What do you believe in? This is my manifesto for fundraising. Not all of you will subscribe to it. But it’s what I passionately believe in.
1. The question to ask is not : how can I get the most money out of donors? It is : how can I inspire people to champion our cause? You need to treat your donors like customers who will recommend you to others. Why? Simple you do not know who they know in this connected world. This is the new “sticky marketing”. The social capital they have between them and their network is always going to be greater than the social capital you will ever have between your cause and their network. Set them loose and watch the ripple effect they initiate from engaging their network on your behalf.
That means bombarding tactics just to extract every possible penny out of donors are out.
2. To empower people as advocates to spread your story you need to give them the tools to tell the story (at SolarAid we use a kerosene lamp and a solar light), the story of course (clear and simple), and finally permission. Your fundraising team is suddenly ten times bigger.
3. Have a goal or a mission worth achieving. What’s it all about? What does it add up to? What’s your BHAG*? Above all you need this from your leadership. How else are you going to get people to really care about your cause ? How can you get every sinew of your organisation focused on achieving the mission. You need supporters to get excited enough to engage their own network of contacts.
*Big Hairy Audacious Goal
3. Inspire and engage. Tactics to inspire and engage people become obvious e.g. events you can talk to supporters to in person, saying thank you really really well, getting your donors to see your work first hand. Interestingly these activities often wouldn’t stand up to the silo ROI mentality that would just ask ‘how much money will this activity raise?‘. You will soon see that it opens up all sorts of opportunities.
4. Be positive. To inspire people to champion your cause to others is different to getting a response. So in my manifesto I don’t subscribe to what some have labelled poverty porn : messaging and images that are chosen to induce pity and guilt. Sure they get a response (and no doubt better tested against one that is less needy) but they are chosen with the sole objective to extract the most money out of their targets. If your objective is to inspire and engage by definition you will need a different message – one that conveys the solution. “But that’s what fundraisers have to do !” I hear some cry – “it’s our duty to convey the need“. Yes but need doesn’t mean needy. And need can mean what your need money for and the change (with your support) that you will make. This can still be extremely powerful and emotional. If you take into account the ripple effect this approach has it will make more money – so by the same principle it’s my duty as a fundraiser to apply it.
5. Think holistic fundraising, where it all connects, ROI only makes sense when you look at the entire fundraising programme. Don’t isolate and judge different areas, such as events vs trust fundraising based solely on ROI. How they interface is where the real magic happens: how a volunteer helps secure a trust grant; how an existing donor actively recruits other donors; how a supporter from an event introduces a major donor to your cause. That’s not an excuse to do whatever you like and not be accountable for results. You still need to determine how your fundraising programme links up strategically and focus on those that reinforce each other.
6. Problems are engaging. Share your problems and listen to your supporters don’t hide them away. Some of your supporters will have relevant skills, and insights to problems that you can’t see. Recently in the course of a week I was given the building blocks for a PR strategy for getting solar lights sold as the ‘must have Christmas gift’ and an engagement plan for a major corporate – all from networking and engaging people interested in helping solve the problems we faced.
7. Its ok to fail. When we admit to failure that’s when the brain kicks in and has insights on how to crack the problem. So do not fear failure, embrace it. Do not brush failure under the carpet as then you will not have the insights that follow. Fail – learn – leap.
That is my manifesto. What’s yours? Of course you can stick to the traditional methods targeting donors, playing every trick to lift response rates and average gifts – cutting out anything that doesn’t deliver a direct return on investment. That has no space in my manifesto.
That’s ok – as with politics it’s your choice what to believe in.