Near the peak of the coronavirus crisis I received a direct mail piece from a nonprofit I have a relationship with. The newsletter showed life going on as normal, the cause continuing as normal, people going out and about, getting coffee together, etc. It was such a stark contrast to what was really happening that it turned my stomach, not because I was offended, but because I truly felt bad for the organization. Not only was the message out of season, it felt prehistoric at that moment.
They were victims of the process. When they sent the letter to print, 30 days before it delivered, it was right on. But in 30 days the world changed. Predictably, the financial response for the piece was poor as well.
Contrast that with one of our clients who responded faster. When the world changed, we discarded their donor communication plan and began writing email communications and appeals and sending them out the same day. We were telling donors about what was happening today—right now. The financial response for some of these messages broke records.
This was not easy, but it made all the difference. Immediacy matters. And I do not just mean trying to create a sense of urgency in your appeals, I mean communicating with your donors immediately when things are happening.
It is good to have a plan, and a schedule, and work ahead. But that seldom creates the level of immediacy that will engage people with what is happening right now, today. There is nothing like a passionate donor receiving a communication that informs them about what happened this morning and how they can help right now.
You must have a plan and a process for when “today” happens. The good news is that you can have your cake and eat it, too.
I recommend a strategy that has both advanced preparation and immediate flexibility. Create your communications calendar and work maybe 30, 60, or 90 days out. Then create a very lean protocol for writing, reviewing, and coding appeals that can be engaged at a moment’s notice.
Select individuals to be responsible for monitoring current events and deciding when it is time to engage this plan, and then authorize them to interrupt the regular workflow and process to do it. Scheduled messages will need to be suspended, and new messages sent out in the moment.
Plans that are designed like this are not convenient or popular in most organizational cultures. So, they should be used judiciously. But in the end, this flexibility can drastically impact fundraising effectiveness, both by holding back appeals that would have failed in light of breaking news, and by engaging donors right there in the moment.
If you would like to improve your organization’s level of immediacy,
reach out to DARRELL LAW, our Chief Growth Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact us today at 724.733.1200 X26.