Two Questions to Ask to Boost Your Fundraising Efforts

Eric_Nielsen_HeadshotReprinted with permission, copyright December 2014, courtesy ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, Washington, DC.

Summary: When it comes to fundraising, of course, targeting your ask to the right audience is fundamentally important. But so is an old-school technique: Telling your potential donors why your association deserves their money.

Imagine for a moment you are on a remote island—no cell phone, no internet, and no mailbox—for one week. Think of all the emails and direct mail letters that would await you upon your return.

This fantasy isn’t too far-fetched when it comes to prospective donors. While they may not be on a remote island, they certainly aren’t focused on fundraising emails while on vacation or at work, and the easiest thing for them to do with their “junk mail” when they return home is to throw it right in the garbage. For those who do sit down and review emails and direct-mail letters, they’re likely to be confused: Many soliciting organizations and associations will appear, at least to them, to do the same exact thing when it comes to fundraising.

And since donors are more likely to either give to the solicitation they read first or simply give to none, competition for a limited amount of dollars is at an all-time high, and this trend isn’t going to reverse itself soon. That’s why we, as direct marketers, place great focus on the analytical side of things: how to target exactly the right audience. Some of us do it better than others, but we’re all doing it.

Yet, in focusing on the analytics, we’ve forgotten the basics. We’ve become so single-mindedly focused on numbers that we’ve forgotten that words matter and that old-school marketing matters. So, let’s get back to basics. Here’s a novel idea I urge you to try: Tell your prospective donors why your organization deserves their money.

In other words, tell them why their $25 will mean more if they send it to you rather than another organization that fills a similar space. But how? Ask yourself two specific questions to make this message clear for both you and the prospective donor. Then, keep the answers at the forefront of your messaging. It will make a world of difference, as well as develop a strong brand for your organization and make it easier to bring in prospective donors.

1. What is your organization’s opportunity or “hole in the marketplace?”

Let’s use the example of a hospital. All hospitals exist to make people better, and many focus on research and innovation to raise money through direct marketing. That’s great, but what is that “hole in the marketplace” your hospital uniquely occupies?

Does your hospital focus on a particular type of cancer or disease more than others? If so, make this distinction clear. Did your hospital develop a groundbreaking treatment or cure for this cancer or disease? Then tell that to your prospective donor.

Ultimately, you need to convey something about your hospital that no other hospital can say or do—or do as well. Once you’ve done that, you’ve found your hospital’s opportunity or hole in the marketplace. Then, drive home your hole in the marketplace, repeating it over and over in your messaging.

2. What makes your organization different than the rest?

What if you’re tasked with bringing in donors to join your association in the fight against climate change? You’re far from alone in this mission. Hundreds of marketers are doing the same exact thing right now.
This fact underscores why differentiating your organization is so important. Ask yourself: Is your organization the oldest in this field? Is it the most effective from a legislative standpoint? Does it have the largest membership? Is it led by a prominent figure who other organizations would only dream of having at the helm?

Also, does joining or supporting your organization carry with it any specific benefits for the donor or member? If it does, make sure these benefits are clearly stated. If they are intangible, then point out the specific strengths of your organization, because giving to an effective organization is a benefit in itself.

Now What?

Obtaining answers to these two questions will be more difficult for some organizations than others. Yet, there is a simple truth: If you can’t answer both questions in a way that’s different from other organizations, then your organization likely doesn’t have a good reason to exist. Others are doing it better.

So, before you sit down to prepare your next prospecting campaign, enter your next brainstorming session, or talk to a potential client about leading its direct-marketing efforts, you should pose the two all-important questions above. Knowing and leveraging the answers will make your job—and your acquisition program—exponentially more effective.

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