Forty Fundraising Facts and Fallacies

Forty Fundraising Facts and Fallacies - June 2002

Please excuse the alliteration, but the temptation was too strong to take advantage of the fact that in May 2002 I celebrated 40 years in fundraising. So I hope you will indulge me a little as I set down some of the truths and misconceptions that I have encountered through the years. First, seven of the most common fallacies:

1. If we hire a fundraiser, everyone else in the organisation can abdicate from the task and the money will roll in.
2. A good fundraiser doesn't need a salary, a budget, an office, a computer or a phone - they'll go out and raise it all themselves.
3. Commission or percentage of fundraising costs less and gives us a stable long term income.
4. Anything we can get for free (advertisements, design, print, advice) is always worth it.
5. Facts and figures, rather than emotion, will get the attention of donors and make them reach for their cheque books.
6. To raise money all we really need is a really good brochure.
7. If everyone in the constituency gave just $10, we could raise all the money we need.
8. And the facts as I have experienced them: In order to raise money you have to ask.
9. In capital and major gifts fundraising, who asks is often more important than what you are asking for.
10. Most people are afraid to ask and need coaching and encouragement.
11. The donor's needs are usually important than your organisation's needs. (so listen).
12. For the best chance of success, always ask for the big gift face-to-face (the telephone while better than mail, is a distant second to personal approaches when asking for a major contribution).
13. Often a team of two, consisting of an influential volunteer and a representative of the organisation, is the best approach when visiting major gift prospects.
14. The people doing the asking should really have made their own gift to the campaign.
15. Once you have asked for a specific 'hoped for' amount, don't say another word until your prospective donor responds - and even then, don't be tempted to downgrade the ask amount if the answer is not immediately positive.
16. Knowing your prospective donor's giving history and criteria will always enhance your chances of success.
17. When a prospective donors asks for time to consider your proposal, always set a date for the follow up appointment.
18. Prompt, warm and sincere thanking is the first step to the next gift.
19. A reply envelope with a gentle ask "Please keep this for the next time you are moved to help our cause", inserted in every thank you letter, will increase your annual income significantly.
20. Some donors require tangible recognition for large gifts, whilst others prefer to be privately thanked and remembered.
21. Corporates, Trusts and Foundations rightfully expect and require regular, comprehensive reporting on progress of the projects which they fund.
22. Individual donors, too, should receive regular newsletters showing them how their money is spent.
23. Newsletters will always cover their costs and create additional income if they are accompanied by a donation coupon / envelope with a 'soft ask'.
24. If your newsletter shows a profit of more than 100% of its cost, you are probably mailing too few appeals a year. Add one more and see your income soar.
25. Properly encouraged, between 7-14% of your donor file can be converted to monthly / regular giving programs.
26. Monthly giving should be thanked / updated 2-3 times a year in addition to other appeal communications, such as a Christmas card.
27. If you listen to, act upon, a handful of complaints when you are mailing thousands of letters you will ultimately destroy your program. Many organisations make the mistake of listening to the 5 that complain and not the 500 who give.
28. Every complaint should be courteously acknowledged and those that complain can often be turned around with a phone call.
29. Donors of above average amounts should receive special attention in the form of additional thankyous and phone communication.
30. Donation forms which are pre-addressed will always attract a higher response and have legible addresses when they are returned.
31. Include a mention of bequests in every mailing, i.e. tick box.
32. Special events should always make a profit. Increased awareness of your cause is an insufficient benefit for all the hard work of your staff and volunteers.
33. Always obtain names, addresses, email or attendees to such events.
34. Cut the number of events for your organisation if you are not making money.
35. Membership is usually a trap that locks people who could give much more into a fixed annual amount (which often doesn't increase with inflation.)
36. If your board members are not providing at least one, and preferably all three of the W's - Work, Wealth and Wisdom - they don't belong on your board.
37. The most common reason that most Board members and influential don't give is they never have been asked.
38. New Board members deserve a full orientation of your premises, your people, your work, together with a clear indication of what is expected of them.
39. Research has proved that a serif type face for body copy (such as the one used in this column) is easier to read and enhances comprehension (rather than a sans serif, like these few words).
40. The right mailing list is the most important factor that is likely to improve your donor acquisition response in Direct Mail fundraising.