Are you pricing out your prospects?

We love getting acquisition mail from all kinds of nonprofit organizations. We study their packages, read their letters and—occasionally—see a few red flags.

One troubling development concerns how much fundraisers are asking prospects for their first ever gift. These individuals have zero relationship with the organizations asking them for money. And yet, we’re noticing that gift prompt amounts are on the rise so we want to pass on one of Chris Dann’s favorite aphorisms: “All giving is voluntary.”

Donors decide your value. Always have, always will. The moment you start to insert your own opinions and instincts, you risk undermining your finely crafted case for support. So how do you put a price on what you do?

No prizes for guessing the answer. You do it through testing. Followed by more testing. First, make sure that everyone agrees and supports the campaign goals with respect to both donors acquired and investment made. Next, align the strategy accordingly. And finally, crunch the numbers from previous prospecting campaigns and similar audiences until a clear picture emerges of a donation amount the market will bear.

Don’t stop there. Why not use the acquisition mailing to test a range of gift amounts or “ask strings” to further refine your understanding? This way, you’re always learning about your donors and making future success more likely.

Even when the data tells you an amount that is uncomfortably low, don’t worry about devaluing your brand. If you’re persuasive about your cause, your prospects are likely to give more than you ask. Sometimes, a lot more.

There’s a place for intuition and strong opinions in fundraising. Just not when you’re figuring out gift amounts. The only people worth listening to are your donors.