Is Your Fundraising Agency Screwing You?

Do you know how to tell if your fundraising agency is screwing you? Are your needs and goals primary in the relationship, or is your agency acting in a way to advance their priorities above yours?

I’ve been meeting recently with organizations who, for lack of a better way to say it, have been getting screwed by their agencies. Here are some examples that you should look out for in your agency relationship too:

Organization A: Their agency recommended mailing their deceased donor file as a way to get gifts “in memory of” their dead donors. Not surprisingly, this approach doesn’t yield much in the way of revenue or engagement, AND it can be incredibly insensitive to the families of your donors. But…it does increase the mail quantity and income for the agency.

Organization B: Against the specific instruction of the nonprofit, the agency included managed major gift prospects in their mail program. And because the agency was managing the segmentation and mailing with minimal oversight or input from the nonprofit, this was entirely unknown until this organization changed agencies and their new partner uncovered this. It made their direct mail results look great, but did nothing to advance meaningful relationships with their major donors.

Organization C: This organization’s agency mailed 9-12 solicitation appeals per year to their existing donors. Six of those mailings generated ZERO net dollars for the organization. But they generated a lot of money for the fundraising agency.

Organization D: 30%+ of this organization’s donor file that are so low value that they will NEVER generate positive net revenue for the organization (sure, there may be a very small number of donors in that 30% that do generate net, but the majority will not). But the fundraising agency continues to mail these people every month, regardless of the fact that their values are so low — and they generate no net revenue for the nonprofit.

What all of these examples have in common is that they and their agencies have competing economic incentives. The nonprofits’ goals are to maximize net revenue to deliver more services to more people in need. But the fundraising agencies are compensated for every piece of mail they put in the mail stream — giving them little, if any incentive to restrict mail in any of the examples above.

Let this be a lesson and a warning — if your nonprofit’s economic incentives aren’t aligned with those of your fundraising agency, there’s a good chance you’re being done a disservice, whether intentionally or accidentally.

 

You meet the coolest people in airports!

Caught up with Georgia’s Representative John Lewis on the train at the airport in Atlanta last week.

We had a bit of a train ride from the B gates to the F gates (and if you fly in or out of ATL, you know that’s a decent trip!), and Rep. Lewis was kind enough to let me bend his ear about the condition of people living in poverty across the U.S. We spoke briefly about how federal policy impacts people in the lowest economic classes in the country, and I asked him to keep fighting for those who have the least. I was encouraged by how humble and kind he is, and how willing he was to have this conversation!

Middle & Major Donor Fundraising Success for Social Service Orgs

Mel Trotter Ministries raises nearly $1 million in six weeks!

As an adviser to 60+ nonprofits across the U.S. and Canada, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is, how can we better engage our middle and major donors through direct response to generate more revenue and deepen our relationships? This is a question that my good friend, Dennis Van Kampen, President/CEO at […]

We’re ending hunger in Eastern MA!

It’s always a good day for #fundraising and #endinghunger when I get to spend the day developing fundraising and communications strategy with my friend Suzanne Battit at The Greater Boston Food Bank.

GBFB does amazing work in the fight against hunger in Eastern Massachusetts, and I’m honored to play a small part in that.

Andrew’s top posts of 2016

The best of fundraising & leadership all in one place

As 2016 comes to a close and I look to 2017, I took some time to reflect on this blog. I love helping nonprofit leaders and fundraisers more effectively lead their organizations and raise massive amounts of money to fund their causes. That’s why I host this blog and share my insights on our sector. In […]