Friday, September 25, 2009

The Fall of Fundraising

I may be the only non profit marketer who is thinking this right now, but I think fall is a horrible time to do fundraising. To be more clear, rather I think it's a horrible idea to wait until fall to do fundraising. In fact, I think it's downright wasteful, irresponsible, and fails to appreciate the relational aspects of generating support for an organization.

As marketers, we know that it would be silly of us to be quiet for nine months of the year and then try to make all our annual sales quota in the last three months. We also know that in order to get consumers to buy our products or services, we need to constantly remind them of our value, our uniqueness, and the big damn difference we can make in their lives or businesses.

But since it's fundraising, let's ignore the simple laws of relationships and marketing and postpone everything until the last minute; 'cause that is the way we've always done it, right?!?!

Don't get me wrong, there's a good reason for our current practice in that many giving organizations will begin evaluating their budgets and see what they have left in terms of dollars to spend. Some may even be looking for some tax benefits. And still others are preparing for the following year so it makes sense to get on their radar screen now. BUT, way too many non profit marketers try to do ALL parts of their fundraising in these last three months. Again, not a good idea.

I will freely admit that I am not an expert in fundraising. Yes, I've generated monies for the organizations I've been involved in, but not to the extent that professional development people have. But I am an expert marketer and I do understand human nature -- and one key element to keep in mind is that fundraising begins at the moment your organization is first introduced to someone and continues until either you close your doors or that person's will is finally executed. Fundraising is a way of being, a way of communicating, a golden thread that must be woven through every communication and interaction with your community. This is not to say that you're always asking for money. On the contrary, what it means is that you're always giving your community reasons for them to see the value in supporting your mission.

Perhaps this fall, as you begin writing your annual ask letter and start your push through the end of 2009, you'll also begin a parallel path of looking at how you can retool your organization's interactions and communications with your community to create reasons for funding, create opportunities to demonstrate value, and communicate your big damn difference in such a way that people come to you with open wallets before you even ask them.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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