Fundraising Tips & Lessons From 2019 That You Can Apply This Year

January 13, 2020

I saw lots of fun end-of-year, and end-of-decade, lists going around near the end of 2019, but I never saw a list of the best fundraising tips of the year, so I decided to write one! Check out these tips and lessons from 2019 that you can apply in 2020…

Basics Are Basics for a Reason

This may always be the way, but more than ever it felt like we were all so eager to do something new in 2019. And I always want the new thing. That being said, one of my biggest lessons of the year was that sometimes the fundamentals just work.

One example is the four-page letter. I know lots of organizations that want to move away from them. I’m sure there will come a time when a two-page letter outperforms a four-pager. This wasn’t the year that happened for me.

The two-page vs. four-page test that I did this year was one of the most decisive tests I’ve ever run. The four-page letter significantly outperformed the two-pager. In fact, it raised nearly double the amount per piece sent.

While it’s great to try to find the new thing, don’t just jump into it. Test. If that test says the new thing is better, test again. If you get the same result, run with the new idea for a while, and then just to be absolutely sure that the old way wasn’t better… Test again!

Integration Is Key

I have seen lots of people talking about integration this year. And this is not the first time. People have been touting the benefits of integration for years. But there was a change in the conversation this year. I think it had a lot to do with organizations genuinely attempting to move in that direction. And lots of people truly understanding how to accomplish it in valuable ways.

I’ve seen integration implemented well, with simple steps like taking messaging used in a direct mail appeal and adapting it to an email. I’ve also seen organizations go all the way. Facebook posts. Website updates. Imaging and messaging that match across all channels. It is work, but it’s worthwhile for your supporters to see that consistency and feel enmeshed in a web of storytelling focus.

The overall feedback I hear is that more integrated programs see stronger results. Some organizations struggle to gauge how results are impacted because their tracking is not fully implemented. This is a key step to take, ideally in the early stages of integration. Without that, there is no way to convince dubious board members that it is worth the investment to integrate messaging across channels.

Direct Mail Isn’t Going Anywhere

As you may have read in our State of the DM Nation Report, direct mail isn’t going anywhere. In fact, we found that direct mail is still bringing in about 20% of the charitable donations made in Canada. And it’s not limited to older audiences either. You may be surprised to hear that Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials are all giving in response to direct mail.

All of that giving is important. Knowing that you can generate revenue through the mail is a key component of a strong strategy. But the biggest takeaway from this study is that using direct mail as a means of streaming people into monthly, mid-level, and legacy programs.

By using your direct mail program as a means of generating revenue while also funneling those supporters into other revenue streams, you take advantage of the fundraising grounding you’re used to, and step forward into the future at the same time.

Test, Analyze, Grow

The fundamental learning that I’ve taken away from a very interesting year is that there is no way to develop without taking the best from the old and the new. And there’s only one way to do that. Test something new. Analyze the results. Determine what works for your audience. And it won’t be the same for every organization.

The shiny new object always seems fun, and often it works well. Take those steps into new territory, and enjoy that process of finding new ways to communicate with the people that make your work possible. And remember that the things that have always worked may not be broken at all, so don’t try to fix them until they need it.

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Morgan Steacy

Morgan Steacy

Fundraiser. Dreamer. Punny Dad. Political junkie. Runner. Food lover (making and eating!). Exclamation mark enthusiast!!