Keep things simple.It’s so easy to get off-track in fundraising and make the whole thing something different and more complex.
It happens all the time in organizations large and small.
I saw an organizational chart recently that had every category of marketing and branding known to humankind, covered by some senior position. But nowhere could I find, in the titles of all of those VPs and Senior Directors, the real cause of the organization.
Someone had prettied it up. I know where these folks come up with this stuff. And it’s stated, very succinctly, in the writings of my friend and colleague Jeff Brooks:

“Branding experts really don’t get it. If some ad agency approaches you and says they can change everything with a re-brand, turn and flee! Virtually every time I’ve seen this happen, it has been followed by a swift and steep crash in fundraising results. Brand matters a lot for fundraising, but the commercial experts just don’t understand your donors and your world. No matter how cool and smart they seem!”

There it is. “Let’s make things pretty. Let’s make things strategic. Let’s make things philosophical and intellectual. Let’s see how complex we can get it.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in situations where some very capable copywriters and graphic artists turn a very good donor offer into a winner for the top advertising and marketing award – slick, highly designed, pleasing to the eye – a masterpiece.
The only problem is it doesn’t work.
Because the problem cannot be found. Someone has prettied up the problem. You can’t find something the donor can solve through their giving. Instead there’s a list of all the attributes of the non-profit, wonderful photos of the facilities and the authority figures and a ton of copy and pictures about all the good that has already been accomplished.
This is what fascinates me about organizational charts, organization strategic plans, organization position papers, etc. They tell you everything about the state of mind of the organization. And most often that state of mind is very complex, very intellectual and devoid of any societal problem that must be solved.
It happens all the time. Someone has prettied the organization up and forgotten that the non-profit they lead is about solving a problem on the planet – about addressing a need.
That’s why Jeff and I are always telling major gift officers to start their day – every day – with asking themselves the question: “what’s the problem I’m asking my donors to address today through their giving?” (Tweet it!)
It’s the best question you can ask yourself. And it will keep you on course in your plans for your caseload donors, in your asks and in the collateral material you develop.
There’s nothing more important you can do with your caseload donors than ask them to solve a problem they care so deeply about.
Be careful today that you don’t get snared by the convoluted thinking that surrounds you. Keep your focus sharp and directed. Ask: “where’s the problem?” Then, having centered yourself on it, ask: “how will I help my donor solve it?” The answer will help you stay on the right track.