Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Stop Asking For Votes And Start Asking For Money

March 19th, 2014 by Karen Climer

Recently, a client said to me, “We need some more contests.  Do you know of any contests?”  I must’ve looked puzzled because she explained that Big Wall Street Corporation was having a nationwide contest where the nonprofit had to create a YouTube video and whichever video got the most votes would win $5,000.

I suggested that it might be easier to get $5,000 by just asking someone for it rather than creating a video, asking all of their donors to vote, and ultimately losing the contest to a large national nonprofit.  Her response was, “But [staff member] likes making the videos.”  (Side note: This is not a good way to determine your fundraising strategy.)

These types of contests are becoming more popular with corporate donors.  I believe they are detrimental to the fundraising success of a nonprofit.  Why is that?

First of all, it wastes several hours of an already-overburdened staff member’s time.  This is time that they could be spent on more effective fundraising methods.

Second, and more importantly, it is damaging your relationships with your donors.  You can only ask people for so much before they get tired of it.  Let’s say there is a two-week contest.  You can vote once per day.  So your organization sends a mass e-mail every single day asking your donors to vote.  You post it on Facebook.  You tweet about it.  After three days, you have taught your donors that your emails contain nothing of value, so it is safe to delete without opening the emails.  

At the end of two weeks, a hurricane blows the roof off the building.  You send an email to the donors because this is a real crisis.  It’s too late.  Your donors have learned to ignore your emails until the contest is over.  (BTW, according to Constant Contact, less than 20% of people open emails from nonprofits.  Other firms have reported much lower numbers.)

Don’t waste your time with these contests.  You will waste your time, alienate your donors, and ultimately lose out to one of the large national nonprofit organizations.  (But you will make Big Wall Street Corporation happy!)  Focus your time on a more strategic, long-term plan.

Let me know your thoughts about these contests in the comments section below.

Posted in Corporate Giving, Email, Social Media

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