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Downes Murray International News

The more things change...

Looking back at the first issue of Fundraising Forum, published in June 1987, it’s quite easy to believe that, in fundraising at least, not much has changed in the past 27 years.

An article by Sheila McCallum urged us to hold firm to the belief that emotional copy was the essential ingredient to involve direct mail donors – and that certainly is still true today.

Neil Jackson talked about learning from the world of commerce and ‘positioning’ your NPO to attract more donor support.

He gave an example of Boys Town South Africa positively positioning themselves as different from other childcare organisations.

So what has changed? Nothing much except the terminology – nonprofit organisations in the UK and the USA in particular are all talking about ‘branding’. How to establish your ‘brand’ in the donor marketplace so that your organisation becomes ‘top of mind’ with donors.

Joe Araujo was interviewed on the then new management tool of strategic planning. Most NPOs are still using it in one form or another today. They’ve recognised that it is necessary to regularly revisit mission and vision and even the relevance of services, in this rapidly changing world.

Jerry Huntsinger – America’s doyen of direct mail fundraising – gave us his six predictions for 1987. They included the forecasts that:
  • The organisations with a strong public image would experience remarkable growth (positioning and branding, once again!).
  • Donor saturation would get worse, not better, but that we can’t stop prospecting for new donors or we’ll stop growing and die.
  • Prospect mailings will become less and less likely to break-even – but that it would be possible to justify the increased costs by acquiring donors who would contribute higher average gifts, more times per year, and over a longer period of years.
  • Premiums – little free ‘gifts’ attached to the mailing piece or offered in return for a donation – would remain with us always.

These predictions have all proved to be totally true 27 years down the line not just for 1987.

The first issue of Fundraising Forum also showcased the three 3-day Total Development workshops, run by Michael Downes and the DMI team in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

One of the key elements of Total Development was the pinnacle of the pyramid, bequest promotion – the ultimate gift. And in the 27 years since this idea was introduced, bequests have proved to be one of the greatest growth areas in South African fundraising.

Now even more sophisticated with the introduction of bequest societies, the careful and caring promotion of this alternative form of giving is bringing in many millions of rands each year for our nonprofit organisations.

This is an extract from the late Terry Murray’s book The Art of Asking + 60 More Fundraising Tips and Trends.

This article first appeared in Fundraising Forum: Issue 79, March 2008.

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