Top Mistakes Made by Companies Selling Print to Not-for-profits

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by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, PODi and Caslon & Company


TedRaymondShadowNot-for-profits represent a huge market segment with 1.5 million non-profit organizations representing $1.6 trillion in the U.S. alone. Ted Raymond, Principal at Allegra Marketing and Print, is an expert at selling to this market with considerable success. When I asked him what he sees as the biggest mistake print and marketing services providers make when trying to sell to this market, he didn’t hesitate for a second. He said that “the biggest mistake printers make when trying to sell to nonprofits is trying to sell print.”

Well, then what SHOULD printers sell to non-profits?

The answer is that people will pay for ways to get what they need, and non-profits need donors. Non-profits will listen to any company who can help them get more donors and get them to give more. They’ll buy whatever services that company provides (including print) as long as those services drive towards that goal. This is basic solution selling, which is applicable to any industry, but the non-profit segment has a special need here which print and marketing services providers can help address.

There are three types of donors: new donors, current donors, and lapsed donors. We all understand how winning new donors (customers) is highly rewarding, but that it is also the most costly. You have to find them, educate them, motivate them, and win them. Current donors (customers) are known, engaged, and have already gifted (purchased), so retaining them should be less expensive. However, according to the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals), 70% of people who give a gift won’t give a second gift.

Let that sink in for a minute. Imagine what their sales pipeline needs to look like to support nearly three-quarters of their wins leaving after one gift. Imagine if you could help them bring that single statistic down to a more reasonable level. Now, think about how you really could.

Most people donate because they have a personal connection to a cause. Thus, making marketing personal can have a dramatic impact on winning gifts. This is tough with the general population because you don’t know much about what motivates individuals. Sure, you can and should segment messages, offers and mailings based upon demographics like geography, age, gender or affiliation, but you are limited in how personal these can be made. However, you know a lot more about the people who have already donated once. For example:

  • You’ve learned and confirmed their correct name and contact information
  • You know how much they donated and when
  • You probably know the specific cause interests them
  • You might know, or could determine from timing, what marketing action drove this donation

So, you can take their one-time donation and run, or you can use this knowledge to nurture them into a long term relationship. There are lots of ways to do this, and if you can educate your non-profit prospects on which are most effective and help them come up with new ideas, they’ll listen. Here are some ideas:

  • Say thank you for every donation: This is obvious but often neglected
  • Make it personal: Show how THIS particular donation is being used
  • Make it ongoing: Provide regular status updates of programs or projects funded by this particular donor

You can imagine that there are a great many more ideas here but the point, as Ted says, is to “show me that you know me.” Of course, once you reduce that 70% dropout rate, you can begin to focus on getting donors to engage in ongoing donations and legacy gifts.

Print and marketing services providers can be a key component in this process. You might provide only the direct mail component, or you might coordinate and execute much more highly integrated campaigns involving telephony with recorded messages, PURLs, websites, email, direct mail, and social media. And, you might offer various data sourcing and cleansing services like CASS certification, NCOS, and deceased reports – even if you’re just outsourcing and marking up these services.

This is just a high-level overview of some of the ideas Ted is covering in his upcoming PODi Institute course, Selling Integrated Marketing Solutions to Nonprofits, which starts September 2nd. He’s going to have 4 classes with reviewed assignments to go deeper into what to do and how to do it. You can learn more about his course at the PODi Institute website.

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