Do you stop doing things that don’t work?

stop doing what doesnt work

Sounds simple, but we can be very committed to things that have worked in other places, ‘should’ work or are in our comfort zone. And sometimes we simply don’t stop to evaluate what is working.

I’ve recently coached three talented fundraisers at three different charities. One of the things I supported them to do is identify things that are not working and test another method.

Here are the challenges that we tackled:

Contacting prospective donors This fundraiser was tasked with contacting dozens of ‘cold’ prospects every month to secure face-to-face meetings.

She said: “I’ve sent letters and e-mailed them all several times with very little response. I just think the donor pool is too cold.”

My questions: is churning out well-written identikit letters and e-mails working? What would your response be to ‘ignorable’ correspondence from an organisation with which you have no established relationship? What other means of communication can we try before we conclude that they’re unresponsive?

The answer: a sustained strategy of phoning through her list of prospects every week to try to catch them for a brief conversation to secure a face-to-face meeting.

The result: a total turnaround of fortunes; prospective supporters were happy to hear from the organisation and dozens said yes to the face-to-face meetings she had been tasked with securing.

Devoting the most time to the highest return This lone fundraiser had been tasked with community and local corporate fundraising. She was struggling to drive good income from these sources.

She said: “There just isn’t much appetite for giving to a tiny local charity.”

My questions: are you targeting a group with a strong passion for your work? Are you targeting a group with significant means to support your work? Can we find a group of people who care more about what you do and have greater means?

The answer: a shift from lots of small group fundraising activity to one-to-one work with prospective major donors who had some connection to the charity’s work.

The result: a talented fundraiser’s talent being properly deployed to inspire people to offer substantial support and a sharp boost in income.

Converting guests to Friends An ambitious fundraiser wanted to grow her group of Friends (high net worth regular donors). The annual Christmas party was designed as a bring a +1 social and thank you event for this group and had an excellent turnout. All the Friends were bringing appropriate guests, but barely a handful were signing up as new Friends.

She said: “I don’t know how else to target people who I don’t know.”

My questions: can we find another way to entice them on the night? Can we find ways to start a conversation on the night that might lead to a relationship with the organisation?

The answer: raffle off a “got to have it” prize to anyone who becomes a Friend on the night or increases their regular gift. And keep it open for a few days as a follow-up tool.

The result: the raffle was an excellent opener at the party for having a conversation about the Friends scheme with prospective and existing Friends. She also used it to follow-up with guests who hadn’t joined the raffle and no-shows. She secured tens of new Friends and 25% of existing Friends increased their regular gift.

That’s just three examples of stopping to tweak where you invest your energy in order to reach your goals. I’d love to hear your experiences of stopping doing things that didn’t work: what did you change, what made you realise you could change it and what were the results?

Ilana Jackman is a fundraising coach working across the sector to help fundraisers optimise impact for their causes.