It is that time of year again. There is a lot I look forward to on Thanksgiving, from getting together with family to watching football and eating turkey, but the thing I look forward to most of all is gravy. You may not hold this condiment in as high regard as I do, but that is only because you have never tasted my mom's gravy.
You see my mom would take meticulous care preparing Thanksgiving dinner, and in particular her gravy. The stock was made from scratch. The roux she created required constant supervision to ensure just the right consistency. After the turkey came out of the oven she did not leave the gravy's side. Our Thanksgiving dinner would not begin until that gravy had hit its peak. It was perfection.
Well of course I have tried to recreate my mother's chef-d'œu·vre on numerous occasions. Naturally on my first attempt I followed the recipe exactly. I did not want to mess it up. The same way fundraisers will use what worked in the past to plan for the future. There is nothing wrong with this, however I have something that most fundraisers don't. I have time and flexibility to try to modify and improve upon my mother's recipe.
Fundraisers have neither the time nor the flexibility to fail when raising money. After all the failure of a fundraising campaign has a much higher stakes than if a gravy is lumpy. This is why most fundraisers use last year's budget, list selection, or reporting as the recipe for this year. This helps to avoid any risk of doing something different and being responsible for a possible loss in revenue.
The trouble is that we have adopted a practice with inherent costs baked in, that we are afraid to challenge. The time it takes to create a stock from scratch with the gravy or the data processing work needed in order to calculate the endless segments of donors, or any number of inherent costs baked into our status quo.
These hidden costs are very important and must be accounted for when testing which recipe is best. For example I have been able to make a pretty good gravy using store bought stock (sorry mom) and adding in shallots to my roux. While it is not as good as my mom's the time saved was a huge benefit to me.
I understand that most fundraisers do not have time to recreate their list selection process, learn a better way to budget, or figure out what to measure. However they do have time to let DonorTrends run a free back test on any campaign to evaluate your efficiency. Just remember two things when you look over those results.
1. When evaluating whether modeling is a better approach, it is not always because the gravy tastes better, though most often that is the case. It is whether the gravy tastes great and costs you less.
2. Your Fundraising Plan Isn't My Mom's Gravy. While my mom's gravy left little room for improvement, your fundraising plan likely has areas that can be improved.