I counted. I received 85 mail solicitations in 40 days. Six were from the same organization. Some I had already sent a check to, but they asked again, within days. I did write checks for about ten new requests, but not with anything remotely resembling a significant gift. I guessed that most organizations had spent at least $500 on their respective mail campaigns. Money well spent? I wondered.
This isn’t a slam on direct mail fundraising. I am equally blessed with phone and personal requests. The lessons are broader and deeper.
One is that fundraising is a highly competitive game and there is increasing pressure to cast a wide net for dollars. But you knew that already. The problem is how to get yourself picked out of that pile. What will make me want to choose you from any number of worthy causes? How are you different? And what will inspire me to make more than that “checkbook” donation? Are you leaving money on the table?
The answer: ask the right person for the right gift in the right way at the right time. Be clear and compelling about your mission, find like-minded individuals, understand what motivates them, and make a case for a partnership that will impact something you both care deeply about. And make it fun. That partnership can be one of the most satisfying experiences in your lives, donor and fundraiser alike.
Another piece of advice: raise your sights. Be realistic but bold. When I began fundraising at Harvard Business School, I was told to expect no more than a 25% success rate. I was told that historically (% giving, average gift size, total dollars). I challenged myself, our professional development team, and our volunteer fundraisers to do better. We did. (results)
Be smart. Be bold. Have fun. And remember the magic formula for individual fundraising success.