Fundraising --- a Respected Member of the Direct Marketing Industry

It is well known that successful fundraising direct marketing leaders have contributed much to the direct marketing industry. No industry depends more on advanced direct marketing strategies to fund their futures than nonprofits.

In an October 17 issue of FundRaising Magazine, Jeff Brooks wrote a thought-provoking article entitled “The Enlightened Path for fundraisers.”

He talks about how donors have changed. In the commercial world, we think of how customers have changed.

This blog shows how those donor changes apply similarly to commercial customers.

Brooks starts by making this declaration.

Donors are changing. They’re asking for more involvement with the charities they support. They need to know and feel their giving makes a difference. They want more information and more connection.”

In the same way, today’s customers depend on other customers for feedback and recommendations on products they are considering. They want to connect more with the companies they support with their purchases. Hence the tremendous growth of company sponsored blogs and forums.

As with donors, an organization’s most important customers want to connect with companies at the emotional level. Just consider the Apple computer brand. There is nothing more demonstrative of emotional attachment than the Mac fan.

The author continues his theme by elaborating on how nonprofits should respond to today’s changing donor base.

The Old Way: Nonprofits harvest gifts from donors.

The Enlightened Way: Nonprofits cultivate relationships with donors.
Think of donors as people you get to know, not just assets you own. Asking for gifts is just one reason to communicate with donors. You also can encourage them to talk back to you — about what they care about and how they want to be treated. You also should be reporting back to donors about the impact of their giving.”

Any business today thinking that they are done once the product is sold will not survive. CRM leaders understand the critical need to cultivate customer relationships with liberally applied warranties, proper customer service and genuine appreciation.

The Old Way: The development department does the fundraising.

The Enlightened Way: Everyone is responsible for fundraising.
 In most nonprofits, the program side (those responsible for carrying out the  organization’s mission) and the fundraising side (those responsible for  getting the money to pay for the  work) are completely separate. In  many cases, they don’t even speak the same language.”

How often have marketing bloggers, business schools and think tanks referred to the destructiveness of silo marketing? Though this criticism refers primarily to uncoordinated communications to customers and prospects, it also alludes to a lack of coordinated goals between divisions and departments.

Customer sales and customer satisfaction relies on the cohesion of the entire organization to support any successful effort. Speaking with one voice does not refer only to brand unity, but also to unity in corporate behaviors that develop long-term customers and customer advocates.

The Old Way: Nonprofits raise general funds and allocate according to their own needs and judgment.

The Enlightened Way: Donors fund projects and areas of their own choosing. Donors seem to be getting more specific all the time. They want to be able to see the difference they’re making. That’s why we need to give them choices about where their dollars go. That’s a tough order for nonprofits that rely on general donors for the operating dollars that keep them going. But more and more, donors demand choice, and they’re likely to avoid charities that can’t give it to them.”

Developing donor appeals that allocate funds into activities that most interest the donor reminds me of products that must be customized to customers’ special needs and requirements. More than ever, today’s technology allows more organizations to customize at the individual level. Digitized printing, for example, can now modify each printed piece delivered to recipients based on their individual needs.

Does this take more sophistication and costs to support? Yes, it does. But the trade off is a more competitive product that customers are often willing to pay more for to get.

What other things can we learn from fund raisers? I’d love to have your comments on this or any other part of this blog.

Posted on December 5, 2007 and filed under Direct Marketing Strategy, Fundraising.