The classic cry of the binge fundraiser is “Oops… gifts are slow to come in. I guess I’d better send out a mailing.”
If you find yourself in the middle of a quiet spell, thinking that a few actions, a couple of phone calls and a mailing here and there will get things moving again, you need to rethink your strategy.
Reactive or Proactive?
The most successful programs maintain a consistent marketing approach. Those who try “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” get very little results and essentially are creating a reactive campaign that’s unorganized and difficult to maintain. Result? Sure, you’ll close a gift or two, but you’re jeopardizing the inherent goal of maintaining a steady stream of income, thus missing out on the long-term benefits of a smooth, strategic and stable ride. This relates to annual giving, major and planned gifts.
Binge marketing describes a behavior we see often, particularly in the small to medium size shop. Even some larger non-profits are guilty of it. Effective philanthropic marketing is not an activity to do in fits and starts when you have time — it should be ongoing. Think of marketing as an engine — it needs to be ticking over steadily at all times. A quiet spell now frequently indicates a lack of marketing a year ago. It’s amazing how often we hear “I wish we had pursued bequests more aggressively a few years ago. Our endowment would be much larger.”
Binge Marketing is Like the American Diet.
Binge marketing can work, but often it does not, or leads to downturns and quiet spells. Regular planned giving marketing may not make you totally immune to an occasional lull — there are other explanations for a quiet spell or two — but it will certainly increase your flow of business opportunities today and in the future.
That’s not to say there won’t be occasions where a particular marketing activity needs to take center stage. Perhaps you’ll want to launch a special direct marketing campaign to spotlight a particular planned gift opportunity, or use a series of advertisements to target a particular part of your audience — but these are tactical actions, not a strategy. Even the ice-bucket (ALS, our client) was a tactical strategy (albeit a very clever one).
It’s Not Rocket Science.
Let’s be really clear about this: basic marketing really is simple and anyone can do it (and yes, that includes you). But good marketing takes time, and it takes time to work. Frenetic actions done in a hurry usually come across that way, looking like an organization in panic. What’s worse is that you may think that the tumult is hidden under the surface, but a lack of composure can easily reveal itself in your prospect’s mind in more ways than one. Most people get tired of donating to organizations in crisis, and your appeal will simply not be attractive, not to mention be heard.
So unless you’re a disaster relief agency and there’s a hurricane on the horizon, work on developing a steady marketing effort. If you devise a program of consistent marketing actions and stick with it, cultivate it, you will reap a strong, regular and growing harvest of planned gifts.
Next time you find yourself confronting a lull, and contemplating a binge, try instead to translate your actions into a regular program of activity. Or, if you already have a regular program, consider how you might get the engine ticking over a little faster.
At our research-based marketing firm, we help you put together a worry-free marketing campaign — we’ll keep you on a proactive track, not a reactive one. We’ll set schedules, create and organize your mailings, develop and update your planned giving website and more. We have affordable services even for the smaller nonprofit. We do all the work while you focus on what you do best — raise money.
If you already have systems in place, and don’t need a full-service program, you can purchase our services a-la-carte.