Last night, Robert Merkley sent me an email.
Awesome fundraising, you have qualified for a cruise, please pick either Wednesday September 2nd or Wednesday September 9th, please let me know a.s.a.p
Have a great, ggrrreeeeaaaaatttttt evening
Oh, please continue you awesome fundraising, much, much appreciated,
A few weeks earlier, as in previous years, Merkley had made available to the top 20 fund-raisers in his team for The Ride, a fund-raising initiative for cancer research at the Ottawa Hospital, a day-long boat Thousand Islands boat cruise.
I had ignored the offer in previous years because my fund-raising didn’t seem to have much chance of meeting the qualifying level. (Merkley said in previous years the cut-off was about $2,800 and I barely made the minimum target of $1,500.)
But a few things changed this year. In part because of a slow start to the campaign, there seemed to be less competition. I also had the advantages of inertia and previous experience in the competition, and had wasted no time in sending out the reminder “ask” letters to people on my list who had pledged in my name previously.
I have one “major donor” — a childhood friend who has battled cancer all his life, and has inherited a fortune. In previous years, he donated $500, compared to the usual contributions between $20 and $200. This year he ponied up $1,000. In almost no time, I had reached the early (and previously tough for me) $1,500 baseline target.
The days set for Merkley’s boat cruise were clear of conflicts. So, since the goal seemed attainable, I decided to go for it. My partners in Ottawa Renovates magazine decided to contribute $200 (a bonus). My wife offered $100. And I read Merkley’s support documentation and his offer to design an “ask” letter based on a template team-mates had used previously.
Oh, and he set a deadline for the boat cruise. Funds needed to be raised within about four days.
I set off to adapt Merkley’s template to my list and fired it out to about 300 names on my personal database. This netted some worthy contributions, including a few from people I didn’t expect, and one from a cousin in Vancouver.
Then I realized, while I had sent the form email my siblings, I hadn’t contacted them directly. I decided to send one to my younger brother. He responded with a modest contribution. That motivated me to send notes to my elder brother and sister. They contributed as well.
And these contributions pulled me over the top to the target level for the boat cruise.
I share this story with you in part because it shows some the limits, strengths and opportunities of sales and marketing incentives and results. Each contributes to the picture, which can be a moving target.
Do you have a worthy objective higher than your own self-interest?
Certainly, I’m not receiving the funds for cancer research. Nor is Merkley. It is a lot easier to seek support and contributions for a worthy cause than for selfish interest.
Where is your momentum and that of the market around you?
Here my momentum was positive, in part because of some luck (the extra-large contribution from my major contributor); but because of the late campaign start, I didn’t have as much competition and so decided I had a chance of winning.
Are there tangible incentives?
The boat cruise seems like fun. There are meals and tours of places I have never been, and some interesting networking opportunities on board.
Do you have tested, proven and support-based marketing tools?
Merkley provided a marketing template, and suggested we use it, including suggesting we use an individual photo from last year ride. I decided to use it.
Is there a deadline and call to action?
Obviously I had to do this within a short time-frame.
There’s nothing new under the sun in these examples and tools and notably, while all of them contributed to the fund-raising success, none of them provided the single-answer magic bullet.
And there are other points to note:
The power curve really applies here. Merkley stands out as the contributing leader. In the campaign, which has over the last six years raised more than $8.5 million for cancer research, his personal and pledged contributions are more than 50 times what I’ve achieved. His network of friends and contacts also have (at the top levels) made contributions far in excess of my levels. Of course, there are many more — the long tail — who have contributed less. As well, note my one major contributor in a single gift gave five times more than the highest second contributor. Indeed, a few major players at the top have far more influence and effectiveness than the mass at the bottom.
Inertia and experience cannot be underestimated.
It is always easier to do business with repeat clients; and fund-raising is no exception. If people have given before, they will likely give (or do business again), all things being equal. So the larger your base, the more you collect with less effort.
However, you cannot be passive and “rely” on historical results.
If I had settled just for asking for repeat clients, I would have maintained previous years’ levels, with virtually no effort, but things would start dropping off in a year or two. I needed to reach out and expand my scope and find new opportunities.
Relationships count — You’ll succeed with people who know you.
Obviously, while I received a few contributions by marketing to people I didn’t really know, most come from friends and family. But there is a double-edged observation here — in that this project has raised most of its funds from within my community, so colleagues and competitors all are raising their own funds for the same cause. Some elect to give to everyone who asks, but others are more selective.
Metrics matter — you need thresholds and comparative numbers.
I wouldn’t have bene motivated, nor would I have known even what to do, if there hadn’t been some target numbers and tangible fund-raising objectives here.
In essence, this project demonstrates the big picture of any campaign to enhance and improve your marketing and business development results. There is no magic bullet. But, combined, you can apply the various tools and insights to achieve success.
Go for it.