February 24, 2009
Being in the mailing/printing business I have a lot of interaction with nonprofit folks . I have also been a member of the Smoky Mountain Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in Knoxville, TN since 2000. I am convinced that people who work at nonprofit organizations have a heart of gold. They are educated, dedicated and obviously their motives are not for money.
Recently, I have been in their shoes trying to raise money for Lost Sheep Ministry, where I serve on the board. Lost Sheep Ministry only has two paid employees and everything else is done with volunteers. Usually a nonprofit has a development director to raise money but we cannot afford a development director, so yours truly is trying to head up additional fund-raising. Maxine Raines, our founder, with the help of many volunteers has been raising money for 18 years by speaking passionately about the ministry and by applying for grants and the suppport of local churches. Being in AFP has been beneficial for me because I have learned a lot in the monthly meetings and from my friends in AFP. However, I am learning just how hard fund-raising really is and I am convinced that running a mailing/printing company is much easier. They have my utmost respect. I know that newsletters, mailing appeals, website and donor database is essential but most importantly doing them right is a must.
The list is probably the most important thing. Making sure that the list does not have bad addresses is now a requirement at the United States Postal Service. I recommend cleaning up the list by NCOA link move update. In fact ,we offer this service free to our nonprofit customers who are printing and mailing with us. The person who already has an association with the nonprofit is the very best person to target. Someone who already knows about the organization and if you are lucky has a passion for what is being done in the organization. The next is the letter or appeal. Make it personal, the recipient expects the organization to know their name. Telling that person what their donation is doing to make a difference in a life or in their community makes an impact. The appeal does not have to be fancy, in fact, if it is too fancy the recipient may wonder why so much is being spent on design, printing etc. Usually two colors of ink for the printing works very well. Coding the mail is one way of measuring the success of the appeal and is easily done by adding a code to the return donation slip or envelope. Measuring the success of the mailing is essential and coding allows you to determine that success and also to do a test market of more than one appeal. I am going to continue to to learn from AFP and my fund-raising friends but I doubt if I would have gotten very far without being around them for a number of years and my association with AFP.
I loved nonprofit fundraisers before I tried being one but now I really love them for what they do for all of us. Everyone else should too, the world is a better place because of them.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed – it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead