Five bad strategic and fundraising mistakes Charities need to avoid

As we all reflect on the year now closing and polish our aspirations for the second half of the year, we thought we could best contribute by suggesting some bad mistakes to avoid in the rest of the year.

Bad mistake #1 – Organising fundraising by method of solicitation rather than source of funds

For the fact that budgets are developed around fundraising cost-centres, it is all too easy to plan fundraising around methods of fundraising – trusts, companies, wealthy benefactors, telephone fundraising for direct debits, street fundraising for direct debits, direct mail for cash donations, direct mail for legacies, to name the main ones.

Doing this is a big mistake because of the very extensive cross-over between the various ways of giving or becoming involved that are available to any one donor.

Take a few examples: company directors can give via their company or individually and many do both. Wealthy benefactors often sit on trust boards ( sometimes a trust into which their wealth has been placed). Small, ad-hoc cash donors often make very good legacy prospects. Direct debit donors nearly all reach a time of life when direct debiting is no longer appropriate to their financial situation. Companies can often provide volunteers as part of their social responsibility commitment. Fundraising works much more effectively when it is built around the donor, not the various avenues available for contacting that donor.

It is about understanding the donor and establishing methods and timings of communication that are in line with that understanding.

So, to take a simple example, recruiting a donor by direct mail, thanking them by phone, informing them of direct debit opportunities, taking their email address and providing feedback by email and online, all makes more sense to the donor and offers better ROI to you.


Bad mistake #2 – Being too timid to ask again

Donors get a huge amount of emotional fulfilment through giving. So why shouldn’t they want to experience that fulfilment again fairly soon? Recency of giving is such a powerful indicator of the likelihood to give again that it makes no sense not to follow the logic and ask again quickly. There’s even a very successful form of direct mailing that asks for 2 cheques – one for now and one dated 2 weeks ahead, to save the cost of postage and paper of another request!


Bad mistake #3 – Not listening to what your data is telling you

If your direct mail has asked for gifts up to, say, £50, any donation more than this, that looks random (such as £80, £100, £125) is often a sign of a wealthy donor looking for guidance – usually for a much higher gift. At the other end of the scale, 50p stuck to a donation form is a sure sign of financial stress and a plea to give in another way – such as a legacy.

On the other hand, frequent gifts by cheque of £3 and £4 are not usually an invitation to ask the person to set up a direct debit – just a sign of age and financial limitation.


Bad mistake #4 – Sucking up to donors

Donors, as we’ve remarked above, get great emotional fulfilment from giving. But, in their mind, they’ve given to the end beneficiary or cause, not usually to an organisation. So when they get smarmy thank you (“…without your donation and your commitment we could not have…” ) from the fundraising department, they can be somewhat less grateful than you’d hoped.

You simply can’t love donors into giving you more. You can only convince them that their money is better spent with you. And that the picture they had in their mind at the time of making the donation has actually been fulfilled.


Bad mistake #5 – Using useless data in mailings

Why keep on using profiled, lifestyle, datapool and other poor data when so much good data is available… and all GDPR compliant? (email if you’re interested in this)

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Fundraising Ideas BlogFive bad strategic mistakes to avoid in the next 6 months