Tired of the same old, same old fundraising?

A lot of fundraisers look at the messages they and others are sending out, and they just feel tired.

“Why is our fundraising like that?” they ask. “Why so old-fashioned? Why so much like last year and every year?”

I understand. Doing the same old thing year after year really does get old.

You know what I’m going to say next: We do the same old same old because it works.

But there’s more to it than that.

Look at this Christmas appeal from The Salvation Army.

Sameoldtsa

You can hardly imagine a more same-old same-old piece of direct mail. Yawn.

But I can guarantee you this boring piece of mail is tested every year. They’ll keep mailing it until something different does better.

Which will happen eventually.

But there’s something else going on that’s less visible. You can see it on the return envelope:

Tsare

What are those random little rectangles with colorful designs? They haven’t been there forever.

They are an innovation. They are there because they improved the package.

I don’t have specific knowledge about it, but I can guess the thought process. They knew the common truth that if you put live stamps on a return envelope, you boost response. But the cost of those stamps make the tactic profitable only for upper-end donors. Certainly not for acquisition mailings, which this piece is.

But some smart person asked a strange but smart question. “Would something that vaguely looks like stamps on the return envelope improve response?” I’ll bet someone else in the meeting said that was a silly question.

But they tested it.

And clearly, those little rectangles improved response!

That’s an innovation.

Not world-changing one. It probably makes a pretty small difference. But a measurable and statistically significant one.

So it’s a little thing. But they’ll keep testing little things. And big things, and the same-old will change.

Effective fundraising is always testing.

And we don’t change things just because we’re tired of them. We find out what works.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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