Smart Marketing vs. Chasing Windmills


“What if we just got 100,000 people to each give us a couple of bucks?”

“One percent response in new donor prospecting is terrible! We should accept nothing less than 99%.”

“Our donors are too old. We need to get younger donors.”

“What we really need to do is focus on major donor acquisition. (Who here knows Mark Zuckerberg?)”

If you work at the foundation of the donor pyramid (aka direct response fundraising), you’ve probably heard all this before. From a client, a Development Committee member, a boss.

They’re all saying the same thing:

We’re different from everyone else.

It’s a powerful thought. Nonprofits are like snowflakes. And if you’re too cynical to believe anything less of your own organization, then you’re likely to fail or, worse, be mediocre.

But even snowflakes are subject to the forces of gravity.

Will you ever achieve a 99% direct mail response rate? No. Will you ever have a donor file made up of 20 year olds? Probably not. (And are you sure you’d want that anyway?) Will Mark Zuckerberg ever become a major donor to your organization? I wouldn’t count on it.

But recognizing the realities of direct response fundraising doesn’t mean being a quitter. It means being a smart marketer. Good marketing is not about chasing the elusive majority who say no; it’s about what you build with the minority who say yes.


2 Comments on Smart Marketing vs. Chasing Windmills

  1. Rob says:

    I love the last statement. ‘Building’ with the minority doesn’t leave out aquiring new donors. As we build with them, they have have other friends that could also join in the minority who say yes.

  2. Moira says:

    Great point, Rob! Our friends can be wonderful ambassadors for our organizations and our issues, and they play a significant role in widening our circles. Thanks for sharing this important point and for reading!

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