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

First Engage, Then Ask

June 16th, 2014 by Karen Climer

A friend forwarded to me a solicitation letter that she received recently.  Evidently, the long-time CEO of Children’s Home Society is retiring, so they decided to use this as a fundraising opportunity.  Here are my thoughts about this letter…

First, I would have sent a specific letter to former employees.  My friend was a former executive at the organization.  It’s probably fair to assume that her relationship with the CEO was different from the average donor’s relationship with the CEO.  I’d venture to guess that the average donor does not even know the name of the CEO.  (Do you know the CEO of the charities you support?)  This letter would have been more effective if it had been targeted specifically to former employees.

Second, the letter asked for a donation.  (Most fundraising letters do that!) Oh and by the way, if you’d like to add a farewell message to the CEO, we’d like that.  This was a mistake.  I would’ve asked the former employees to send a congratulatory message to their former CEO.  Who wouldn’t want to do that?  Oh and by the way, if you’d like to send a donation in his honor, please do.  First engage, then ask.

Political and advocacy organizations excel at this.  For example, Planned Parenthood will send a survey to assess the country’s attitude on women’s reproductive rights.  Well, if you are on the Planned Parenthood mailing list, I can guess which way you lean on this issue even without you completing the survey.  The mailing is not really about the survey.  That’s an engagement mechanism.  The mailing is really about raising money.  Children’s Home Society could have followed this example.  First engage, then ask.

I imagine that when the CEO announced his retirement someone thought, “Hey, let’s see if we can capitalize on this.”  That’s exactly how it came across.  Instead of a warm letter that shared the good news of a retirement and invited former employees to re-engage in the organization, it came across as a letter that was grabbing at straws for a reason to raise money.  By segmenting the list and focusing on engagement, the letter would have been more successful.

Posted in Direct Mail

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