28 March 2010

Reaction: "enough"

(Note: if you haven't already read Godin's post I'm referring to, make sure you do so first)

Godin nailed it on the head - many of the people I have dealt with in fundraising have this exact fear.  They're afraid that there won't be a definable limit.  After all, what is enough?  How do you define it?

The simplest reaction to this "enough" ambiguity, especially in the realm of societal need, is to avert your eyes.  It's totally human, after all.

It's a fluffy example, but if you've ridden on Southwest Airlines you know it's true.  You've either been the averter or averted.  You know there's a need for seats; it's impossible to ignore.  It's just so...comfortable to wait on someone else to take that first step.  To make the ask.

As a fundraiser, the biggest challenge in my job is reaching the mid-level givers.  I know there's an intimidation factor that accompanies the "fundraiser" label; that's why people don't want to meet with them.  That's why they might hang up when asked for a donation.  It's another one of those people.

I've been wrestling with the best way to address this for the last two years, and while I have a few good principles I've used, I don't know that I've come up with a perfect solution yet.  More on that in a later post.

More broadly, the question of what's "enough" is going to be one universities and non-profits are going to have to help donors address soon.  But more than that, nonprofits are going to have to figure out themselves what enough is (and answer questions such as, "how much do we really need?").

There are now more than 1.2 million charities and foundations.  That means a growing number of nonprofits will be asking for help achieving their goals and addressing societal needs - and I wonder if donors will tire of it quickly.  According to George Rubanenko of Blackbaud, “After six solicitations a year, the likelihood for long-term loyalty diminishes significantly.”  

With more and more charities and foundations asking the same pool of people, how will donors react to six solicitations from different nonprofits?

Yes, "enough" is a tough thing to define, but nonprofits need to be asking themselves the same questions their prospects are wondering.

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