I’m not sure how many of you will have come across the old McGraw Hill advertisement popularly know as: “The Man in The Chair”? It's a marketing and advertising classic.
It’s also something of a direct marketing education staple too. I remember it being pulled out a handful of times when I was on the IDM’s Direct Marketing Diploma course back in 1991 (sigh . . . seems like just yesterday).
Originally used in 1958, this advertisement became so influential that it was voted the best business ad of the 20th century by Business Marketing Magazine in 1999 (now B2B Online).
My guess is that it’s still a staple favorite of direct marketing speakers and educators, because it really drives home the message that there’s quite a mountain to be climbed when it comes to winning new customers.
And, for that matter . . . new donors.
“The Man in the Chair” is probably less well known in fundraising circles than in the commercial marketing world, but that’s a great shame, because it has a lot to teach fundraisers too.
Here's my 'fundraising' version, “The Donor in the Chair”, which I hope will show why:
Donor recruitment is not easy. And it’s not cheap. But the biggest mistake you can possibly make is to try it once, look at the results and conclude: recruitment doesn’t work for us.
Of course it does. You just have to keep at it.
Not via one channel and one channel alone. But through a combination of channels: page ads, outbound telephone, online, cold direct mail, unaddressed mail/letter box drops, social media, face to face.
Apply the fundamentals first . . . make sure you answer the objections above and do it quickly. You have a matter of thirty seconds or so to communicate . . .
1. Who you are
2. What your organization does
3. Who you help and how you help them
4. What's unique about the way you make a difference in their lives
5. Why they should trust you with their money*
6. Exactly what you’ll do with it if they make a donation
7. Proof that it will get where it’s supposed to go and have real impact
*Expert endorsements and beneficiary testimonials are worth their weight in gold here.
Having applied the fundamentals, you have to keep trialing, testing, improving and refining. And two things will happen.
Firstly, you will recruit new donors. And in numbers. And over time a substantial proportion of them will become increasingly valuable and profitable to your organisation.
Secondly, your recruitment efforts will themselves become increasingly cost effective. Yes, it really is possible to recruit new donors at a 1 to 1 cost ratio. Or even better.
The absolute worst thing you can do, is turn your back on donor recruitment altogether, and simply hope that new supporters will show up in enough numbers to cancel out your natural attrition rates.
Your donor base is a leaky bucket. You can try to plug the leak, but the best you can hope to do is slow it down.
The harsh reality is that donors will keep leaking out the bottom. And the only solution is to keep pouring new ones in at the top.
Maybe “The Donor in the Chair” can help you the next time you’re putting a recruitment campaign together.
Print her off and pin her to your notice board. Treat her mantra as your antidote to failure, your reminder to apply the fundementals, and your encouragement to keep at it.