A strategic approach is always a long-term approach – or in other words: an early planning. Elements to be planned include according to the Swiss fundraising consultant Dr. Peter Buss primarily: addressees (i.e. target groups), offer (mission or project) and communication,i.e. the presentation of your organization to the outside. This process can be understood as the beginning of brand building.
The extent of such a brand management can be exemplified by the German development aid organization Welthungerhilfe. Its brand identity is composed of dozens of individual components. They include a clear mission (fight against hunger), a uniform corporate design – reaching from a defined green color scale to pre-defined keywords and sentence fragments – and a collection of well-defined stories. Donors – especially companies – no longer want to be asked for quick money. They look for long-term co-operation and sustainable projects.
Strategic Fundraising puts its eyes – like the strategic marketing – on the market (for donations) and thus considers the donor as a customer. The offer to him is the help to help others. It is scientifically proven that most people have the desire to support people who need help. Often, however, they are hindered to do so – due to distance, missing time and/or due to lack of the necessary expertise for help (e.g. medical knowledge). At this point the charity steps in and acts as an agent for help.
The perception of a donor being a charity’s customer has implications: No organization has to beg its customers for donations (begging is not an appropriate marketing strategy). But every NPO has to meet the needs of their customers (such as done by any successful company). Today most donors do not give out of sympathy or duty. Young donors rather wish to change personal lives and – just as important – seek to belong to a group that shares similar visions and values.
I believe nonprofit organization should follow a much more customer-oriented approach in fundraising. Strategic Fundraising does not need high-level marketing managers. Strategic Fundraising is first and foremost a philosophy and an attitude of mind which can be adopted by any organization, regardless of size and turnover.
The customer is always right. – Be prepared. Your donors might be always right, too.
Note: This article is a translated and slightly shortened version of my blog post 6/2013.