The Most Crazy Thing I Ever Heard

The Most Crazy Thing I Ever Heard

I heard the most crazy thing ever: A frustrated charity fundraiser told me that they had to cancel their annual survey this year.

Why? Had it failed to work?

Not at all. It was still gathering game-changing data from their donors. Uncovering major donors and legacy givers.

They were cancelling because the programs department had gone over budget. “We all have to cut costs!” she said, clearly frustrated.

They will definitely save costs. They’ll save even more than they planned:

  • They will save money on producing the survey
  • They will save on entering the data from the survey
  • They will save on banking and bank fees for depositing the immediate revenue
  • They won’t have to follow up all the bequest and major donor leads
  • They won’t have to call as many people to explain how they can become monthly donors after they asked
  • They will save costs on the people they don’t hire, or make redundant because they are raising less money
  • They will save money on implementing their charitable purpose because they won’t have as much to spend

Why not save even more? They can cut other super money-making communications. That will save an enormous amount of money — when they close their charity down.

But then I heard something even crazier.

Another frustrated fundraiser told me she could only send their survey every other year because they couldn’t keep up with the leads!

Yes. They couldn’t repeat a fantastic, donor-centric fundraising communication every year because it worked too well!

OK, it really is crazier than cutting because money is tight. But not by much.

Imagine any other business that cuts back on its best lead generator for the most valuable product line it sells because they can’t follow up the leads!

It really is the same as being offered a million dollars and saying “No thanks, I haven’t a bag big enough to put it in.” The savvy leader would come up with the $100 for the new bag.

In the case of a charity worried about following up too many people telling them they would like to donate over $1,000 – they should get more fundraisers to follow them up. Or re-prioritise!

Fundraisers: Don’t make silly decisions like this. And don’t accept them without a fight if it comes from above. If it keeps happening, take your brilliant skills and help a charity that genuinely wants to make the world better, and has people competent enough to not make crazy decisions.

Sean Triner

Don’t be a cutter. Don’t even be a wait and seer! Sign up for my Supporter Connection Survey Online Course now! It’s available when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Quick question: we were guilty of sending a survey only every other year but now sending annual.

    But seeing how well they work, is there a case for sending more than annual or would that be overkill?

    • Thanks Dan


      I’ll deal with this more in our course on surveys but here we go (quickly)…

      Let’s say you get 20% response from a survey in July. That is still 80% of your donors didn’t respond. Send it to them 2 or 3 months later. Then you get 15% response. That is about 33% of donors have so far responded. With the remaining 67% of non-responders you could prioritise and use the phone, SMS and more to get more responses. This is getting into the realm of advanced surveys. Also, sneaking specific questions on other response coupons is worth while, like in newsletters.

      More answers = more info = better relationships = more leads = more revenue = better charitable outcomes.

      Hope that is useful!


  • It can be difficult to persuade a nonprofit to take the leap of investing in more staff when there are more leads. Years ago I heard a former VP of Development from Stanford deliver a presentation backed by data in which it could not have been more clear $ in (to FR staffing) = $ out. Would that we had that type of data available to make the case.


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