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10 Fundraising Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix (Part 2)

By John Pearson

In my last blog I listed five of the 10 fundraising mistakes that are easy to fix.
Again, I’m not suggesting you put these on the board agenda (it’s staff work, not board work)—but from a board policy perspective, who owns the annual evaluation of your fundraising program?

Here are the other five mistakes:

MISTAKE #6: Asking major givers for minor gifts. One size doesn’t fit all. In fact, Mark Dillion believes most ministries have four distinct segments of donors. If so, each segment should be challenged to give at an appropriate, but differing level:
• The Gifted Giver (2-5% of givers)
• The Thoughtful Giver (15-25% of givers)
• The Casual Giver (35-50% of givers)
• The Reluctant Giver (perhaps 33% of givers)

MISTAKE #7: One-way communication. Think telephone, not megaphone. Ask your givers (here’s a thought!) why they give. It’s the third question in Peter Drucker’s classic five questions that every organization must ask: “What does our [donor] value?” Ask: What do you appreciate about our ministry? What would you change? What do you value about our donor appeals, newsletters, website, special events, etc.?

MISTAKE #8: “This is a return envelope!” Vince Lombardi, the celebrated coach of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, would start each season’s first practice session with this line “Gentlemen, this is a football!” Trust me, if Coach Lombardi was a fundraising consultant, he would begin each session with the four fundamentals that are often missing in direct mail pieces. Don’t let inexperienced staff (or board members) move you off the fundamentals:
1. The outer envelope (Interest me! My opinion: mailing labels cheapen the message.)
2. The letter (Inform and inspire me!)
3. The response device (Direct me! What do you want me to do?)
4. The return envelope (Make it easy for me. Even if I give online, maybe this time I won’t. Please give me a return envelope.)

MISTAKE #9: Short letter? Long letter? Wrong question! Roger Ebert, the movie critic, famously said, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” Ditto board meetings and donor letters. My wife reads every donor letter from one of her favorite organizations—because the letter is well-written, inspiring, interesting and packed with Kingdom impact. While focused on human crises, the letter never manipulates. She will frequently insist I read the letter. Most other letters (short or long) are tragically boring. Those have a short path: mailbox to waste basket.

MISTAKE #10: Ask. Ask. Ask. Ask. Ask. Hey! Take a breath and report back on how my gift helped introduce a person to eternity, or changed a marriage, or gave hope and healing in Jesus’ name. I understand you need more money—but I need more information. As I pray, discern and sort through competing requests, I always tilt toward the ministry that sees me as a partner, not a feedbag. Try this: Ask. Thank. Report. Inquire. Ask again.
 

QUESTION: When is the last time your board asked for an evaluation of your fundraising program and practices?

 

This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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