How Fundraising is Turning into “Fund Marketing”

This image - all by itself - makes the case for CharityWater.com.

This image – all by itself – makes the case for CharityWater.com.

Are you using the new marketing and communications tools to support your fundraising?

There’s now an amazing array of techniques, formats, strategies out there for us.

New and Innovative Tools

We have more ways than ever to tell our story, connect with our donors, keep them engaged with our cause, and ask for money!

Not only that, but we have hard data about what types of communications our donors respond to.

We know what makes a potential donor open an envelope or not. What makes her read an email newsletter, or not. Or want to give again, or not.

We know exactly:

  • What donors react to on web pages.
  • How to turn a newsletter from one that makes $1400 to one that makes $42,000.
  • What types of images and pictures work best.
  • How to design and lay out a direct mail appeal for max impact.
  • What fonts work best.
  • How to shape a call to action.

We know a lot more about messaging too these days. We know:

  • How to start off a direct mail appeal letter.
  • What to say on our website donation page, and what not to say.
  • How to frame an appeal for maximum impact on a donor.

We know that “real words” are more engaging than “jargon.”  Why say “impact our programs” when you can say “help children learn to read?”

What do all these strategies and tactics have in common?

These strategies merge the “fundraising” function and the “marketing/communications” function.

Every day, fundraisers worry about which message to choose; how to shape the message, what words to use, how many words to use, which words and phrases to avoid.

All of this could be included in a communications function called “copywriting.”

So, my friend, if you want to be successful as a fundraiser, you need to also have a working knowledge of messaging, copywriting, good design and layout. You might even need a smattering knowledge of photography and videography.

You could say that these skills fall into the communications and marketing arena.

So if you want to be successful at fundraising, you gotta master some marketing skills.

There’s Plenty of BAD Marketing!

Last week when I asserted that marketing and branding can kill fundraising, some of my smart nonprofit communications friends took issue.

Let me make myself clear: BAD marketing and RIGID branding can subvert fundraising.

What does bad marketing and rigid branding look like?

Communications that:

  • Are organization-focused, not donor-focused (staff profiles for example)
  • Are beautifully designed but difficult to read
  • Too wordy
  • Promote board members or the CEO instead of donors and your work
  • Talk about the gala instead of the kids we’ve helped this year
  • Full of statistics and data and short on pictures
  • Too formal and lofty
  • Use jargon like “programs” “services” and “underserved”
  • Are all about the branding, the look and the right colors  . . . and thereby convey nothing
  • Are completely missing the all-important “Call to Action”

Let’s not waste our time and energy with bad marketing.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a marketing and/or communications staff with skilled professionals, their expertise can often help you.

One nonprofit marketing professional I know says that so often, fundraisers “ruin” letters and other copy by inserting jargon, adding “flowery,” unnecessary words or making changes upon changes.  Don’t be one of those folks, ok?

But all fundraisers need to learn these skills!

Here’s how to learn to do Fund Marketing correctly:

Follow the smartest nonprofit communications people out there.

There are plenty of experts out there who have mastered Fund Marketing. You should follow them all AND study their stuff. Take their classes too!

Take the time to learn how to shape and deliver a message well.

Ask if your marketing and communications colleagues follow any of the experts listed above.  That’s a great way to open a line of communication.

See if you can focus your organization’s full resources and skill sets to create the most toward powerful coordinated message around “WHY” our organization’s work is important.

I’ll guarantee that you’ll raise a lot more money.

What do you think? Leave a comment and tell me!