Aryeh Zev Narrow, a Spring Valley, NY communications consultant, helps non-profits create powerful marketing and fundraising messages. You can learn more about non-profit marketing and fundraising messages on Aryeh Zev’s blog: The Spark.
Sometimes we can learn the principles of fundraising communication from the most unlikely places. Here’s a perfect example:
One hundred years ago, air travel was a bit more primitive. Planes were smaller and were powered with large propeller engines—noisy, rough, and slow. Engineers were constantly at work on these things; this year a larger engine, the next year a more aerodynamic propeller. Over the years prop planes became larger, faster and smoother. And then came the Germans.
At perhaps the worst possible moment in history, German science came up with an invention that transformed air travel forever: the jet engine. All of a sudden, air travel leaped ahead by magnitudes in speed, comfort and efficiency.
What differentiated the Germans and their advances from all the others around the world?
While other engineers were looking to make propeller engines better—tactical improvements—the Germans set out to make air travel better—a strategic improvement.
Sometimes we look out at our peers in the non-profit world and wonder why some of them seem to be whizzing past us… while others putter along. In the course of our day-to-day fundraising routines, it’s just way too easy to get caught up in our tactics and lose sight of our strategy. Look closely, and I’m sure you’ll find the biggest winners are the ones with the best strategy for connecting with donors.
For example: a mailing is a tactic, not a strategy. Same with ads, newsletters, viral videos, Facebook campaigns, and honoree dinners. Tactics are important; you need to think about them and pick the best ones you can. But don’t count on clever, popular or aggressive “tactics” to dig you out of the hole of a half-baked strategy.
A well-thought out strategy for finding prospects, converting them to donors, and keeping them engaged is worth zillions more than good tactics and “best practices.” And for a non-profit, the heart of your strategy is a powerful fundraising message.
Before you suggest at the next board meeting, “Let’s hold a raffle…,” “Let’s send a mailing…,” “Let’s publish a newsletter…” [tactics], spend some time on strategy first: “What can we (truthfully) say about our organization that will absolutely knock donors off their feet!?” Invariably, developing a resonant fundraising message means answering tough questions about the organization: what your goals are, who you serve, who your supporters are, and how well you can make the brand stick across everything the organization does. Perfect that message, and you will transform your organization —and ALL its tactics, old and new.
Picture via opensourceway