4 Fatal Fundraising Flaws

4 Fatal Fundraising Flaws
Date Published
Debbie Merlino

Is your fundraising feeling a little flat?

If so, maybe it’s because you’ve fallen prey to one of these 4 Fatal Fundraising Flaws:

  1. You don’t know your numbers
  2. You can’t clearly and concisely state your case for giving
  3. You communicate with everyone in the same manner
  4. You’re not responsive

Before you launch your next campaign, consider the following.

In a previous blog post we talked about the fact that there are really only 3 Ways to Make More Money. Before you start writing copy, take a step back and think about what you want to achieve. Is it more donors? A higher average gift? More gifts per donor?

Know Your Numbers

  • Are you adding more donors than you’re losing each year? If your active donorbase is shrinking, then it’s likely you won’t be able to generate more revenue than you did for the same time last year.
  • What types of appeals have been most successful in the past? Why? Have you done offer, creative, or list testing? If so, what have you learned and how can you leverage those learnings in this upcoming appeal?
  • Break out the number of donors you have by RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) and develop reasonable expectations for the upcoming campaign based on past results for each segment.
  • Know your results by channel. Do past results indicate that you can successfully add another email to the series, or another hit of direct mail? Have you used telemarketing or voice broadcast to boost response to key segments? Should you test any new tactics in this upcoming campaign? After all, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got – maybe less!

Clearly and Concisely State Your Case for Giving

When you’re evaluating copy for a direct mail or email campaign make sure that you answer these three questions: 1) Why should I give? 2) Why should I give now? 3) What’s the consequence of not giving?

Can you trim your case for giving down to one sentence? Repeat that 3 times in the letter or email, and once more on the reply device or donation page.

In addition to a clear case for giving, your appeal should include a sense of urgency. That urgency can be based on a real deadline – like calendar or fiscal-year end, or the deadline for a matching gift offer. The urgency can also be created around what’s not happening because of the lack of funding… how many homeless are going unfed…how many more lives could be transformed…

Show Them You Know Them

Rather than communicating with everyone in the same manner, show your donors you know them! They’ve supported you financially in the past. The very least you can do is acknowledge that you know who they are.

Start by breaking up your list into prospects, active, and lapsed donors and using variable messaging and ask string based on RFM.

Further customize your appeal with language that recognizes recurring versus transactional donors, and use variable copy to include any program preferences/interests if you keep that info in your CRM.

Think about really tailoring the communication to your donors. Donors’ expectations are high! Amazon knows what they bought, when, and their likes and dislikes. Donors expect you will too!

Be Responsive

  • Is it easy for donors to reach you via phone or email? Is there a specific person they can contact with questions?
  • Are you responsive to the needs of your donors?
  • Do you make it easy for them to donate via the mail — with lots of room on the reply slip for them to write in the credit card number, for example?
  • Are your donation forms mobile responsive? And does it take just a click or two to make a gift? The more clicks it takes to complete the gift, the fewer the gifts.
  • When donors call asking for a tax receipt or some other special request, do you respond quickly?

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be on your way to flawless fundraising in the future!

Debbie Merlino
About the Author:
Debbie Merlino
President, Agency Services

As President of Agency Services, Debbie is responsible for overall client satisfaction. She works to ensure AFG’s winning strategies are being shared throughout the organization for the benefit of all our clients. Debbie is frequently out on the road sharing insights with others and listening to your challenges so we can develop solutions.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I get to meet the best people and hear their stories. Hardly anyone says they planned to work in development. Learning how our clients found themselves in this profession and hearing the stories of the people they serve is inspirational.

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

Attempting the life of a freelance journalist, working in a bookstore, and/or doing a podcast for my own enjoyment.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Making people laugh. It’s thrilling! Especially when done purposefully and I’m on stage ; ) I also enjoy yoga and a well-crafted cocktail.

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