4 Options For Targeting Donors

Here is given, generic to the media-loaded second decade of the 21st century:

Our capability of knowing many specifics of our donor-targets is far greater than it was even a single generation ago.

So, a question arises, matching that evolutionary (or devolutionary) trend: Do you agree that intensifying an individual appeal to match what we know about the individual is a “so what?” alternative to emphasizing our worth as a nonprofit organization?

You have four options when evaluating how you might compete in the nonprofit world, using ammunition distilled from what your organization knows about itself and about which potential donors represent a logical bottom-line.

If only as a double-check to reassure yourself that you haven’t let personal prejudices replace dispassionate judgment, why not check out these options: Do you agree? Disagree? Just ignore?

  •  Option Number One: I want to match my competitive offer to potential donors (no prior association with us) with appeals worded to match whatever I know, based on existing donors. It’s up to the list company or local sources to supply me with names.

Agree. Why? You’re allowing tradition to override opportunity, but you’re in safe territory.

  •  Option Number Two: I want to match one significant factor — age, postal code, or professional/employment circumstance. Then, wording will match the factor.

Agree. Here’s one constraint: Anticipate serendipity — finding what you aren’t looking for. Use the obvious circumstance-factors to refine response. You might discover a hidden lode — age-ranges that are unresponsive, ZIP codes that react positively to one approach but not to others. Be ready to re-word as a test to see if you can intensify the percentage of positive answers.

  •  Option Number Three: I want to open new gates. I’ll aim outside the age-range, income-level, and other demographic elements that have previously driven appeals.

Agree. The obvious provisions are that you don’t leap off the deep end into a slough of despond and that you tailor the appeal so participation seems logical for those who exist within the segment.

  •  Option Number Four: Change media.

Agree. Switching from or to direct mail, from or to an online communication, or inclusion of social media shows a twenty-first century awareness of cultural change. Note, though, that here, more than with any of the other options, you include a panel representing whatever media or even single medium has been the most effective for you, dollar for dollar. Invading new media can parallel fighting windmills.

An assumption repeated here just for completeness is that no answer can be tabulated and no experiment is complete until its second year, in which you re-approach donors for renewal. That’s where recruits whose numbers haven’t quite risen above the break-even mark can surge. Don’t count on this, though. Safety lies in your original results.

A question that might accompany every one of the others: Does experimentation make sense when you haven’t exhausted the original lode? Sure, it does. Competitors constantly snipe, and except for highly dedicated and fanatical donors, all fundraising is competitive with all other fundraising. Inevitably, grist for our mill is grist for other mills, and growth comes from connecting outside our own sphere as well as intensification within.

One more question, a repeat — maybe just for clarity: If you base your marketing philosophy on “Who we are” rather than “Who you are,” are you allowing tradition to override opportunity?

Agree. You know what Yogi Berra said about what to do when you come to a fork in the road. (Take it.)

That’s it. Simple enough, isn’t it? OK, your turn.


Herschell Gordon Lewis is a professional writer who lives in Pompano Beach, Fla., consulting with and writing direct response copy for clients worldwide. He is the author of “Hot Appeals or Burnt Offerings,” an analysis of fund raising techniques. His most recent book is his 32nd— “Internet Marketing Tips, Tricks, and Tactics.” Among his other books are“On the Art of Writing Copy,” (fourth edition),“Creative Rules for the 21st Century,” and “How to Write Powerful Fund Raising Letters.” His website is herschellgordonlewis.com