What Are the Most Common Fundraising Pitfalls? Here are Three You Should Know

By October 15, 2019Fundraising

Fundraising ranks high on the list of a nonprofit’s priorities. Everyone wants to get better at fundraising; after all, the better you are at this critical task, the more funds you have to support your work!

Creative fundraising campaigns tend to get the publicity with writes up in your favorite nonprofit journals or marketing magazines. However, there are times when too much of a good thing can be confusing, underwhelming, or just plain wrong for your nonprofit.

As you consider your next fundraising campaign, keep in mind these three lessons from the world of fundraising. Keep them in a file of “what not to do,” so you don’t repeat the mistakes of others. Learn, grow, explore, and yes, test new concepts, but beware of these three fundraising pitfalls.

The Big 3 “What Not to Do” in Fundraising Marketing

Pitfall #1: Being so clever you miss the point and confuse donors.

It’s easy to get lost in a clever campaign. Perhaps you’re tired of the same-old fundraising campaign your organization has used successfully for the past several years, or you feel the need to try something different. That’s fine, but make sure the cleverness doesn’t outweigh the point of the campaign.

A too-clever campaign may rely heavily on puns, graphic gimmicks, or similar ideas to deliver its purpose. What ends up happening is that donors glance at the advertisement, experience momentary confusion, and set it aside. Instead of motivating them to donate, the ads gets tossed in the bin or ignored.

Avoid the too-clever trap: To avoid this pitfall, you can test the “clever” campaign against the tried-and-true response piece. See if the smart piece outperforms the stalwart marketing piece. Mail or send the same number of pieces to a split of your audience. This is called an A/B test and pits A, the clever campaign, against B, the tried and true one. Since you already know the average results of your tried and true campaign, you can see easily if the new piece outperforms it.

Another and simpler method is to show the piece to five random people, perhaps friends, family, or those unaffiliated with your nonprofit. Ask them questions: would they donate? Do they understand the point?

These two steps can save you from wasting time, money, and resources on something that won’t get you the results you desire.

Pitfall #2: Going overboard with design or enclosures.

Yes, it’s a time-tested nonprofit marketing tactic to include a small gift item to entice people to send money back. Stickers, stamps, a notepad, a pen, these are all fine…to a point.

But if your charity is asking for money, consider the impression these gifts make. Are they useful items? Are they expensive items? If so, they might be perceived as frivolous expenses instead of a simple gift.

Another way in which nonprofits sometimes go overboard is by using paper or design that appears expensive. “What!” you may argue. “That paper was much less expensive than the other kind we used to use, and it looks so elegant!”

That may be true, but potential donors only see the surface. They understand what appears to be a very expensive mailer and may perceive that you are ‘wasting’ money on marketing. Err on the side of caution and ensure that your designs reflect the spirit of your nonprofit.

Pitfall #3: Amateurish design.

Design is more than adding photographs or using fonts to punctuate a mailer for effect. Too many colors, competing fonts, a smattering of graphics, and you could end up with a marketing piece that confuses rather than motivates people to act.

A professional graphic designer understands the impact that color, visuals, and type make on the page. Designers know where to put the call to action (the request for donations) and how to set up a mailing panel appropriately. Hiring a professional nonprofit marketing agency or graphic design skilled in designing for nonprofit fundraising is a worthwhile investment.

Nonprofit Fundraising the Right Way

Don’t let the mistakes of the past weigh you down. If, as you’re reading this, you see errors that your nonprofit has made in the past, note them and move on.

At Welter Consulting, we act as the bridge between your nonprofit and the software that you need to succeed. This includes fundraising software to track, manage, and measure the impact of donor contacts. We are here to help you with software selection, implementation, training, and audit preparation. Contact us at 206-605-3113 for a consultation today.