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Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

Don’t Be A Fundraising Anti-Vaxxer

February 17th, 2015 by Karen Climer

The recent measles outbreak at Disneyland (Disney World is still safe. Come to Florida!) has brought new attention to the anti-vaxxer movement. Anti-vaxxers are people who, against the advice of medical professionals, choose not to vaccinate their children against potentially deadly illnesses including measles, mumps, and rubella. The anti-vaxxers believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Science has debunked this myth multiple times, but the anti-vaxxers hold fast and ignore the research.

The anti-vaxxers are allowing their own personal opinion to override proven facts.  Many have criticized and even ridiculed them for doing this.  Yet, how many of us make our fundraising plans using the anti-vaxxer strategy?

The anti-vaxxers are allowing their own personal opinions to override proven facts. Many have criticized, and even ridiculed, them for doing this. Yet, how many of us make our fundraising plans using this same anti-vaxxer decision-making method?

The fundraising world has its own version of anti-vaxxers. These are people who ignore the research and just sort of make it up as they go along. These are people who think they can succeed almost by chance – by dressing nice, charming the right people, and doing anything other than studying what actually works.

You might be an anti-vaxxer if you’ve ever said, “This direct mail letter is ugly. We can’t send this out. No one will ever believe this underlining and highlighting.” The research proves that this type of writing works in direct mail. If you ignore best practices, and insist on doing what you like, you are a fundraising anti-vaxxer.

You might be an anti-vaxxer if you’ve ever said, “We’ve got to change this campaign message. I don’t like it. The board treasurer doesn’t like it either. In fact, no one on the staff likes it.” Your opinion is irrelevant. If you ignore the target audience, and focus the message on what you like, you are a fundraising anti-vaxxer.

You might be an anti-vaxxer if you’ve ever said, “We need to raise a lot of money.  Let’s start by having a golf tournament.  Then we’ll send out a letter.”  If you don’t start with the board of directors, followed by major gifts, you are a fundraising anti-vaxxer.

You might be an anti-vaxxer if you’ve ever said, “We need to focus more on younger donors.” I know, I know. You’d rather deal with people in their 20s-40s because that’s your age bracket, but the research shows that older people are more generous. (Hint: They have more disposable income.)  If you ignore the research, and do what feels good to you, you are a fundraising anti-vaxxer.

Much of fundraising is counter-intuitive. It is counter-intuitive that longer letters raise more money. It is counter-intuitive that, in this day and age, direct mail and telefundraising work better than email campaigns. It is counter-intuitive that email is more effective than both Facebook and Twitter combined. Forget your gut feeling of what you think will work. Focus on actual results and solid research. (And trust your doctor about those childhood vaccinations.)

Please share any other examples of fundraising anti-vaxxers in the comment section below.

Posted in Board of Directors, Communication, Direct Mail, Email, Major Gifts, Nonprofit issues, Social Media

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