1 min Read
February 1, 2009

Listening to predict what donors want

Big Duck

With a tighter budget and no clear timeline for when things will improve, fundraisers and communicators are scrambling to prioritize and invest prudently. Much has already been written on this subject, but if you can’t stay on top of it all, we recommend the Agitator blog as a down-and-dirty way to follow fundraising data and trends. Direct mail guru Mal Warwick also recently released an interesting report called Fundraising in Tough Times, which plays out three possible scenarios for economic recovery, and then relates each to actions you can take in your direct mail efforts.

The nonprofits we Ducks work with are taking a few different approaches, depending on

  1. How strong their brands are.
    Those with weak visual identities and messaging platforms are shoring them up to make a more concise, articulate, competitive case.
  2. How strong their websites are.
    Those who can are investing in web 2.0, migrating away from printing too many materials and communicating more frequently at less cost via email, websites, and social media. This strategy helps when you have a strong brand in place, but can fail if the messages and visuals are scattered and inconsistent, or if your audiences aren’t interested in communicating with you through these tools.
  3. How current their direct marketing/individual donor fundraising programs are.
    Many large organizations with well-oiled direct mail machines are shifting away from traditional packages toward more segmented approaches with big online components. Integrated campaigns with social media, email, and other elements are becoming more standard, as they allow more communication with less expense, assuming your audiences are online.

Clearly, there’s no easy answer here, and certainly no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. In addition to scaling back on newer projects and overall belt-tightening, most organizations seem to be revisiting their core strengths and what makes them unique/different. What inspired your earliest supporters to give? What channels have always been tried and true? Where’s the low-hanging fruit? After the panic subsides, how prepared will your organization be for what’s coming next?

From a communications point of view, we Ducks believe it’s time to focus on the basics: strengthen your weakest areas, invest in the communications that offer the biggest bang for the buck, listen and talk to your most passionate supporters, and stay true to your mission as you weather the storm.