraising. That’s because a slogan doesn’t involve donors in any way. It isn’t a call to action. (Theoretically, it could be, but it never is.)
A really good slogan might be resonant or memorable. It might make donors nod knowingly, or chuckle, or think I’ll have to show that to Phyllis. But it’s not a call to action, and that means not many people will take action. The best you can hope for is you have such a strong brand that people already have in mind to donate to you — so the fact that you fail to actually ask doesn’t matter; you’ll get responses nonetheless. Of course, a blank piece of paper would do just as well.
But a real fundraising piece that includes a call to action will do a lot better.
Next time someone shows you a clever slogan in lieu of a call to action, send ‘em back to the drawing board. Fundraising is about action, not slogans.