This may seem like an overly dramatic opening, but in this time of increased pressure on fundraising, shrinking advancement budgets, and a demand for short-term results, the stakes are high. It pays to ensure your organization is focusing on the fundraising practices that will yield the strongest results in the long run.
A review of recent research and studies on the various solicitation strategies shows that the most commonly used techniques — direct mail, phonathon, special events, and even web/mobile giving — have either a very high cost to raise a dollar or a very low response rate (for some, both).
Personal solicitation, however, particularly when focused on major and planned gifts yields the highest return on investment of any form of solicitation and has the highest positive response rate. And, guess what, though it requires an institutional investment in staff, it raises the most money.
So, why haven’t we all embraced face-to-face solicitation as our primary means of fundraising?
Some leaders of organizations note that they can’t afford to wait for major gifts to mature. Others say they can’t justify the investment in staff at a time when every organization is increasingly focus on operating “efficiently.” The biggest hurdle, in reality, is that many development staff, presidents/executive directors, and board members are not very comfortable with face-to-face solicitation.
If your organization wants to move toward the most cost-effective, results-oriented form of solicitation, you may need to increase your risk tolerance. Most importantly, take the time to develop a plan that demonstrates the kind of investment that will be required to seriously ramp up your personal solicitation of major and planned gifts, matched with a corresponding estimate of the potential return.
Take the time to educate leadership on the value of investing in a sustainable fundraising strategy and you — and they — may be surprised with the outcome.