The Agitator suggests Nonsense Audits to help nonprofits get rid of pointless and harmful activities, at Down With Fundraising Nonsense. One of the things they take aim at:
… the number of folks who must see, sign-off or otherwise be involved in the creation and approval process of appeals and other donor communications. Add in the amount of time and personnel involved in shepherding this mostly moronic process of democracy-based, ‘everyone’s-entitled-to-an-opinion’ copy review fest into your audit also.
If it’s more than one or two folks in addition to the agency rep and one nonprofit staffer, then the yellow or red flags should go up. I’ve never seen a situation where a committee’s opinion did anything but harm.
That’s so true. I hope the Nonsense Audit catches on, and that every nonprofit on the planet starts doing them.
In the mean time, here are three truths about fundraising approval processes that you can count on being true:
- Committee involvement in your fundraising communication will automatically decrease its effectiveness. This is a law of physics, like gravity. There are no exceptions.
- The fewer cooks you have in that kitchen, the better you’ll do. Also, things will be meaningfully faster, less expensive, and more fun.
- The IQ of a group is not the sum of the IQs of all the participants, nor is it the average of all of them. It is the average IQ of all the participants divided by the number of participants. Each member you add to the committee lowers its effectiveness. Even if that person is really smart and wonderful.
The over-focus on the amount nonprofits spend on fundraising and administration (as opposed to accomplishing their mission) is throttling many organizations, keeping them artificially poor and less able to do what they exist to do. We talk about some alternatives to focusing on that fundraising ratio.
It’s easy to see why. One of those news stories that gets everyone’s attention was out there. The SEAL Foundation has a clear and logical connection to the story. Donors want to touch big events.
This is why disasters prompt so much charitable giving. These events are by far the best way to bring on new donors that you have trouble reaching otherwise.
The smart thing to do when there’s a big news story is ask yourself if there’s any meaningful connection between your cause and the story. If there is, make it easy for donors to find you and to give. And be quick, because these things tend to fade fast. Try these things:
- Get the word out through social media.
- Use fast traditional media like newspaper print ads and spot radio.
- Revise your website so the people who land there by search can quickly and easily give — don’t make them jump through hoops to find your donate pages!
Thanks to Buzz for the tip.
Why are the branding discipline and the fundraising discipline so often at odds within nonprofits? Aren’t they aimed at exactly the same goal of increasing an organization’s ability to do its work?
They should be. But time after time, branding decreases fundraising revenue.
That might not have to be so, and one way to improve that dismal situation would be to follow the advice in the Moving Thinking Blog at Brand vs Fundraising — 4 ways to prevent war.
Here are the four ways, with my comments:
- Keep fundraising at the heart. Fundraising isn’t the only thing you do in the marketing sphere. But if you’re reading this blog, it’s probably at or near the top of the list. When branding initiatives start or happen in silos separate from fundraising, they’ll usually go bad. So keep fundraising (the people and the discipline) in the same room and with the same authority as branding. Doing this is going to save you untold pain later on.
- Ensure the audience focus is right. Another reason branding so often hurts fundraising is that it’s aimed at making internal audiences feel good. If you want a brand that improves fundraising revenue, you’d better aim is squarely at your donors. Your real donors, not the fantasy donors your brand people claim they’re going to capture.
- Differentiate meaningfully. Almost every time branding people take on a nonprofit, they end up with Hope as the key brand value. That’s a value that can apply to almost any cause. It’s nice, but vague and unspecific. It’s a terrible thing to be saddled with if you want to raise funds. A brand that helps revenue is one that will zero in on your organization’s specifics.
- Test and adapt. Test is the key here. Focus groups are not valid tests. They will lead you astray if they’re your only source for what people think. Statistically valid, well-constructed direct-marketing tests will give you truths you can take to the bank.