Halloween

Boo! 6 Things that Should Scare Fundraisers on Halloween

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When Halloween rolls around each year, we see that interesting human impulse to scare ourselves — and others.

So people dress up as zombies, monsters, and aliens. (Others dress as princesses or astronauts, which are probably not meant to be scary.)  People pay to walk through “haunted houses” full of scary situations. We watch more scary movies than usual.

Ready to get into the spirit of Halloween? Here are some super-scary things for fundraisers:

Data problems

Bad data is just about the worst things that can happen to a fundraiser. It can kill your fundraising in the most gruesome and terrifying ways. It can cause you to lose track of your donor’s interactions with you. It can cause you to misspell their names or send multiple copies of the same thing — making it look like you don’t have a clue.

Bad data can make you talk to donors you didn’t mean to talk to. Or ignore donors you should be talking to. Or say ridiculous things to them, like “Thank you for your generous donation of $0.” (True story!)

Make sure all your data is clean, complete, and accurate. Make it a priority to keep it clean. And be sure you’re using a database that works. This is one area where bargains cannot be worth it at all.

Cuts to the acquisition budget

During the early stages of the pandemic, many organizations did very well at new donor acquisition. Some are still, while others are seeing a slump. When times are hard — as they are likely to be in the coming months, it might seem sensible and easy to spend less on donor acquisition. After all, acquisition is an area where most of us lose money even in good times. If response drops, it doesn’t get any better.

The scary part is, when you cut acquisition, you slash your future. You guarantee that the hard times will last. One year of no new donors means seven (or more) years of lower revenue. If you stop acquisition for long enough, you can send your organization into a death-spiral.

Armchair Experts Pushing Theories

There are a lot of people out there with interesting theories about fundraising. They often sound reasonable, but they should scare the fun-size candy bars right out of your pillowcase! I’m talking theories like these:

  • Direct mail doesn’t work anymore. Time to go all digital.
  • If you talk to your donors, they’ll get angry and leave you forever.
  • Let’s stop fundraising from old people. They’re dying. Let’s pivot to millennials and other young, hip, cool people that we’d rather be talking to.

There are a lot more like that. These three are not supported by facts. They are theories. The theories that spread are the ones that people want to believe. When someone shares something like this, ask for data! Because following a bad theory can wreck your budget and choke your career!

Donor fatigue

Donor fatigue is the “invisible man” of fundraising monsters. Okay, more than invisible. It’s non-existent.

But when you see people talking about it, trouble is close behind.

Donor fatigue is an imaginary state where donors get tired of some topic (or even the whole philanthropy things) and just turn away. Most often, donor fatigue is given as the reason charitable giving during a disaster eventually drops off. “Donors are tired of it,” people say.

The current brand of fatigue is “COVID fatigue,” meaning donors have just had it with fundraising connected to the pandemic. The proposed way to deal with this and other forms of fatigue is something like this:

  • It’s not our fault, it’s those good-for-nothing donors!
  • Let’s discuss what’s wrong with donors in general.
  • Get ahead of it by going silent. Don’t worry — nobody will blame you for the lost revenue, as it’s the donors’ fault!

As with most lies that spread easily, there’s a little sliver of truth mixed in to the donor fatigue myth. Donor response to any given topic is not the same all the time. It grows and shrinks.

And the most sure way to see it shrink? Stop communicating with donors! Scary.

Rebranding

Rebranding is supposed to inject new energy into our world. But it never does. Turns out the brand experts are the brain-eating zombies of the fundraising world. If they show up at your door, slam it. If they get in, run away.

A rebranding has the potential to devour your fundraising program with their grand abstractions and faddish design. After the branding experts have come and gone, many organizations are stuck with a drop of up to 50% in fundraising revenue.

The boss loves it

This one seems like it’s more of a ballerina on your porch than a werewolf. But believe me, it can really zap you, big time!

This one always gets you because you want the boss to love your work, right? The problem is, when the boss thinks you’ve really captured what she wants to say, you have almost certainly mucked it up for your donors.

I know this may not seem tenable, but if your boss goes ga-ga over your fundraising message, you should probably go back to the drawing board.

The best way to defend yourself from these monsters is to get up-to-date, accurate information — and to be part of a community of smart, sharing fundraisers. That’s what you’ll get when you join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. It’s a true community, the thing we all need most right now — plus all kinds of courses, templates, checklists, and other resources that can help you go to new places as a fundraiser. More information here.

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