October 26, 2011

You’re seriously over-farming your donors

Chris AbrahamWhen it comes to your direct mail campaigns, you’ve probably over-farmed your land.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_2SuUnP-O3PM/R5iYF9xLlbI/AAAAAAAAAcE/YgKmw0ep6KM/s320/droughted+field.jpgYou’ve been emailing and snail mailing the same donors you have done for a decade. It is time to leave the land fallow and let the lists rest. You have probably responded to lower donations and attention by relinquishing too much power to your direct marketing firm and they have been much more aggressive than you’re comfortable with, sending out many more snail mail and email donation requests than ever before. You used to blame the economy for decreased giving but you’re starting to believe it has more to do with the fertility of the donor list than it does with the economic collapse of 2008–or a lot less than you’ve been led to believe. You realize that the nonprofit space is ever more competitive, but your brand is strong and respected and comes up well in Charity Navigator, so what gives?

Well, in agriculture, it is possible to over-farm your land.  Indeed, it is probable, in a couple ways:

Ultimately, you need to do one or more of a couple things: allow the land to rest, either ceasing farming completely or throttling down substantially, though this is impossible if you’re tending only one plot of land; enrich the land you already have with better aeration, nutrition, and pesticides with the expectation that you will be able to increase your yield; rotate your crops within the land you already have with crops that tend to enrich the soil that has been depleted by your main crop, naturally returning your field to a cycle of fertility; or you can expand your fields, distributing your yield over a larger plot of land, reaching into a greater diversity of quality of land, essentially hedging your bets over land of varying quality, durability, fertility, and health, resulting in a more consistent crop that is less dependent on any particular geographic focal point. Continue reading