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Smart or Stupid?

The digital world is digitizing the culture, and it’s dumbing us down… right?

In fact, it’s just the opposite.

There are great artists you can connect to online.

There are unbelievable new devices and inventions that only exist because of the Web.

There are geniuses doing genius things in digital!

But that doesn’t fit your worldview, does it? You’re not on to all things digital like the young’uns. It just doesn’t FEEL right!

So you hit snooze.

But while you were sleeping, digital took over the world. Data and software now drive most industries. There is more sophistication and technology down on the farm than in 99.9% of nonprofit development groups.

And the typical Development Director’s response: “Nope, we’ll stick with RFM and snail mail.”

Can you be smart and stupid at the same time? Apparently, but only if you work in fundraising at the American Cancer Society.

Maybe you read or heard that a couple of years ago the American Cancer Society went cold turkey and ended acquisition direct mail.

What was their Plan B?

If their presentation earlier this month by their direct marketing staff and consultants to a packed audience at the DMANF New York Nonprofit Conference was any indication… there wasn’t one.


If you have a subscription to Tom Belford and Roger Carver’s blog The Agitator, you can read their post on the session here. It is devastating! If you don’t have a subscription, one comment by an attendee pretty much summed up the audience’s response: “No one was buying their crap.”


Most fundraisers… me included… applauded the fundraising group at the American Cancer Society for having the guts to pull the plug on their direct mail acquisition two years ago. Everybody already knew direct mail’s best days were behind us, but it took guts to actually do it.

The longer the fundraising industry keeps fixating on “when mail will die,” rather than focusing on shifting to digital online fundraising – WE DON’T MOVE FORWARD… WE’RE STUCK!

It was gutsy, all right, but was it the smart way to do it?

In the case of the American Cancer Society’s fundraising group, it turns out there was no Plan B.

That was just plain stupid!

So two years after pulling the plug on direct mail, the American Cancer Society’s fundraising professionals don’t say they were wrong to step off the roof without a net (or a Plan B), they just tip-toe back into “selective” direct mail.

Wow… I guess in their minds that is brave and gutsy.

Meanwhile, two years down the road, people… the American Cancer Society’s potential constituents and supporters are even more digitized and online and ACS’s answer – “back to mail.”

Everyone wants simple. And what could be simpler than doing what you already know? “Whew,” you can hear the Nonprofit Vendor/Consultant Mail-based Industrial Complex let out a collective sigh of relief.

And the public… their supporters? They can’t understand why Websites aren’t optimized for their smartphone or tablet. They can’t understand why nonprofits’ Websites and the content of their social media is inane and pointless. They can’t understand why they can’t connect with nonprofits online when they want to connect. And they don’t understand why they keep filling their mailboxes month after month with printed and mailed letters that must cost big bucks while asking them for donations.

But hey, mail is simple and predictable, right?

But is it smart?

Drip, Drip, Drip.


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