If your fundraising agency does this, fire them.

Yesterday I was advising a friend who is Executive Director at an organization I’m very fond of. I was shocked at a recommendation she received from her fundraising agency.

It went something like this…

“Don’t send a summer direct mail appeal because it’s too expensive. We think direct mail works for big nonprofits, but small nonprofits are better off using email instead.”

They gave this recommendation in spite of the following facts:

  • The organization’s website is not well optimized for conversion, and the consultant knows this.
  • The organization has email addresses for less than 50% of their constituents, and the consultant knows this.
  • Industry-wide, less than 20% of all charitable giving happens online (and the majority of that giving happens in Q4!).

The piece that is appalling to me about this agency’s recommendation is that it was based in personal opinion and bias, NOT in data. Any fundraising agency that is playing in the direct response space must understand that direct response fundraising is NOT a subjective art form. It is as scientific as marketing and fundraising gets. It is grounded in data, testing hypotheses, and proving that formula A performs better than formula B.

Agencies. Consultants. Advisers. Here this clearly…

Nonprofits don’t pay you to hear what you think. They pay you to drive measurable growth in their supporter base and revenue, at the highest return on investment possible.

What you think is irrelevant. What you can prove, now that’s worth paying for. But if you are selling uninformed opinions based on nothing more than your untested, uneducated beliefs about fundraising, shame on you.

Go peddle your crap somewhere else, where the difference between failure and success isn’t played out in human suffering. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “If your fundraising agency does this, fire them.

  1. Grrr!! Happens so much.
    I had one where their consultant told a charity they should move away from direct mail starting with reducing the number of mailings (from eight to two or three a yea). Despite the fact that mail brings in about 65% of revenue and bequests around 30% of revenue. Oh, those bequests? All through the direct mail program. The last 5% of income? From following up mid value direct mail donors and visiting/talking in person to grow them to major donor level.
    Email penetration of mail database? About 10%.
    The suggestions were music to one board member’s ears. He really, really doesn’t like direct mail and wanted to shift their spend.
    Moceanic – for Smart Fundraisers

    • Exactly! It’s so frustrating. But also so common. Thanks for sharing yet another example (and warning), Sean!