Monday, June 16, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Kill Off the Old Gray Mare … Not Yet!

If we could all hop in a Time Machine and go back 110 years to 1904, we could observe a dynamic that is very similar to what fundraisers are facing today.

In 1904 there were these noisy, smelly contraptions rambling around the countryside and city streets. They were the earliest forms of what would later be known as automobiles. But back then, they were very rudimentary, and people called them “horseless” carriages.

Henry Ford’s breakthrough assembly line process that dramatically lowered automobile costs was still almost a decade away. But even then there were a few who saw the advantage of not being tethered to a horse to get around.

Right before everyone’s eyes was the future.

But did everyone rush home and sell their horses or, worse, kill the old gray mare?

Of course not!

In fact, most people who purchased one of these early automobiles probably still kept their horses for a while. Think about it . . . the transportation economy – other than railroads – was still built on real horsepower.

But the internal combustion engine was shifting the playing field. Every year, more people bought automobiles because the autos got better … a trend still seen today.

This meant that, over time, the demand for horses waned. Pretty soon livery stables, which were on every corner, became early gas stations.

What’s the connection as a fundraiser?

Today your annual revenue is still tethered to direct mail. Direct mail has been your engine to acquire new donors and bring in annual dollar revenue.

But now direct mail is in terminal decline.

Integrating or adding the new so-called online channels to a direct mail campaign not only doesn’t really move the needle in terms of lifting revenue over what the direct mail would deliver by itself, but it completely misses the transformational power of these new interactive online technologies.

If your direct mail appeals are still generating positive revenue, then keep them. Don’t kill off the old gray mare.

But for heavens sake, learn the lessons of history. When a transformational technology comes along, you don’t hitch your old horse to it; you keep your old gray mare going as long as she’s useful and then put her out to pasture. You focus your time, energy, and investment on the new technology.

Focus and invest in your future!


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1 comment:

  1. This was an excellent post and was very insightful.

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