Sunday, March 4, 2007

Dare Devils Master Fundamentals

Think about dare devils for a minute...freestyle skiiers, hang gliders, bungee jumpers, motorcycle stuntmen, trapeze artists. They take risks every day to amaze their audiences. They live on the edge. They try new things in innovative and dangerous ways. Their skills are so finely honed that they have the ability to take their sport to an entirely new level.

What you may not realize is that these dare devils are also master tacticians. They are pros at the fundamentals of their sport. Those fundamentals are the building blocks that allow them to excel at trying new things and taking new risks.

Creative fundraisers need to remember to practice the fundamentals. Utilizing broadband technology to deliver compelling fundraising campaigns via email are exciting new ventures for many fundraisers. It is fun and exciting to try new things and the initial response is generally positive. Additional fundraising appeals are emailed to donors but after the novelty wears off, development officers frequently see diminishing returns.

Here's why:

Raising money over the internet is new, fresh and allows you to share an engaging, interactive message. However, if done over and over again, it loses effectiveness because the novelty is gone. Donors will simply begin to ignore your messages if they think you are only asking for money. If you neglect the fundamentals of cultivation and stewardship, the results become neglible over time. Internet fundraising is no different than traditional fundraising. In a face to face visit, you don't ask for a donation in the first 90 seconds of meeting someone. You should not do that via email, either.

In launching an e-fundraising strategy, consider the basics of fundraising. You need to cultivate your prospects by sharing your story, explaining the mission and importance of your programs, enticing prospective donors about the value of their support, and providing the education about your needs. There are a myriad of ways to do that electronically and to build your case for support. Create a series of educational messages. Share testimonials from others. Show through video who is benefitting and how. Establish a relationship.

Then ask for a gift. Let the appeal come after you have successfully measured who has opened and read your cultivation messages. Look for those who have forwarded the piece on to others. Study the behavior of the prospects over a designated period of time. Target your appeal to their interests.

And then say thank you. Say thank you in as many ways as possible. You can do all kinds of electronic stewardship pieces, such as birthday greetings or holiday touch emails. But don't overlook the power of a hand-written note or a simple phone call to say thank you.

Mastering fundraising fundamentals is the root to your success. By all means, use innovative methods. Take risks. Try something new. Do not, however, fail to recognize that your risks will be far more effective if you use solid fundraising practices during the process. Take a leap of faith and start an electronic fundraising campaign. But remember to educate your donors first to engage them in your mission...and above all, say "Thank You" for their support.

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