Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Ah Oh

In just the last week I have been in a conversation where a person used the term “begging letter” to refer to an organization’s direct mail appeal, and another person in a Tweet referred to Public Radio fundraisers as “beg-a-thons.”

How deep and how wide are those sentiments?

To be sure, those thoughts would never cross the mind of my 84-year-old Mother in the way that she thinks about either direct mail appeals from organizations she supports or Public Radio telethons.

But how about you? How about me? How about your best friend? Different generations and different attitudes.

I don’t think the comments were meant to be snarky as much as mainstream descriptive of the way most people (including us) feel about the puzzling way nonprofit organizations choose to reach out and gain support.

Other than the Super Bowl or maybe the Olympics (though they are delayed broadcast), few of us watch shows on TV at their scheduled broadcast time. Typically we record them for playback later. Why? Well, a more convenient time to watch is probably #1, but being able to blast through the commercials is a close #2, if not co-#1.  

Forgetting the convenience factor for a second, why do we enjoy blasting through the commercials? Because they are an annoyance, right? Honestly, for those of you who listen to radio stations that take a whole week to interrupt their programming twice a year to raise money, is there anything more annoying? And even when you give – IT DOESN’T STOP!

So if there is some kind of societal shift underway where the idea of a cold mail appeal or interrupted programming for a telethon is evoking negatives in the minds of consumers (prospective supporters), then maybe it has gone mainstream. And if it has gone mainstream, then maybe it is time to re-think how to ask for support.

About now I suspect that some of you are starting to feel bad because you agree that most people don’t really want to receive your mail appeal. Excuse me for being blunt, but that kind of thinking is just stupid!

Ask yourself: Do I believe in what my organization is doing? I’m not talking about the fundraising methods you are using to raise money, but rather the cause, ministry, or mission of your organization.  

If so, then why would you feel bad about asking for the support your organization needs? That’s just silly.   

“And don’t forget Mike, it works.”

Yes, it HAS worked for years and, as I stated above, my Mother and her generation have absolutely no problem with the methods you have been using for 60+ years.

So how are you doing in generating younger donors, starting with the Baby Boomers?

Here’s another question: When you mail an appeal to a group of long-term donors, are they all engaged at the same level? I’m not talking dollar amounts, but emotional involvement.

What is their level of engagement? Clearly this is something you can measure. But the real question is, does it matter to you?

If it is important to you, then you can measure it. Name me a single nonprofit fundraising group that can’t tell you to the decimal point and to the penny what the last mail campaign results were. Or, exactly how much the annual dinner brought in and how much net revenue it generated.

Yet, with the exception of one group that I know of, I don’t know one other organization that is consistently measuring the level of engagement of their supporters.

Do you think it matters?

Does it matter to you as a supporter? Does it matter to you that they know you care?

And even if you did know the engagement level of every single one of your supporters, what would you do with that information?

In fact, CAN you do anything with that kind of information, considering your current methods of “doing” fundraising?  

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