Worth Considering: How many donors to a dollar?

If you read the last tip, “Running ahead to stay in place,” you’ll remember that to just stay “even” between 2012 and 2013, you needed to raise at least 1.7 percent more, or \$17,000 for a \$1 million fundraising budget.

That leads me to ask…How many donors do you need to raise a dollar?

Less than one for \$1, I hope. How about for \$1,000? More than a few, I suspect.

To get a better handle on this requires a (small) bit of math. How many donors do you have that make gifts of less than \$1,000? Gifts at this level usually define your typical “annual fund” (operating expense) donors.

Let’s say you have 2500 donors who give less than \$1,000, and that the sum of their gifts is \$150,000. That means you need, on average 16 2/3 (let’s say 17) donors for every \$1,000 you raise. (2,500 donors/150,000 dollars = .0166 donors/1 dollar. For 1000 dollars, then 1000 dollars x .0166 = about 17 donors.)

Last time we established that just to keep up with the 2012 consumer price index of 1.7% you’ll need another \$2,250. At 17 donors per \$1,000, you’ll need about 38 more donors. (2250/1000 = 2.25.   2.25 x 17= about 38)

How many more prospects is that? If you have a total database of 10,000, then you have 1 donor (2500 donors) for every 3 non-donors (7,500 non-donors/prospects) in your database, which means you need 114 (38 x 3) new names to get 38 more gifts. However, since new donors tend to give less than established donors, then maybe you should increase that ratio to 1:4 and look at adding 150 new names.

That may seem like a lot, but knowing how many more donors and prospects you need, instead of just dollars, means you can take some meaningful steps. It could mean renting lists, increasing the number of people at your event, adding new clients or their families. Since there are about 250 working days in a year – that means all you need to do is add a new name about every two days to your database. (Yeah, I know, sounds easy…!)

So how do you stay “even”? Get more… more donors! Build your list each day.

Worth Considering: Make the list, work the list

How’s your list, these days? Is it clean and comprehensive or dirty and dead?

Know this: For all of the great letters you send (and maybe I write for you?), if your list is a-rife with bad addresses and names of people who just don’t care about what you do, whatever we say is worthless. Like a list broker friend would say… “It’s all about the list.” As a writer, I reluctantly agree (but don’t tell her that!)

If you’re sending paper mail, the first thing to do is an NCOA (National Change of Address: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Change_Of_Address) review. If it’s email, there are a nice handful of email validation programs that will tell you if an address is even good or not. Both of these steps are good, but really don’t get to where the money is… whether anyone who gets your mail even cares.

This is a lot harder to decide, and has a lot to do with how you accumulated your names. Are they former clients (alumni/patients) or family (grandparents/parents)? Then at least they know you and have experienced your great work. Are they recommended by board members or close friends? Super – and remind your new prospect how you got his or her name. If they attended an event, that’s good, they heard your message from you directly, and may have fallen in love with your cause. However you got the names on your list, they need to care about you… and you can’t force that, regardless of how worthy you are.

So get to know why people are on your list. Ask them why they’re there, and how you can get more like ’em. Because having a list is only the start… you need to work the list!

Worth Considering: Does your Need take a vacation?

It’s summer. The breeze is warm, the pools are crowded and your client’s bellies are full, right?

You mean their bellies aren’t full? Wait, you mean to say that your need doesn’t go away in the summer?

Whether you’re feeding the hungry, fighting global warming, or fine-tuning a fitness program, chances are that your costs don’t go down (much) in the summer. You still have bills to pay and clients to serve.

Like it or not, your Need never takes a vacation.

Maybe because YOU need a vacation. A lot of fiscal years end on June 30. You’ve made the big push to meet goal. While that was happening, you didn’t make time to plan for solicitations. Besides, July 1 starts the new year, and your goals are 11 months away and you need a break.

I really get it… but your client’s won’t. They’re still hungry – if not for food, then for services… plus there’s everyone who want their paychecks, even in the long days of summer.

What to do? Keep on asking. My guess is that your competitors aren’t, which is all the better for you. Yes, you’ll get a vacation in there, too. That’s essential. But while you’re away, make sure that your copywriter is busy (I’m happy to help!) and your mail house is fully engaged. Because while you may need a vacation, your Need never does.

Worth Considering: Multi-channel marketing

Regardless of what you think of her, it’s clear to see that Martha Stewart has an aptitude for marketing. There’s the videos, the magazine, the web site, the books, the affiliations with retailers and more. Each leverages visibility for the other, increasing value – and advertising revenue – for all. Martha, beyond her status as the diva of decor, is the maven of “multi-channel marketing.”

What is multi-channel marketing? It’s using a variety of media to deliver one message – like e-mail, web site, paper, personal visits – just like Martha knows; each supports the other and enhances the value to all. The sum really is worth more than the whole.

This is particularly pertinent for two reasons. First, today more than any other time in history, the variety of media methods to deliver a message is exploding. One hundred years ago getting a letter was exciting, but “direct mail” as we know it really didn’t kick off until after World War II. Radio broadcasting was established by then, but I couldn’t tell you if any nonprofits used it. By the 1970’s telephone solicitation was unique and by the late 1980’s people dabbled in “fax campaigns,” but the next real leap didn’t happen until e-mail. Now social networking sites and podcasting are emerging as the next great communications tools for nonprofits.

Second, the problem with the explosion of communications media is that you don’t know which one – or two or three – is the best way to communicate with your constituents. Added to that is the fact that people learn and perceive information in different ways. When you just had mail, how we liked to get information wasn’t really important. Now with multiple media approaches, your audience can gravitate to the method s/he best picks up the information.

For better or worse, layered on top of all of this is the expense that comes with running different approaches. This is where Martha has a distinct advantage. My guess is that her budget’s a bit bigger than yours.

I’m not going to tell you which method you should use, but I am going to tell you that one, or even two, isn’t going to be effective on their own. And, more important than that, is that whichever you select, the messages need to coordinate. The topic on e-mail needs to relate to the podcast and get mentioned on your web site and your Facebook page with a plug in the phonathon script. Think of it as one big happy communications family.

Of course, I’m biased. In the thick of all of this is good copywriting that coordinates between each media type. That’s where I can come in to help. But regardless of whether you enlist me to do the work or you handle it in-house, coordinating between media types makes for an effective message.

Worth Considering… Ghosts in the shadows: Using ghost writers

Are you a “ghost writer”? A ghost writer authors an article, a letter, even a book or blog under someone else’s name. If you’ve written a letter for your boss to sign or a speech for a volunteer to give, you’re a ghost writer.

There are a lot of good reasons to use ghost writers – top among them, time.  Writing just takes time – and some people don’t have, or shouldn’t be spending their time writing when they could be doing what they’re paid (or volunteering) to do.

How about the president or executive director of your organization? Staff or volunteers “on the ground” who serve your clients? Maybe your development staff? For your organization’s survival, it’s essential that they “do their thing,” whether that’s finding money, working with children in need, or making strategic decisions about the organization. Penning a letter or a report can take them off task – which means less money or accomplishments for your organization.

As important as time, is message. Your boss or board chair may not have all of the details of your particular message right at their fingertips. You might know how many children were fed in your nutrition program, but your board chair doesn’t deal in that level of detail every day.

Maybe the least discussed reason, but the most valid and persuasive, is skill. Some people simply do not write well. Besides, if you’re not good at something, it takes even more time to get the task done! (When you stop avoiding it!) There’s no shame in not writing well.  Most writers I know don’t do well in front of donors, but we don’t berate them for it. Yet not being a competent writer has a stigma in our society. But ask yourself, are we paying this person for their writing expertise, or their ability to save children, lead the organization or raise millions of dollars?

Of course, I’m biased. Much of my work is ghost writing for people. My clients have good reason to engage my services. There’s no use tying up their time researching and writing when they could be doing what they’re skilled at, and paid to do best. I’ll lurk in the shadows, and be their “ghost.”