As a fundraiser for The Salvation Army, you’ve spent an entire year on the work that’s going to be executed over the next few months. And for many of TrueSense Marketing’s clients, it’s nail-biting time. But how can you know when to pop the cork on your sparkling cider … or when to start panicking?
Here Are 5 Ways to Determine When It’s Time to Celebrate, or When It’s Time to Sweat
- Insist on apples-to-apples comparison. Looking at a date on the calendar and comparing it to the same date on last year’s calendar does you no good when evaluating year-over-year fundraising performance. Instead, review the number of days from your campaign launch. If October 20 of last year was three weeks into your Thanksgiving campaign, and this year, October 20 is four weeks in – your reports will be falsely inflated. The inverse is also true.
- Think back 365 days: What was happening? Was there a recession? Was there a disaster? Was there a government shutdown? TrueSense Marketing relies on tried and true strategies, which means we deploy direct mail and online fundraising that has been tested and proven to generate income, as long as outside factors are minimal. If you’re comparing a non-disaster year to a disaster year, you need to consider how many donors changed their giving pattern because of this (or another) outside influence.
- Data, data, data — timing, coding, and accuracy are all the rage. And they always have been. It’s easy to forget the journey that a donation often has to take to get from the donor, to the bank, to the database. Most commercial gift-processing (or “caging”) operations fall at least a little behind during the busiest times. You may have the same problem in-house. The often thankless job of gift processing is combined with a flood of work, which can result in delays — delays in posting, in white mail processing, glitches in data exchanges, and so on. You may also be experiencing data inaccuracies from changes in the way an appeal is coded, or who is entering non-remit gifts. Data is more science than art, and when the control elements change, so will the results.
- Ask for production updates. On occasion, human and machine error happen at the most inopportune times. If you’re seeing an unexplained decrease in revenue (after considering the factors above), reach out to your agency partners to make sure everything was mailed, emailed, and otherwise executed on time as planned. If you’re using a local post office box, it is always a good idea to check in with them to verify that sweeps and transfers are happening. (Once upon a time, there was a postmaster out sick, and the sweeps stopped until he returned … nearly a month later.)
- Know the strategy you’re using. Are you cutting back on segments? Did you exclude major donors from certain communications? Are you shifting quantities? A good agency will provide a proforma that should serve as a general basis of expected return. But if you don’t have that, you should at least be aware of any big changes to the previous year’s plan.