March 19, 2018 Doug Shaw

Building a quality development program can take several years to complete. I’ve found that it doesn’t come overnight and there are few shortcuts, if any. Mostly it’s learning the tricks of the trade, using the right tools, and serving in the apprenticeship of time. It also requires having the ability to see the potential of something that perhaps others can’t see.

I remember, while working for a relief and development organization, that we had our backs to the wall. We were terribly short on money, and we had run out of year. I decided to send a U.S. Post Office Priority Mail package with a hard hitting letter requesting year-end gifts. The package and postage cost was $2.50 each. I knew it was a bit of a public relations gamble, but the situation demanded it. Sure enough, we raised $250,000 at a cost of $15,000. It was a joyous success . . . but I got a phone call from an irate donor, who had responded to the mailing with a gift of $2,000. She called to inform me that this was a terrible waste of money and she didn’t approve. I thanked her for her input, explained that this mailing was only sent to a select group of faithful friends (which it was) and promised to never send her another package of this type ever again. I hung up the phone, shook my head, and reveled in the fact that this woman gave $2,000 at a cost of $2.50, and that she would not have responded unless I had done something extraordinary to gain her attention and her gift. I immediately flagged her name indicating to NOT send this type of package to her ever again, and celebrated our success with the rest of our staff. The truth is, it was a great use of donated dollars, and I would do this again when the situation called for  it . . . because it worked!

Just a word of caution here: this isn’t an approach that will work if it is used too often. It’s something to be saved for desperate times. We needed something that was going to raise significant amounts of cash in a short period of time. We did just that. It worked.

Story taken fromThe Rules of Fundraising by Douglas K. Shaw.

Note: The example given occurred towards the end of the year, however the same principles of using your data file to better understand your donor applies, regardless of when you’re mailing!

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