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BIG’s Blog: You can never go back

It’s been a busy first half of the year! This week we are featuring a few of the “best-of-the-best blog posts” (as judged by reader’s reactions) that you might have missed. Enjoy!

BIG’s Blog: You can never go back (February 14th, 2014)

I take way too many arrows in my back about my position on direct mail because too many people A) don’t read my words, and B) don’t listen to what I actually say in my Webinars and speeches.

My position on direct mail is that direct mail … done correctly … is a fantastic vehicle to generate new donors and annual revenue.

I love the predictable, beautiful mathematics of direct marketing. You test . . . if all looks good, you up your quantity and test again . . . and if the numbers validate, you roll out. I have been a direct marketing professional for almost 40 years! And, yes, I still consult occasionally with nonprofit fundraisers in direct mail techniques.

That is my real position. Keep using it as long as it is working for you.
But …
The best days of direct mail are in the past. Some would say “way in the past.” For nonprofit fundraisers who use direct mail, the best I can surmise is that the last good year for all fundraising organizations was 2005. Since then some have still been able to make it work while other programs are failing fast.
With each passing year, the symptoms of decline become more obvious and acute.
The truth is, as much as I love direct mail marketing, you can never go back. Time marches on, and though I would love to turn back the clock to when direct mail fundraising was simple and profitable, its best days are in the past.
But just when you are ready to join the “club of the disrupted industries” like the music business (which has seen album sales tank for the tenth straight year), new voices are popping up, talking about how the Internet and digital technology can create a new music business model. New people are coming onto the music scene, and despite the talk of doom and gloom, they see the prospects for massive growth.

As I list some of the new ideas that are now being touted in the music business, I will connect the ideas from it to the fundraising industry where, by the way, I see massive growth.
1) Holistic, multifaceted online music services that tie together many of the individual music-related elements today (social, streaming, downloads, concert tickets etc.). I know most of you have heard of Spotify and Pandora for streaming music, but have you heard of Kickstarter or GiveMob for fundraising? These are the new acquisition tools of the online world. Coupled with other elements and technologies, they help you reach people faster.
2) Direct artist-to-fan and fan-to-fan engagement. When you send your direct mail to prospects or donors, is that a person-to-person connection? It used to be state-of-the-art 20 years ago, but now the Internet has changed the definition of connection. And as far as fan-to-fan connection in the music world, why do you think fans want to connect to each other? Could it be they share a passionate common bond with the artist and their music? How about your passionate supporters who share a common bond with the people and the mission of your organization? The tools exist to let your passionate supporters talk to each other. Why wouldn’t you do that?
3) The rise of music festivals fueled by social media. Just imagine what you could be doing with technology-driven engagement in offline (real life) and online connection. Music festivals are where fans come together to hear music. How about creating a live and virtual conference to re-ignite your supporters?
4) Younger players in the music ecosystem inherently understand that a multipronged, community-based business model of fan expansion and direct ongoing engagement is the new normal. Young and new start-up nonprofit charities are already all over this (this is part of our online e-learning Courses), and unless you don’t want a future, you had better be figuring out what they already know and are succeeding at. New start-up charities don’t have an arms-length relationship with their supporters and neither should you.


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