Good to Great! Make the Most of Your Fundraising Program

Date Published
Brett Jones

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t sacrifice the good for the perfect.” While that’s generally good advice, why settle for good when you can do GREAT?

Here are five tips that will take your program from good to GREAT!

1. Sometimes more IS more!

Consider whether there is room to include more efforts in a campaign. Ask yourself if the results support adding another drop of direct mail or email. If you’re not doing this already, consider trying a lightbox on your web site, or adding digital ads to your campaign.

Just remember this, of all the causes your supporters could give to, they chose yours! Your supporters give to you because they care about your mission and the important work you’re doing. They want to hear from you.

2. Testing

There is no doubt about it, there is risk in trying new things and testing. However, you can’t grow and advance your program if you do the same things year after year.

When building an annual plan, start by looking at the strengths, weaknesses, and goals of the program. From there, consider tactics you could test that will help make needed improvements and maximize results. After you assess your risk tolerance, build a testing plan. I like to be more aggressive with testing early in the fiscal year. This way there is more time to use what I learn from the test or recover if the outcome is not what I expected.

For tips on setting up a meaningful test, read Meaningful Testing

3. Segmentation strategy

Because who you ask is even more important than what you mail or how much you ask, audience selection warrants some serious thought. Yet too often audience selection seems to get the least amount of attention.

If you’re trying to get existing donors to become recurring monthly donors, consider targeting: new supporters; those who give using a credit card; donors who have given multiple small gifts; and people who have supported you for several years.

Or, if you’re sending an upgrade appeal, you will want to select donors who have given a certain amount, but also consider those who have given multiple gifts or given across several years. If you offer premiums, think about targeting donors who have opted not to receive premiums for an upgrade appeal because it might indicate a higher level of commitment to the organization.

4. Postage treatment

It’s a huge benefit that the post office gives nonprofit organizations a discount on postage; aren’t we all thankful for that? Most of the time you will want to take advantage of this discount. However, for targeted mid-level and major donors, consider the impression spending more could make in the mailbox. You are so grateful for all of your donors, but for people who make an exceptional commitment to your organization, think about how personal a first class or first class presort stamp will make your appeal feel to your donor when they receive it.

5. Use stories and anecdotes to demonstrate your impact

It’s tempting to use data and statistics to build a logical case for giving, and big numbers might get your audience’s attention. However, what really makes an impression is when you send a message that evokes an emotional response from your audience. It’s that emotional response that drives people to want to make a difference and support your organization.

Your story doesn’t need to share a life-or-death situation or portray exceptionally cute children or animals to be effective. It needs to show how your work makes a difference and, therefore, how the donor is a hero for supporting your organization. For a museum, perhaps the story describes a visitor’s experience at a special exhibit and the impact it had on her. Or for a public classical radio station, it might be the story of how your music has enriched the life of one of your volunteers.

Don’t miss this article for tips on effective storytelling:  Improve Your Fundraising Through Storytelling

Keep in mind, when you considering making changes to your program, it’s critical to let the results data lead your decisions. It’s good to try new things, but it’s GREAT to make decisions based on the data.

If you’d like help taking your program from good to GREAT, contact Debbie Merlino.

About the Author:
Brett Jones
Vice President of Client Management, Agency Services

Role at the Company

I lead the Agency Services Client Management team. I challenge the team to continually improve our strategy, creative and service, and develop new ideas, so we can provide better solutions and outcomes to our clients.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I love fundraising! In my career I have had the chance to work with many different organizations that are doing incredible work and really making a difference. I enjoy helping them meet and exceed their goals so they can advance their missions. 

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

I have always wanted to work with non-profits and love fundraising. It’s my way of contributing to the greater good. I can’t imagine what else I would do!

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

I love reading, ice skating, and going to the beach in the summer, but most of I love spending time with my daughter.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Brett is my middle name. I’m actually Sara Brett. But don’t call me Sara if you want me to answer!

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

I remember the first time I rode a bike without training wheels. I was so proud of myself. I was so excited to visit my neighborhood friends by myself.

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