I've posted a lot of advice in this space, and I read a lot of fantastic advice from my colleagues and mentor-types around the world. I really believe that if you want to excel at copywriting for nonprofits, now is the best time to be working -- there's simply never been so much easy access to top-notch educational resources as there is today. But what happens when you're not allowed to implement all this world-class free advice?
There are a lot of obstacles to doing your best work. Organizations hire me to help them do their best work, and even I face huge hurdles in implementing the changes I know are necessary to push my clients' efforts into the stratosphere. I know you know what I'm talking about:
- Board Members who think their corporate expertise translates to fundraising.
- Program staff who don't understand that fundraising is as important as what they're doing in the field.
- Databases and antiquated computer systems that are virtually unusable.
- Executives who are unwilling to invest in best-practice acquisition and retention.
- A basic lack -- of EVERYTHING! Not enough staff, crumbling infrastructure, too few resources...the list goes on.
I do love Tina Fey's advice to go "Over! Under! Through!" the things or people standing in your way. But for non-profits, sometimes, unfortunately, these obstacles prove insurmountable. So what's a savvy fundraiser to do?
Focus on what you CAN do.
So you can't segment your list properly, or your CEO refuses to give you staff to make thank you calls. Instead of moaning about what you can't do, try coming up with ways to work with what you do have.
What about hand-selecting 100 (or another doable number) of your most loyal donors for more personalization than your database can offer? Can you write a script for volunteers and put them on the phone with your donors?
There are usually several different ways to come at a problem. Venture outside your comfort zone and see if you can find one of them. And if you still can't solve your problem, then focus on doing the best job you can with the resources you have while continuing to...
Educate everyone at your organization.
Let them know what is possible. Remind program staff that you are on their side -- working tirelessly to get them the money to fund the amazing and selfless work that they do every day. Paint a picture for your leadership of what your organization could accomplish with the right equipment, experts, or staff. Provide your Board with information about fundraising best practices and show them your plan for bringing your organization up to that level.
Just as you keep your donors informed about the work your organization is doing, you should keep everyone at your nonprofit informed about what your department is doing. Open the lines of communication on your end. Be an example of how things could be.
Keep doing your best work.
I have worked with people and organizations that did not want my advice. I've also worked with groups that wanted me to swoop in and save their direct mail creative, while doing everything they could to tie my hands. It's not fun.
But regardless of the dysfunction around you, the absolute best thing you can do for yourself and your organization is to do the best work that you can do. It may become clear that you need to part ways, but until then, take advantage of all the wonderful free advice that's out there and do your best to excel.
Because really, the only thing you can control is your effort.