The Age of Super-Cynical Donors

We just conducted a night of focus groups for a nonprofit organization that is fighting a chronic disease. In one of the exercises, we had the first group, which consisted of the organization’s donors, write letters to the later prospective donor group to encourage them to support the fight against the disease with a donation. The letters from the donors were heartfelt and moving. We in the back room were moved to tears as donors shared their stories of how the disease had affected their lives. But when the prospective donors heard these heartfelt letters, they ripped them apart. Their cynicism of the letters was dumbfounding. It was truly a case of the message being lost in translation. It’s clear to me that the long term affect of urgent and emotional appeals for funds have desensitized donors to mass communications. I can’t help but think that if these prospective donors could have been behind the glass during the first group their reactions would have been 180 degrees different. Which leads me to believe that the “next big thing” in fundraising will be going back to Fundraising 1.0: Face-to-face fundraising. It’s the only way to break through the cynicism of this generation. And that I believe that means leveraging crowd sourcing/peer-to-peer fundraising technologies to replicate the personal ask. Personal asks aren’t just for major donors anymore. It’s for all...

Optimizing the Demise (Part 5)

This may be the final post in our five part series of how to Optimize the Demise, but it’s not our final suggestion for improving your fundraising program.  Be sure to subscribe to our feeds or sign up for our email news to receive more actionable insights. And if you missed part 4 of the series, click here. Use telemarketing to convert low value (annual values of under $100) Boomers (age 68 and younger) to EFT based micro-sustainers. (This doesn’t work well with your older donors.) This is a great way to improve retention and decrease future cultivation costs. This idea won’t change the course of the direct mail trend. But it will buy you some time while we are all figuring out the next big thing....

Optimizing the Demise (Part 4)

Here’s suggestion number 4 on how to optimize the demise…(and if you missed the last 3 suggestions, click here to read more.) Use telemarketing more. I think the biggest indicator that direct mail is in trouble is that organizations that have always considered TM evil are now starting to embrace it. That’s because it still works. This idea won’t change the course of the direct mail trend. But it will buy you some time while we are all figuring out the next big...

Optimizing the Demise (Part 3)

In our continuing series on how to Optimize the Demise, here is an idea to encourage online giving: Mail inexpensive postcards to donors (particularly ones who have a history of giving online or by bank check) with a simple message: Thanks for your past gifts to us online. Just a reminder that together we can still help people in need. So go online and make your gift today. This idea won’t change the course of the direct mail trend. But it will buy you some time while we are all figuring out the next big thing. And if you missed, the first two blog posts in this series, click here to read Part 1 and Part...

Optimizing the Demise (Part 2)

Yesterday we posted the first of our five part series on Optimizing the Demise, if you missed it, click here to read.  Today we offer you the second practical idea for how to optimize the decline in your direct mail fundraising program: Stop direct mail testing – at least in acquisition. Look, even if you test something that doubles response (which is rarer than a supermodel on a Metro bus), lifting response rates from a 0.44% to a 0.88% isn’t going to save your organization. Better to redirect the budget and ideas set aside for testing to try new things that might have a longer payoff. This idea won’t change the course of the direct mail trend. But it will buy you some time while we are all figuring out the next big...

Optimizing the Demise (5 part blog series)

Recently we’ve been talking a lot about unsustainable trends, the decline of direct mail and the eventual shift in fundraising that needs to happen because of it. We didnt mean to start the year off by depressing everyone about the future, so, over the next five blog posts we are going to switch from being  “The Bad News Bears” to your “Angels in the Outfield”  in order to make you shine as a fundraiser. Here is the first practical idea we suggest you consider to optimize the decline in your direct mail fundraising program: Start using BREs instead of CREs. Most of us simply don’t have stamps lying around like we use to. And you can bet your donors aren’t going to make a special trip to the Post Office so that they respond to your appeal. One suggestion: only use BREs on donors with SLGs (single largest gifts) of $25 or more. The math of using BREs to the lowest value donors rarely works out. This idea won’t change the course of the direct mail trend. But it will buy you some time while we are all figuring out the next big thing. Click here for Part 2 in the...