Getting in your fundraising time machine

For years, I’ve said that if I had a time machine, there are three things I would do:

  1. Kill Hitler.  Yes, this always goes wrong in sci-fi, but I’m sure I could do it right this time.  Yes, I know this is what the people in sci-fi always say before they mess things up.
  2. Fun with sports betting.
  3. Invest more in acquisition back when people actually made money or broke even in acquisition.

When I started in direct marketing fundraising, I could see these old campaigns on historic reporting, but I never fully believed it.  It was like when your relative told you how you used to be able to buy a Cadillac for a dime (you just had to walk miles uphill in the driving snow to get it; everything was uphill then).  Or, more recently, talking with Boomers about what they paid for their first house or college.  The numbers just don’t seem real.

They were.  And they are back.  Not for everyone.  And not all at once.  But in our monthly state of the union discussion for nonprofits (email me at if you are a nonprofit and would like to participate), several different organizations mentioned while both donor and acquisition results are up, their acquisition results were up even more substantially, to the point that some were making money in acquisition and the rest were paying significantly less to acquire a donor than ever before.

We’re seeing it in mail, digital, and DRTV.  More details to come on each of these, but, for example, even though we projected decreased costs for DRTV earlier in the year, we didn’t expect the cost to acquire to drop by 40%, which is what we’re seeing.

This all means that you are the you that future-you will try to visit, Grey’s Sports Almanac in hand, to implore you to invest more in acquisition.

Yes, it may be a challenging time to do it.  These are not normal times.  It’s tempting to put any net we can get in our mattresses or use them to compensate for losses in areas like events.

But nothing bears interest like putting your money into a donor, especially when you will likely have to pay more to acquire that same donor in the future.

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