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  • Writer's pictureJill Collins

Don’t Be Shy with Your Nonprofit Marketing Efforts

Urban legends are simply for storytelling

I’ve heard it takes a few weeks for some donors to forget they have made a gift to a nonprofit organization. Now, this could be an urban legend. Personally I know I don’t forget, but I certainly don’t count the days or dollars, either.

Not an urban legend: I once did work for a nonprofit organization whose strategy was to market to non-donors 100% of the time via direct mail. As in, folks who have NEVER given to the organization.

Asking for Money Doesn’t Turn Donors Off

Conversely, this organization decided NOT to mail the valued donors who had given at least one gift that fiscal year, no matter the dollar amount. When I asked why, I was told that was their promise to the donors, so as not to turn them “off.”

I couldn’t find this “promise” anywhere in writing or otherwise. So this probably was an organizational urban legend—a great story with no happy (revenue) ending.

When I suggested they were going about their marketing approach in exactly the opposite manner of a successful direct mail campaign—nonprofit or not—they listened. But skeptically.

Data Doesn’t Lie

I conducted a thorough analysis of the organization’s last two years of direct mail data from its Raiser’s Edge donor database. I then presented it during a team meeting in which we discussed the nuances surrounding each ask.

After looking at the data—something they had never previously done—they developed an appetite to “risk” a different approach. Because they now could envision a different result.

My reputation was on the line for this mailing, and the President let me know it. As you can guess, asking those who had already given was an incredibly successful campaign.

My reputation was on the line for this mailing, and the President let me know it.

Although, I did have a tough time selling them on NOT asking those who have never given to the organization. They did finally acquiesce to mailing those folks only two times a year, down from four. The savings in postage and paper alone more than made up for those couple of low-dollar first-time donors.

The good news is that data never lies, and I so easily proved that year that givers give, while non-givers don’t give (as readily, or as much).

Don’t Be Shy

The moral of the story is not to be shy when asking those folks who already support your organization—whether it be with time, talent or treasure—for more. Either they will give more, or they will toss the mailer, delete the email or scroll through your social media posts.

It absolutely does not turn donors or non-donors off. The few times it does, they will simply ask to be removed from your list. And, when you do the math behind your Do No Solicit requests, again, the data doesn’t lie: It’s minuscule. Don’t run your fundraising team based on less than 1% of your respondents.

Don’t run your fundraising team based on less than 1% of your respondents.

Signing Off…

As always, the greatest thing you can do for your donors is thank them promptly and with the right messaging. Make them feel special.

And don’t be shy in asking them for their support again this year.

Jill Collins at j.comm marketing is a true professional who specializes in breathing new life into brands as a freelance or contract contributor. She is a proven and trusted partner when it comes to understanding an organization and its culture. Her talent lies in marrying a client’s wants and needs with logistics, both in marketing and with donor databases. Give Jill a shot. She won’t let you down.


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