Jeff Brooks at Donor Power Blog just did a post that spiked my blood pressure.

He — correctly — took to task a report that, over a one year period, UK nonprofits earned merely 39 cents in donations for each $1 they spent on direct mail (and 44 cents for each $1 spent on all direct marketing).

The new study was reported in an apparently clueless article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review titled, “Pyrrhic Fundraising.”

Jeff points out that the study was “likely” talking only about donor acquisition programs, as opposed to looking at ROIs that factor in the entire donor development process (i.e. lifetime value). I emphasize the word “likely” because it's impossible to locate the actual study, purportedly just published in the Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing.

[Indeed, I was really excited to discover via the Stanford article that such a publication even existed, but my excitement was quickly quashed when my online searching could only produce a cite indicating the Journal's website was last updated in August 2006.]

Maybe the authors will read this post and furnish The Agitator with the study.

But meantime, I have to conclude that Jeff Brooks was too restrained in suggesting the article “might lead people astray.” Jeff's rightly worried that mainstream media tends to echo just the headline message of pieces like “Pyrrhic Fundraising” and that such secondary coverage might frighten off erstwhile donors.

I agree with Jeff. Read this article and you might well conclude that charity fundraisers were either fools or frauds.

In fact, Jeff is far too polite. Any “study” that does not examine donor acquisition costs in the full context of lifetime value is pure horse****!

And further, any reporter who doesn't “get it” shouldn't be writing about fundraising.

So I don't know who The Agitator should fire first, the study authors, or the Stanford Social Innovation Review's reporter!


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