“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” ― Albert Einstein
I can’t remember where I heard it, but it’s a great aphorism. Be relentless about the goal, but flexible about the methods.
Another way to say it is: Be relentless about the what and the why. Be flexible about the how.
We walk around with these axioms in fundraising. Consider: “Always call to get the visit.” And “Always ask for money in person.”
Well, we’ve been presented with an opportunity to question these methods and how we do fundraising.
I did a webinar recently about Frontline Fundraising in a Virtual Environment and I shook things up by confessing that I *gasp* didn’t often call to get visits. Folks were very interested in this maverick idea. It’s not really that maverick. It’s efficient. I send individual, personalized emails to the donors I would like to meet with and let those responses come in for 24-48 hours or until I have a full schedule.
Of course, those emails are NOT graphics heavy, HTML promotional emails sent in bulk. They are personal notes from me to a specific donor. And if I have some donors who I need to meet with and I know that I don’t have an email for them or that they don’t check email often, I will call them. But, mostly my schedule fills right up without having to drudge through calling a list. I can put my energy and effort into fostering great conversations when I meet with them rather than on getting the visit.
And of course, the meaning of the word “visit” has changed drastically in just a few months. So many metrics systems for fundraisers see an in-person visit as the gold standard. Of course, that’s true that in person interactions cement relationships in a special way. But, if we believe that other communication methods don’t have the power to significantly move relationships forward in a meaningful way, we are fooling ourselves. Furthermore, we hamstring our own efforts in this new reality.
Even though many states are “re-opening”, the virus is still a real threat, especially to those over age 55. That’s an age group that comprises a mighty portion of our non-profit donors. In-person visits and events will not be a viable, “normal” option for a long time. A commitment to metric systems that reward in-person visits only will cause fundraisers to be frustrated and leave and campaigns to fail.
Zoom and other video-conference technologies is only a sliver less effective as an in-person visit. And nearly everyone is open to trying out this new way of connecting right now out of necessity. But, let’s be clear: phone calls are also meaningful too. Personalized video and virtual events are fast becoming highly useful tools in the connection toolkit too.
Anything that moves the relationship forward connecting the donor to mission is the goal. The goal is connection. Be relentless about the goal. The medium is the how. Be flexible about that how.
Generally speaking, fundraising is not considered a creative profession. I disagree. In fact, I feel maintaining a creative approach to methods is essential as we face new challenges in any profession. We must remain perpetually curious as to what works.
Let me know what you think in the comments. And subscribe to my FUNdraising Friday newsletter to keep the conversation going.
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.