Too Many Cooks!

Too Many Cooks!
Date Published
Kathy Giles

Have you heard of the old saying, “Too many cooks can spoil the broth”? Well, the same goes for fundraising. When there are too many voices and priorities in the development of direct response strategies and messaging, the results can be spoiled.

Direct response fundraising follows a formula that includes data, messaging, and channel to develop strategies to generate results needed to propel an organization forward. When this recipe is disrupted by injecting differing opinions, the results can have real consequences.

You may have experienced something like this: your program director request is for more technical language, marketing would like more brand awareness, the CEO feels communications should follow a more business-like structure, and Board Members believe that direct mail is in the past and fundraising should move to be solely online.

These opinions interfere with achieving the end goal that a direct response program needs to deliver. However, all of this can be overcome by sharing the results, leading with strategy and providing lots of education (and some patience).

Show them the data!

Most people will have a better understanding when you show them the data. Share the planning process with anyone who might be questioning strategy. Outline the data used in the creation of the overall strategy. This will help provide understanding and hard facts to support the strategy choices made. This includes channels, audience selection, and copy.

Copy approval process… need I say more?

The copy approval process can be the most difficult because this is when people become vocal with their opinions. Many times, the edited version of a letter doesn’t look anything like it did at the outset. The P.S. has been removed, the word “you” has been replaced with “we,” and then there are the age-old questions: “Why are there so many asks and why does it keep repeating?”

Each department in an organization has its individual objectives as part of the mission. When different departments review fundraising copy, they are looking at it from their own perspective and what is important to them. The nuances that make up fundraising copy can be lost.

This is why having a formal copy review process can be very helpful.

  • Again, start with the data and the planning process. Lift the curtain and bring people in to better understand the strategy behind every decision made in direct response fundraising.
  • Develop a plan for who will review copy. But this should also include an understanding of what they are reviewing. Each department should ensure the accuracy of the story that is told, but the structure of the letter will be developed by the annual fund team. This plan may be that the full round of edits will only happen with the first draft, and the development department will be responsible for finalizing all copy. This will allow input from everyone but maintain control with the fundraising team.
  • If the CEO is the letter signer and therefore has the final review and approval, then you may need to have a one-on-one conversation to ensure that there is an understanding of how fundraising copy is developed. The data will support this conversation, and, most often, a little education can go a long way.

If you find that you have too many cooks, help educate them, so they have a better understanding of why you do the things you do. And set up a process for all copy review and approval. It can take time to get everyone involved on the same page, but it is necessary to make sure the direct response program is not affected. In the end, everyone involved – even you – will appreciate having an understating of expectations. And your results will appreciate it, too!

About the Author:

Kathy Giles, Account Director
Kathy has been developing direct response programs for nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. She has worked with a variety of organizations including healthcare, animal welfare, environmental, international relief, public media, science and space advocacy, as well as local, regional, national, and international organizations.

It is the bringing together of data and storytelling that is at the heart of fundraising and Kathy never loses sight of this. She began her career in advertising, through which she learned to love the creative process of message development. She tells the stories of each organization to the further relationships with donors and audiences. Having worked on database conversions and data structuring, she also has a strong understanding of data management and segmentation and understands that data is the center of every development program.

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