Monday, November 3, 2008

Asking for money - should I mention the recession?

A few people have asked:
Should I mention the recession in my appeal copy?

eg 'times are difficult, but we’re reliant on your funds and don’t want to put our programmes in jeopardy' or 'we need your gift more than ever'.

Tough one, because I believe in honesty and integrity in all donor communications and it is silly to pretend a recession isn't happening. My instinct is to mention it. But their is the worry of whether we are introducing a barrier - ie a reason not to give.

So instinct aside, Kimberly Mackenzie of Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation in Canada said she heard 'Lots of people are saying it is dangerous'. I am not worried about contradicing 'lots of people' but am worried about giving the wrong advice.

So let's look into this further...

The most successful early mail appeal Pareto Fundraising sent out back in 2003, mentioned 'economic uncertainty following the war, SARS, bush fires and ...' it raised very close to the entire annual appeal income for the charity in one mailing so mentioning economic woes there didn't seem to harm things.

However, I got feedback about another test from another charity (which I blogged) reckoning not to mention it.

The bottom line is you should be honest. If it is relevant to you, you should tell the truth!

So, I think you should consider mentioning it if:

  • It has an impact on your services (ie we need more money because more people need our help)
  • You have lost funding, ie corporates dropped out, event cancelled and you would have to stop a service because of it - but don't be specific, people would not feel motivated by replacing money that some nasty bank promised, then withdrew
But I am not convinced of it’s usefulness in telling people you are ‘worried’.

I reckon it is all to do with how it is written, and needs very skilled copywriter but on balance, the safe tip is probably not to mention it.

Finally, I think there would be no harm in mentioning it in thank you letters: 'we know times are difficult, so we’re extra appreciative of your gift ...'

We will hopefully test and I will look for more test feedback...Please people - anyone who tests, please share feedback and preferably details of the test.

Sean Triner

1 comment:

Kimberley from Canada said...

Hi Sean,

As a follow up to our conversation. We have a list too small to test. We also have a lot of matching government funds and growth over 35% per year for four years. So inspired by this blog and you we decided to mention the recession and be honest. This is what the copy in our mailing says: "I appreciate that, in this time of economic uncertainty, you may be more conscious of where you want to contribute your donation dollars to have the greatest impact. Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation is a charity you can trust, with an outstanding record of delivering real, on the ground results that make a lasting difference in your community."

Later we talk about momentum we have accomplished and the importance of keeping it going.

In a speech I delivered to a crowd of 200 last week I mentioned it as well, the last paragraph ended with:

In times of economic uncertainty we must work together to keep this momentum going. We can't slow down and we certainly will not stop!

Note: is was NOT a fundraising event I likely wouldn't have done it if it was an auction or something.

200 people clapped pretty hard. (is that "data") I agree with you. I think it is on everyone's mind anyway. We can't ignore it. But let's not make ourselves victims of it.

Great blog.
PS another impact of the recession is the loss of a great board member yesterday. His securities business is under a lot of stress he has to give up volunteer work. We will loose human capital too.