If it seems like I’m spending most of my time providing you with Campaign Hot Tips on fundraising…I am. Because that’s what most of you have told me is your #1 challenge right now.
But keep this in mind: The strategies and steps you need to take to make your campaign a worthy investment for potential donors are the same strategies and steps you need to take to make your campaign a worthy investment or potential VOTERS.
With that in mind, Kevin Gentry outlines below the steps to take to develop a marketing strategy that will help you boost donations to your campaign. And it’s the same general messaging strategy you need to develop to bring more voters, especially undecided voters, into your camp.
The most important aspect here: Find out what THEIR problem is; don’t try to sell them on fixing what YOU think their problem ought to be. Remember, vote-getting is about them, not you.
Additionally, keep in mind it’s not enough to simply identify the problem; you need to FIX the problem – or at least have a plan to fix the problem for them. If they have a problem that you can help them with that your opponent can’t, hasn’t or won’t…you have a voter on your side.
Now *all* you have to do is turn them out on Election Day. But that’s another topic for another day.
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A Standard Marketing Strategy for Fundraising
by Kevin Gentry
Is there a specific marketing strategy that should guide your fundraising?
Yes, I would argue. There’s a fairly standard marketing framework that I would suggest should be fundamental to and utilized in virtually every fundraising pitch you make. And it might be smart for you to weave this framework into your regular communications efforts, as well.
You might consider following this outline:
1. What is the problem you’re trying to solve, or the threat you’re working to address?
a. Do your prospects consider this problem to be relevant to their everyday lives?
b. Do your prospects see this problem as a credible threat to their well-being?
2. How is it that you’re proposing to solve this problem?
a. Do your prospects view your proposed solution as effective, reasonable and credible?
i. Are you providing a plan that is smart, logically organized and well thought-out?
ii. Does your plan provide a budget and timeline to help you achieve success?
b. Do your prospects view you as offering the most viable vehicle for addressing this problem?
Some will recognize that this common framework is very similar to Ludwig von Mises’ model of Human Action. That is, you’ll want to offer a). restless discontent; b). a vision for a better state; and c). a credible path to get there.
If you are a long-time fundraising and marketing veteran, you may view this as old-hat. But I might suggest that, on the one hand, this framework is the one indispensable ingredient in every fundraising solicitation, and on the other hand, it is not used often enough.
Please bear with me, if you would.
First, is the problem you’re trying to solve relevant and credible?
We know from the work that Al Ries and Jack Trout have done on positioning that it is best to try to fill an existing space in the otherwise overcrowded mind of your prospect. It is far, far, far tougher to convince your prospect that your issue is relevant and real than it is to latch onto his pre-existing conviction that your issue is immensely important.
You may be familiar with the “words that work” examples that pollster Frank Luntz often shares. Luntz suggests, for example, playing off the phrase “Wasteful Washington Spending.” Think about this. If you are working to sound the alarm about the bloated bureaucracy, is it better to tell your prospect that you are fighting “Wasteful Washington Spending” or “Excessive Growth in Government?”
Consider the example of public policy groups in the United States that have advocated for a strong U.S. military and activist foreign policy. In the 1970s while Jimmy Carter was president, the perceived threat to the United States from the Soviet Union was significant enough that those groups working on this issue were able to capitalize on the “restless discontent” of their fundraising prospects. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, those groups witnessed precipitous declines in fundraising. The continued threat to the U.S. didn’t seem as imminent or serious as it had seemed previously.
Another example of this is the March of Dimes organization. As you may know, it was originally founded by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s to help find a cure for polio. With the success of Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in the 1950s, the March of Dimes organization went through significant soul-searching and decided to stay in business, pivoting its mission away from finding a cure for polio to the much more general mission of fighting birth defects.
Now second, the next aspect of this framework is your solution. Can you indeed offer a means of addressing the threat, a better alternative, or as von Mises suggested, “the vision for a better state.”
You’ve no doubt heard donors complain about groups that simply rail against the problem. Cursing the darkness, as they say, is not especially productive. Let’s say you’ve caught the attention of prospects with your statement of the problem. They’re in agreement with you. They’re hooked, so to speak. Now you’ll want them to embrace your plan.
Okay, the final part. Let’s say your prospects are thrilled to discover that you have recognized the problem that has long worried them. And your prospects have also concluded, “Wow, not only does Sam see the world as I do, but he’s come up with a seemingly smart solution to the problems we face.” The kicker is that your prospects also see you as credible. Can you really deliver on the solution you’re offering?
You might consider here:
• Does your plan really make sense?
• Is it logically and professionally organized?
• Does it sound “smart?” (And do you sound smart?)
• Would the plan seem to have been carefully vetted?
• Is every possible question I might have – or FAQ – answered in the context of your plan?
• Are there lots of people I trust endorsing this plan?
• Is there evidence you have an impressive track record of past success?
• Are there intermediate measures of success or benchmarks where I can track your progress?
• Does your budget seem reasonable and your timeline appear appropriate?
• How might I judge your success?
IF you can address all of these items in your fundraising appeals or communications – whether they are in written letter form, in online messages, in full blown-out grant proposals, or in verbal pitches, in my judgment you’ll be much more likely to find a receptive audience that will fully embrace you.