It was one of those client phone calls. A Monday-Morning Special.
“We’ve always had good results from our VirtualGiving website,” came the pleasant voice. “But we have a new director and she’s decided to rewrite all marketing materials herself. Website, ads, newsletters, all brochures…” she trailed off apologetically.
This is not worth an argument, I told myself, watching a beautiful deer stroll past my window in Valley Forge, PA-but I tried one anyway. “Doesn’t she know her time is better spent getting out and meeting prospects? She’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 that.
Friends, it’s time to stop hiding behind your desks. DIY (trendy acronym for “do-it-yourself”) won’t help your organization, your prospects-or your career. Let’s look at time-wasters the new director is putting in the way of doing her job-cultivating prospects and closing gifts. For her new planned giving website alone:
- She will have 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 re-write.
- There will be another round of editing before her graphic layout is approved. (“But, this doesn’t match our template…”)
- After copy and design are approved, she will sit down for lengthy sessions with IT (she wants logical navigation and wayfinding to guide her site’s visitors; IT isn’t sure what that means but has 12 jobs waiting before it can even get to hers).
- The site is up! Congratulations. Now, remember to keep that web presence fresh with new donor testimonials, rate changes, tax updates, etc!
Why go through a grind like this, when you’re getting paid to burn shoe leather going to your prospects’ front doors? Are you trying to cut costs? Convinced you can do it better than anyone else? Following an old playbook? (First, study planned giving; then sell your Board on it; then assemble an Advisory Committee; then write your marketing; then wait for responses.) Let me try to kick aside some of the barriers that are keeping you from getting out of your office:
Cash costs. Think that by doing it yourself you’ll save money? You won’t. Many operations spend six to eighteen months getting self-designed websites operational, only to be less than satisfied with final results.
Opportunity costs. Developing marketing tools in-house incurs opportunity costs in the form of contacts not made, prospects not visited and gifts not closed while you and your staff were doing busy work. Doing it yourself means turning yourself 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 it better. Maybe so. But fundraising isn’t a hobby, it’s your job. You’re being paid to prioritize your talents to build your organization’s financial strength. Which of the tasks that you could do this morning will best achieve that goal?
Control Issues. Our recent survey showed a very high correlation between prospects visited, gifts closed, and the salary of the PGO. It makes sense. So why do some fundraisers obsess over back-office issues? Be entrepreneurial and let go!
Minutiae can keep you behind your desk while you try to make every ad, every gift description, every year-end letter, “perfect.” Meanwhile life, and your prospects, are moving on. We tell our clients to strive for excellence, not perfection.
I’m following the playbook. Planned giving is no longer news to your prospects. They’ve heard from ten different sources by now about how gift annuities work. So you don’t have to listen to thirty-year old advice about launching your planned-gifts campaign in slow motion.
…And don’t get me started about waiting to go public until you have Gift Acceptance Policies in place. Yes, it’s useful to have written guidelines about who does what when a prospect offers you an out-of-the-ordinary gift like like an igloo farm in the north pole. But that can wait just a bit, can’t it?
Procrastination. Anxious because you don’t know the gift plans? It’s okay; we understand. You can brush up! But do not let it turn into an excuse. After all, Mrs. McGillicuddy isn’t all that tough, and she’d love a visit from you. Go on, pick up that phone, then wear out your shoe leather.