Marketing, Donor Acquisition, Development

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    In the NP community, as elsewhere, it’s targeted marketing that is most effective. But you can’t target your market until they’ve been identified.

    Direct mail is, for many NPOs, an essential part of building a substantial base for the donor pyramid. But, unless you’re a huge organization with high visibility and a great level of success, it’s not branding that has the major impact on the results of donor-acquisition mailings, it’s the list selection process, the roll-out mailings, the testing of copy, all the tried-and-tested elements of the traditional direct mail program.

    And, such a program can’t be evaluated in its first six months of operation, its first year, or even two years. I’ve seen reference to three years as being a minimum period for such an evaluation – the usual period it takes to have a direct mail program begin to “show a profit” – not as the period it takes to market/establish a “brand.”

    That stuff about counting hits in a search engine as a way of evaluating an NPO’s “brand recognition” is of minor significance. Don’t get me wrong, marketing is an important part of what we do in development, and “brand recognition” can be a big help – but it’s not essential to the relationship building that is so important to the development process.

    No matter on what level or to what end we work with nonprofits, it wouldn’t hurt to have a broad based background in development, before trying to apply to nonprofit development/fundraising some accountant’s theory of ranges or medians or marketing statistics or hits on a search engine.

    And, the way of getting an organization’s board to understand the process, and the expected results-over-time if proper procedure is followed, is not to send them to check out search engines, but to have them check out their contacts in the community.

    Certainly, if the members of an NPO’s Board and/or its CEO don’t know what to look for when they hire a development person, they sure aren’t going to know how to evaluate that person or his/her programs.

    If you’re looking for advice on measuring the effectiveness of development programs, remember, if you’re relying on information you’re getting on-line, everybody has opinions, but not everybody has the experience and expertise; and, “buzzwords do not equate to best practices.”

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