If It’s Not Working, Stop It!

We recently conducted an extensive survey of 246 nonprofit organizations, to help them better understand their marketing practices. (The results of that survey are public and will be released in February.) And one of the most surprising findings was their position on print – specifically printed direct mail.

It seems that 22% of the organizations who responded to our survey reported declining results from printed direct mail as a fundraising tool. Yet, only 9% anticipate decreasing or eliminating their investment in this medium.

Counterintuitive? We thought so.

So, we isolated only those organizations whose fundraising is declining (modestly or sharply), and found that 46% anticipate no change in direct mail spending, and 33% anticipate an increase in their direct mail spending.

That’s right: It’s not working, and we’re going to do more of it.

This counterintuitive marketing behavior isn’t just limited to fundraising efforts – it extends to routine communications.

50% of member organizations report dissatisfaction with printed direct mail as a means for maintaining routine member communications, yet only 11% anticipate a decrease in their direct mail efforts. In other words, many organizations intend to continue to reach out to their membership with printed direct mail, even though they know it isn’t working.

Why do we keep doing things that we know don’t work?

Maybe we’re just following the path of least resistance. Maybe we’re not paying attention. Maybe we figure it’s other people’s money, and we don’t really care. Maybe we’re afraid to try something new. Or maybe we believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that if we just stick with the plan – no matter how bad it is – things will magically turn around.

Regardless, failure to monitor our success rate and modify our plan of attack is a serious tactical error – and an expensive one. We have a responsibility to cut back on underperforming media and to try new ones, when the case is compelling. “Going with the flow” may work in some jobs, but it’s a recipe for disaster in Marketing.