Your Organization’s Habits – Are They Good?


Every nonprofit’s fundraising plan is a bundle of habits.

  • Some organizations habitually send out 4 appeals, 1 per quarter.
  • Some organizations habitually call all new donors.
  • Some organizations habitually send out a Christmas card to all donors. 

Think for a second about your organization’s habits. 

The big question is whether an organization has data to tell them whether their habits are helpful… or not.

Quick example.  I once served an organization that habitually sent Christmas cards to all their donors.  They were certain the cards helped with their year-end fundraising, but they had no data to back that up.  And they’d done it for so many years that no one around the table remembered a time when they didn’t send the cards.

So we divided their donors into two random-but-equal groups.  One group received the Christmas cards and the year-end campaign.  The other group did not receive cards, and only received the year-end campaign. 

In January we looked at the results.  The response rate, average gift size, and net revenue from each group was essentially the same. 

They discovered that their habit of sending Christmas cards did not increase how much money they raised.  But it did increase expenses. 

So the following year they dropped the habit. 

Please take a quick look at your organization’s habits.  Make a list of habits that have been directed by data.  By that I mean you’ve tried at least one alternative and the alternative was measurably worse. 

Then make a list of the habits where your organization has little to no information about how an alternate approach might work.  These are the habits that are likely to be personal preferences, or passion projects of an important stakeholder, or traditions that have been handed down from the past. 

The longer the list of habits without information, the more fundraising opportunity you have.