Eight Burning Fundraising Questions for Eight Nights of Hanukah

By Rachel Cyrulnik

Nonprofits compete in an increasingly challenging development landscape – donor mentalities about giving and what drives their philanthropy is changing, development offices struggle to identify what their priorities should be and how to successfully execute on those priorities to achieve results, and competiotion is stiff, with the number of nonprofits multiplying at record levels.

As a consulting firm that was founded to address these realities so that nonprofits can realize their missions, RAISE Nonprofit Advisors sees the most vexing fundraising difficulties and guides a diverse set of nonprofits through these issues every day. Our modest Hanukah gift to the field of Jewish philanthropy is our responses to eight such questions, one for each night of Hanukah.

Question #1: How can my organization stand out from the crowd in a competitive environment?

Doesn’t it feel like the rate at which we’re asked to give has increased dramatically in recent years? The channels to give – and the cause-connectors asking you to give – have multiplied. Donors are bombarded with giving requests – walks and runs, 24 or 36-hour matching campaigns and gofundme’s have become old hack. Fundraising campaigns overrun our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Add direct mail and invitations to fundraising events to the mix, and it’s no wonder it’s hard to capture a donor’s attention!

RAISE recommends quality over quantity when it comes to donor communication. Here’s our three-step approach:

1. Assess ROI. Analyze the fundraising communication in which your organization currently engages. What kind of return are you getting? For example, if you send direct mail solicitations before the High Holidays, in December, and before Passover, does one yield better results than another? If a marketing piece is not yielding sufficient results, cut it.

Likewise, assess your response rate from different demographics – do young alumni and millennials respond to email campaigns and empty-nesters respond to direct mail? Tailor your communications to the audiences that respond to them, and leave the rest be.

2. Appeal to the Mind – Give your donors a reason to read your communication. What will they learn that they didn’t know before? How can you demonstrate that they are furthering their philanthropic goals by giving to your cause?

3. Appeal to the Heart – Delight and inspire your donors. Let them hear about your life-changing work from those whose lives were changed. Move them to give and make them feel awesome for giving.

Instead of unsubscribes and unopened envelopes in the trash, you’ll be more likely to get eyeballs and open wallets because your donor will come to expect relevant and meaningful contact from your organization.

Rachel Cyrulnik is founder and principal of RAISE Nonprofit Advisors (RAISEAdvisors.com), a strategic development firm servicing nonprofits. Contact Rachel at rachel@raiseadvisors.com.