Posted by danosky | Posted in The Philanthropy Therapist | Posted on 20-04-2011
Some years ago I attended a non-profit marketing conference. While most of the conference has faded from memory … there was a statement made by one presenter I will never forget, “Raising funds – that’s for the development folks – the ones with the magic wands. Give them all the support you can.” While I loved the sentiment … I am concerned about that magic wand thing. No development person I know has ever possessed a magic wand. In fact, development is just work. The best development folks just make it look effortless and so maybe it seems a bit like magic. I’m here to tell you the truth. It’s work!
For example, you may think if build a good website; they will come. The reality is that hardly anyone will visit your website unless you update it frequently, making it interesting and worthwhile for people to visit. Social media and networking? For anyone who is serious about Facebook – that’s work (and time-consuming if you are going to make it worthwhile.) You can’t simply start a Facebook page and hope people will see it. uTube? How many funny videos do people have to post before one catches on? Getting a blog out? Now I happen to love to write – but still it is still work to try to get something out every week, not to mention the angst over what I will say. Writing grants = work. Preparing for an event = lots and lots of work. A capital campaign = mega work.
Of all the work you can do in a development office, here is the one thing I know for sure. Developing good lists is the most important work you can do. Now, doesn’t that sound like it should be simple? If only. For anyone who has ever tried to develop a good event list, major donor list, campaign list, etc. – you know exactly what I mean. List development is hard, tedious and frustrating. It is, however, the one thing that produces the greatest payoff. Without a good list – there is no way to generate revenue.
Technology can sometimes serve as a crutch and an impediment to preparing a good list, unless you understand how to use it effectively. For example, if you want to develop a list of your major donors, the tendency will be to run and generate a list of your top 100 donors. Good place to start … but what if your number one donor just recently made a $25 memorial gift? He or she will not show up on your top 100 list! Honest. How about a list of your 100 most loyal donors? Well, let’s look at all those donors who have given consecutively for the past 10 years! Great – except for the person, who made two gifts in one year, and then skipped a year. Do you want to look at past event donors? What about your membership – have you included those folks, or did you skip them? (You’d be surprised)
Real list development takes time, research, and a great deal of cross-referencing. It means conferencing with your Board, committee, other staff. It requires you to understand why someone should be on that list and as much information as you can gather. There is no way you can wave a magic wand. Wish there were. The only way is to hunker down and do the work.