The Goldie Company

Parley: May 2014 - Go Bold: The Science of Trying New Tactics

Go Bold: The Science of Trying New Tactics

Increased competition and depleting donor bases: they’re some of the sad facts of contemporary fundraising. But where many fundraisers might see introducing a new theme (Las Vegas! Under the Sea!) for the annual black tie gala is a solution, the vigilant types who are fighting for their causes are turning the traditional on its head.

They’re seeing opportunities to take some risks.

Changing your fundraising tactics can be a big choice, but a bold idea can have tremendous impact. In effort to attract a new generation of patrons, for instance, the Art Gallery of Ontario now hosts First Thursdays, massive monthly parties that are accessible and promise ticketholders an experience. The AGO took a risk, but it’s an investment in the long-term health of the organization. Had a good time at the gallery? Come back and bring friends. Become a member—or, even better, a donor.

Sustainable organizations rely on a strategic plan that is constant. “It’s written to deliver certain resources to the organization that it needs to run programs and services,” says John Phin, Director, Western Canada of The Goldie Company. “Tactical fundraising activities, however, allow you to be bold.”

How fundraisers can gather the confidence to try new ideas that will meet their organization’s long-term goals? We asked Phin and a fellow fundraising expert, Lee Pigeau, for their thoughts. Here’s what they said.

•    Research the idea. No matter how novel the idea might be to your organization, most things have been done, Pigeau says. That’s not a bad thing; in fact, it could help your case. “Before you introduce your idea, look at other examples of its success and follow in those footsteps,” he says. “Try to pick examples from organizations that your board, staff, and committee members respect and admire. Show them it can be done.”

•    Workshop the idea with your peers. A drastically new idea can benefit from different perspectives, and, as great as your team may be, you might not find that feedback in your office. Try giving yourself—and the idea—some fresh air. Take it down the street to a completely different type of organization, and ask for feedback from your fundraising peers. Does it make sense? Will it help you accomplish your goals? Will it attract new prospects or engage your current donors? “New perspectives will help you decide, and your peers are some of your greatest resources,” he says.

•    Make a plan, share it, and gain support. Trying something new and different is always a challenge, but it’s easier to make it a success if everyone’s on board with the idea. “Don’t try to do new initiatives alone,” Pigeau says. “Bring your board and leadership team into the loop to share ideas, show them you’ve done your research, and ask for honest feedback.”

The bottom line? “Don’t be afraid to try a new program or approach,” Phin says. And, as always, be vigilant. Remember that new ideas can come from unexpected places, and that no idea is successful without a strategy and support from the team.