What’s on your integrated development (marketing + fundraising) plan for the coming year?
- Major individual gift fundraising?
- Annual fundraising direct mail?
- Recurring gift fundraising and/or memberships?
- Foundation grant research, writing and reporting?
- Government grant research, writing and reporting?
- Business sponsorships?
- Legacy/planned giving fundraising?
- Capital/endowment campaign?
- Special events?
- A blog?
- An e-newsletter?
- A hard-copy newsletter?
- An annual report?
- Social media awareness building?
- Social or peer fundraising?
- Free media?
- Board and/or committee development?
- Volunteer development?
These are among the myriad strategic choices you have when thinking about your goals, determining your objectives and laying out the strategies that will help you get what you need.
The first step, however, is to think seriously about what your real life and death needs are.
What’s Your Oxygen?
Is your nonprofit on life support? Or are you healthy as an ox?
Most nonprofits are somewhere in between.
Take time to reflect on where you are, and what you need to stay that way or improve.
Only then will you be able to (1) put strategies in rank order, (2) assign a percentage of time you intend to devote to each, and (3) drop those for which you’ll have no time or talent off your work plan. Because if they stay on your plan, sure as shootin’ they’ll end up taking up time you don’t have and distracting from things that truly must get done.
Run out of chocolate, and that’s a shame. Run out of oxygen and you’re doomed.
Sometimes, we overdo our reliance on chocolate. It’s better in small doses–too much and it loses its magic. And sometimes we confuse the thing we want with the thing we need…
If your day or your project or your organization focuses too much on finding the next piece of chocolate, you might forget to focus on the oxygen you actually need.
— Seth Godin
What’s Your Chocolate?
Is it fundraising galas? An army will need to work on this for most of the year, but people love it…
Is it community events? This is a great way to reach out to Millennials… young families…
Is it emerging social media strategies? Gotta get on Insta and Snapchat…
Is it selling scrip or asking folks to patronize certain web portals that give you pennies on your donor’s dollar? This will be a great way for folks to give without even thinking about it…
Is it mailing mindlessly to an outdated in-house list with folks who haven’t responded to your calls to action in five years, or more? If they’re on the list, they must be good prospects…
Trust me, I know how easy it is to fall into the chocolate trap.
Full Confession of My Mistake: I love to shop craft fairs. They’re my chocolate. So one year I began asking designers if they’d donate items to the social services agency I worked for. It was exciting; they all gave me items valued over $100! I teamed up with my technology-savvy staff to build an online auction platform (before you could buy them off the shelf) to create “Shop in the Name of Love.” Every month we listed a couple dozen crafty items, plus donated gift certificates for travel and dining. We ‘made’ about $2,000/month and I fooled myself into thinking this was a great add-on and way to bring in new donors.
But… the reality was different:
- We put in hours of time to inventory, write up, photograph, respond to questions, package and mail the items.
- We spent more resources promoting the auctions (beautiful post cards I could show to potential donors to make the endeavor look classy and legit; plus we left them in boutiques around town).
- At least four different staff (me, the digital guy, the photographer, the writer, the marketing project manager) had to divert time away from other more cost-effective strategies to put in time on this initiative.
- The auction buyers did not generally convert to donors.
- I didn’t let go of my chocolate easily; we continued for a year!
I know it’s hard, but I urge you not to make my mistake.
Identify Your Biggest Problems; Fix Those First
Stop shoving the least cost-effective strategies to the top of your list and dropping the most cost-effective ones to the bottom.
If you’re curious what gives most nonprofits the biggest net/net bang for their buck, take a look at this chart from ‘cost of fundraising’ pioneer and guru James Greenfield:
How does this cost/benefit analysis line up with your strategic development plan for the coming year?
And how likely is it your strategic plan will help you meet your biggest needs and address your biggest problems?
TIPS: Things to Ask Yourself:
- What are your biggest resource needs (e.g., more money; skilled staff; infrastructure; leadership; other)? If you lack budget, technology, staffing, training or any of the other pre-conditions to success, you’re dead in the water before you begin.
- Do you need more new donors? Is your donor base growing, or are you stuck? Are you losing as many, or more, donors than you acquire? Set yourself up to win by building your mailing lists.
- What’s your donor retention rate? If you don’t know how you’re doing, it’s difficult to improve. Donor attrition is a silent killer. Make some noise and prioritize building donor love and loyalty.
- What’s your donor upgrade/downgrade rate? You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
- Do you need to meet more face-to-face and get up close and personal with donors who could make transformative major gifts?
- Do you need to develop more sources of sustainable income (e.g., renewable individual giving pipeline; endowment income; earned income)?
- Do you need more committed volunteers? Are you trying to do everything yourself, without support from your board, committee volunteers, direct service volunteers and even donors who could help you as ambassadors, advocates and askers?
- Are you focusing on what really will matter in the long run, or getting sidetracked by things that are easier to do? Or are the loudest voices drowning out your voice (and common sense)? Where is your leadership?
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
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It’s a little bit of an investment, but what’s a quarter a day in the big scheme of things if it will make you a nonprofit fundraising and marketing Super Star — and it will!
Put yourself, and your nonprofit, on the road to success today.
I hope you’ll join me on the pathway to passionate philanthropy.
I’ve got your back.