Delivering Innovation

It was one of those customer phone calls. A Monday morning special.

“We have always had good results with our VirtualGiving website,” said the pleasant voice. “But we have a new director and she decided to rewrite all the marketing materials herself. Website, ads, newsletter, all the brochures…” she paused apologetically.

This isn’t worth arguing about, I told myself, watching a beautiful deer walk past my window in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, but I tried one anyway. “Don’t you know your time is better spent going out and meeting prospects? You’ll spend half a year behind a desk writing and editing copy.”

“You’re right, I know you’re right, but we can’t change her mind.” And that was it.

Folks, it’s time to stop hiding behind your desks. DIY (a trendy acronym for “do it yourself”) won’t help your organization, your prospects, or your career. Let’s take a look at the time wasters the new director is putting in the way of doing her job, nurturing leads and closing gifts. For your new planned giving website only:

  • You’ll need to write technically accurate and compelling copy, then edit it, and then send it up and down the review chain, including legal. Everyone’s opinion will mean a rewrite.
  • There will be another round of editing before your artwork is approved. (“But, this doesn’t match our template…”)
  • After the copy and design is approved, you’ll sit down for long sessions with IT (you want logical navigation and guidance to guide visitors to your site; IT isn’t sure what that means, but you’ve got 12 jobs waiting before that you can get to yours).
  • The site is active! Congratulations. Now, remember to keep your web presence up to date with new donor testimonials, rate changes, tax updates, etc!

Why go through a routine like this, when you get paid to burn shoe leather by going to your prospects’ front doors? Are you trying to cut costs? Convinced that you can do it better than anyone else? Following an old playbook? (First, study planned giving; then sell your Board on them; then put together an Advisory Committee; then write your marketing; then wait for responses.) Let me try to remove some of the barriers that prevent you from leaving your office:

Cash costs.Do you think doing it yourself will save money? You won’t. Many operations spend six to eighteen months getting self-designed websites up and running, only to be less than satisfied with the end results.

Opportunity costs. Developing marketing tools in-house incurs opportunity costs in the form of missed contacts, missed leads, and missed gifts while you and your staff were busy at work. Doing it yourself means turning you and your staff into part-time copywriters, graphic artists, and web designers. Is that an efficient use of your time and skills?

I can do better. It may be so. But fundraising isn’t a hobby, it’s your job. You are paid to prioritize your talents to build the financial strength of your organization. Which of the tasks you could do this morning will best accomplish that goal?

Control issues. Our recent survey showed a very high correlation between prospects visited, gifts closed, and PGO salary. It makes sense. So why do some fundraisers obsess over administrative problems? Be an entrepreneur and let yourself go!

The minutiae can keep you behind your desk as you try to make every ad, gift description, and New Year’s Eve letter “just right.” Meanwhile, life and its prospects move on. We tell our clients to seek excellence, not perfection.

I’m following the playbook.Planned giving is no longer new to your prospects. You’ve already heard from ten different sources about how gift annuities work. So you don’t have to listen to advice from thirty years ago on how to launch your planned gifting campaign in slow motion.

…And don’t make me start waiting to go public until you have Gift Acceptance Policies in place. Yes, it helps to have written guidelines for who does what when a potential client offers you an unusual gift, like an igloo farm in the North Pole. But that can wait a bit, right?

Delay. Anxious because you don’t know the gift plans? It’s okay; we understand You can cool off! But don’t let that become an excuse. After all, Mrs. McGillicuddy isn’t that tough, and she’d love a visit from you. Go ahead, she picks up that phone, then wears the leather off your shoes.

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