California is often on the cutting edge when it comes to new trends. Recently, I’ve seen something new that I absolutely do not like.
I’m talking about the public radio approach to Fund-A-Needs.
Some of my clients have expressed an interest in offering gifts to donors at the Fund-A-Need, the same way public radio gives donors a gift at each giving level.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
Client: We are thinking about this new approach to the Fund-A-Need.
Me: Like a public radio fundraiser, where you give gifts at each giving level?
Me: Why do you want to do this?
Client: To encourage people to donate and increase participation in the Fund-A-Need.
Me: I am happy to do whatever you want, but my job is to tell you the pros and cons of every situation and this one has more cons than pros.
The obvious pro to this approach is that there will be more merch out in the world with your nonprofit’s logo on it. This may lead to more brand awareness if your donors take these items out into the world and other people see them and are interested enough to look you up.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t explain the cons of this particular approach to the Fund-A-Need.
This conversation immediately prompts me to ask several questions:
Have you thought this through? Would you plan to only give this merch out at your event or would you give it to every donor who makes a qualifying donation? For example, say a medium size donor lives outside the city and can’t go to your gala, but they make a $1000 donation anyway. Do they get the same merch as the person who attended your event and made a donation?
Are you prepared to ship out merch for the next five, ten, fifteen years? Once you start doing this, you can’t stop without losing donors. Are you willing to facilitate trade with donors who want to switch merch?
Are you sure you want to train your donors to expect a prize for every donation? The job of the Fund-a-Need is to get people to connect with and care about the mission of your organization. If you fundamentally change the vibe of the Fund-a-Need, it is bound to make your message less compelling.
Giving out merch at each giving level is going to slow your Fund-a-Need way down, are you willing to devote more time to this part of the event? Instead of flowing smoothly from giving level to giving level, we’ll have to stop the flow to talk about the new piece of merch for the next giving level. This takes the focus off your message and puts it back on the item.
Don’t you think there’s enough stuff in landfills already? Let’s face it, that’s where most of this stuff ends up.
Ultimately, the decision to move forward with any aspect of a fundraising event is up to the client. If my clients want to try out this new Fund-A-Need approach, I’m not going to stop them. But I am going to caution them against something that I don’t think provides a good return and that takes the focus off the mission of the organization.