There are many innocent assumptions that folks outside the nonprofit fundraising community might make about fundraising that become egregious mistakes when made by direct response fundraising professionals.
What is surprising is how often the pros make them. Here are just a few that make me wince:
- “This appeal doesn’t come from the events side, it comes from the development side. It’s a completely different thing.”
Think donors bother differentiating among voices, messages and offers coming from a single organization? Think again. It’s one organization, with one persona.
- “I would hate to get this in the mail.”
Unless you are the precise statistical equivalent of the typical donor, your personal tastes and reactions are irrelevant.
- “The first mailing explained the program. The follow-up doesn’t have to.”
This assumes the first effort was even read, much less absorbed and retained. To paraphrase Dale Carnegie: Tell them what you are going to ask them. Then ask them. Then tell them what you asked them. From component to component and campaign to campaign.
- “It doesn’t matter that all the variables are different. It’s a creative test.”
So then, what will we learn if it is a success? Or a failure, for that matter? Although throwing entirely new creative treatments into a test mix may be tempting, some variables in the campaign must be controlled to understand what happened. Segment, offer, signer, ask? They can’t all be variable.
- “Our average donor is a 70 years old and female. She doesn’t use (the computer) (email) (the internet) (a smart phone).” Don’t mistake unwillingness to provide credit card information online with proficiency in the digital world. Statistics confirm that seniors do engage in digital technology and communication. Digital media may occupy different places in their lives, however.
- “Direct mail is a dying medium.”
The role of direct mail is a changing, no doubt. But for the time being it still carries the disproportionate load of charitable transactions, and will continue to do so, albeit on a decreasing slope, until the youngest segments of Boomers (now in their late 40s) enter their prime giving years (60-80). See the excellent infographic from Blackbaud.
- “You can’t raise money with social media, so don’t bother testing.”
It’s true, currently, that social media has not met with much real fundraising success. At least no one has yet to figure it out. But that could be because the population of social users for whom social media is most relevant is also the population with the least current means and propensity to give — donors under the age of 40. Wait until they accrue some wealth, raise their kids, and become able to start giving regularly. In the meantime, social is still an effective communication and engagement medium. Bottom line: we need to keep testing.
What have you heard within the industry that makes you wince just a little bit?