In recent months, I’ve been developing a new perspective on fundraising, born of the increasing frustration I’ve felt trying to understand today’s fundraising environment through the lens of yesterday’s truths. Below is the fourth part of a long article I’ve drafted to begin laying out my new approach. Please let me know what you think.
Now let’s turn to the second of my four guidelines or principles: Information. Don’t forget the distinction I drew between data and information. It may have been a little unorthodox, as definitions go, but it works for fundraising. When you’re informing your donors, you’ve got to make sure what you’re telling them is interesting to them. That means you don’t send newsletters about staff comings and goings . . . about how the Executive Director got a big honor . . . or statistics about how many people you’ve served. Far too often, articles like that appear in nonprofit newsletters—and they’re boring to donors. You’ve got to answer their questions, not yours.
OK, so let’s take a look now at each of the four broad varieties of information that may be interesting to your donors: results, institutional, financial, and personal information.
What I’m trying to tell you is that your donors don’t want propaganda. They get enough of that every day from commercial marketers. They want to know what’s really going on. And if you level with them—really level with them—your relationships with them will get stronger and stronger.
If you listen to the self-appointed charity watchdogs, you’d probably think that all donors really want from you in the way of information are financial reports. These are the people whose obsession with “fundraising costs” has poisoned the well for all U.S. nonprofits by persuading the public how the only thing that matters about an organization’s operations is what percentage it spends on raising money. In fact, if I had the time, I could easily show you how this percentage is almost always both irrelevant and misleading.
Of course, some donors clearly do care about this stuff (even if they didn’t know it before they were told they should). And some care about other financial matters, such as your Chief Executive’s salary. So the easier you make it for them to access that information, the better. This means not just filling out government forms, but publishing clear, easily understandable financial reports and making them available to anyone who asks.
To do a really good job of fundraising, you’ve got to have this information at your fingertips—or at least be prepared to provide it within a day or so. You’ll do an even better job if you make it easier for the donors themselves to review the same information, ideally by giving them direct access online or sending them an annual summary like the one on the screen below.
|Mr. Warwick, your contributions in 2009 totaled $265.|
|10 January||$50||Membership Renewal|
|23 April||$100||Media Campaign|
|9 September||$50||Lobby Day|
|12 December||$65||Year-End Appeal|
Thank you for your continuing support as a member of the Director’s Circle!
Check out Mal Warwick at http://malwarwicknews.com.