This is why I was in Manhattan on Friday. Fund Raising Day in New York, sponsored by the New York Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Even though I’m not directly responsible for development, I wanted to attend this conference to have a macro view of the strategies we could be using to raise resources for C3. This thing was huge…over 1,000 attendees, multiple tracks, nice size exhibit hall.
It was interesting to say the least. We’re such small potatoes, that my attending this thing was kind of like a child who has one of those Fisher Price See & Say things going to WWDC. But I went in to learn about small ideas we could implement now, and big ideas we can plan for later that can help get us to the point that we may actually belong at one of those things one day. I like to think 3 steps ahead. I nearly fell off my chair when one speaker spoke about a “small” campaign expected to only raise $1.5 million and how many organizations look to fill in gaps of $300-400K in their budget through individual gift campaigns. I guess you can do that when you have databases of 300,000 people to call upon. So not us.
Many of the consultants in the sessions were saying that direct mail is dead (or dying), but easily 70% of the exhibit hall were direct mail vendors. One caught my eye and asked me about our direct mail plans. It led to an interesting conversation. I told him that we had no direct mail plans. He was shocked. Horrified, actually. He started telling me what I could do for as little as $25,000. That doesn’t even include the list broker for the mailing list or the postage. Most of the professionals I spoke to said that the cost-per-conversion for direct mail were getting so high, it just wasn’t worth it anymore. I tend to agree. I’d rather spend that $25,000 on a combination of traditional and online media in an attempt to build buzz and trust.
I know I don’t read 98% of the direct mail I get, even from organizations that I already have a relationship with. I throw it on Eric’s pile and it usually goes out with the next recycling pick up. How about you? Are you persuaded by those letters? Do you learn about causes that way? I’m not talking about for-profit direct mail, I’m thinking of non-profit stuff only. Ironically, one of the speakers who said direct mail is dying made an exception for animal conservation groups…he said that they have the highest conversion rates. No one can resist pictures of cute & cuddly baby animals, I guess.