If Shakespeare Wrote about Fundraising…

If Shakespeare Wrote about Fundraising…

It would be a tragedy!

The Capulets (The DMs)

In the red corner, we have the mass marketing Capulets. The direct marketeers (DMs).  They look after the majority of donors.

They deliver mass produced communications, but personalise it a little. And they focus on efficiency as well as volume.  While their salaries aren’t that big, they come with very expensive direct costs for print, postage, agencies, copywriters and more.

They have helped build donor databases and secure ongoing revenue in many nations, especially in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and just about every western European nation.

You’ll find the Capulets in ‘classic’ charities – charities dealing with humans, animals or the environment. Charities like Greenpeace, Red Cross, Cancer Foundation, Heart Foundation, UNICEF, Amnesty, WWF and local causes. And they are working on raising ongoing revenue.

A few Capulets manage to land jobs in universities, hospitals and arts organisations where they are granted a desk and computer in a dark basement.  Sometimes a chair too.

Generally they look after donors under a certain monetary value. If they succeed in getting the donors to a higher level, the donors may be taken away from them and passed to the Montagues.

The Montagues (The MDs)

In the blue corner, we find the sworn enemy of the Capulets.  The relationship focused major donor development people (MDs).  They look after the top end of town.

With bigger salaries, but low direct costs the Montagues are Very Important People.  If your charity is going to get $1,000,000 from someone it is more likely to come from the Montagues than the Capulets.

You’ll usually find the Montagues in institutional fundraising organisations, and the bulk of the money they raise is in capital development.  You’ll find them in hospitals, universities and arts organisations.

Occasionally you might find them in ‘classic’ charities, housed next to the CEO and hobnobbing with star-struck boards.

Neither the Capulets nor the Montagues are better than the other. They both play a part in fundraising – a very, very important part.  I reckon the Montagues (MDs) probably raise more than the Capulets (DMs), but most of that is capital.

The problem is that the Capulets and the Montagues don’t get on very well.  And they don’t have the Prince, Benvolio and the the Friar trying to bridge the gap.

Shakespeare brought the families together by sacrificing Tybalt and Mercutio, Juliet and Romeo.

We also have our sacrifice. The millions of dollars lost to charities because of these six mistakes created by the family feud:

  1. Assuming someone who makes a donation over a certain amount wants a personal relationship with someone in the charity.
  2. Taking people over a certain dollar value out of the direct marketing program in the hope of forming said relationship.
  3. Failing to try and meet some lower value donors who would be worth meeting – e.g. a donor who drops $1000 to a direct mail appeal is probably worth meeting.
  4. Trying to maximise volume of mailings and donor databases rather than focusing on the quality of data and the quality of communications. Mailing better communications to ‘better’ doors will make more revenue. Even if the extra unit cost means reducing volume.
  5. Spending too much time planning, researching, developing a major donor program, and avoiding actually meeting with potential major donors.
  6. Thinking for one moment that a really rich well known stranger who knows someone who is friends with someone on the board is a better prospect than a non-famous donor already on the database who has given $1000.

Just like in Romeo and Juliet, we can see how the story unfolds, but it is easier to avert tragedy.

All you need to do is avoid those six mistakes.


PS – OK, if Shakespeare had written this, it would have been better than what I have just written, but give me a break for trying a different angle!


PPS – for more information on avoiding those mistakes, please check out my series of webinars and recordings on Mid Value Donors.  The latest of which, I’m holding Thursday and Friday with Tom Ahern, at various times – see details below.

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