What’s The Purpose?

One organization I work with generates over $20 million per year from their direct mail campaigns.  The purpose of their direct mail program is to increase gift income.

Another client – a private higher education institution with about 1,600 students – welcomes back to campus approximately 1,000 alumni for homecoming each year.  The purpose of this event is to strengthen connections among alumni.

When I first got into advancement work, I recall going to a CASE conference and listening as a phonathon director from a larger public higher education institution described her phonathon script.  If the student caller reached an alum on the phone, the caller was to ask for $1,000.  It did not matter what the alum’s giving history might be.  Nor did it matter when the alum graduated.  The first ask for everyone was $1,000.  The purpose of this institution’s phonathon was to identify major gift prospects.

I don’t necessarily hold up any of these programs as models for other institutions to follow.  None of these examples may be a “best practice” for you and your institution.  In fact, they probably are not.  My point is different.  These are examples of institutions that have created a singular purpose for important programs and, by staying true to that single purpose over time, have reaped rewards.

These programs don’t have a “primary purpose” to which there may be a secondary, tertiary, and quaternary purposes.  Rather they have one focused purpose, and that has made all of the difference.

What is the singular purpose of your direct mail or phonathon program?  Of your planned giving program?  Of your constituent relations events?

Too often, we create programs, campaigns, strategies, and tactics and fail to clearly and concisely identify the purpose.  Or if we have identified a singular purpose, we allow it to get muddied by a well-meaning statement that typically begins, “wouldn’t it be great if we. . .”

If you have a difficult time clearly identifying a single focus for any of your programs or campaigns, you probably have discovered a key reason why your efforts aren’t as successful as you would like.


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