Our ongoing look at fundraising best practices is exploring some of those WEEiDs: – what everyone else is doing. It’s been said that the cure for a best practice is better results. In other words, a best practice is only worthwhile when it produces the winning outcome.

Best practices are especially helpful when you don’t know where to begin. If you have never done something before, it often isn’t time to experiment. Instead, you may want to review and adapt best practices while you are seeking out better practices in your current situation.

While every fundraiser likes to say, “Our donors are different,” the truth is that most donors have a lot in common. They may differ politically, religiously or in terms of education, or they may make different lifestyle choices, for example, but all of them are – at a minimum – philanthropically inclined, interested in your cause, and financially capable of making a gift.

But donors to your organization are compelled by what it is you do (or what they think it is you do). They typically are drawn to a person, a program, or a specific goal of your organization. The challenge for any fundraiser is to improve on best practices to speak to your audience – person by person —  not to the donor world in general.

Events can be one of those WEEiDs that sets you on a course that may or may not be best for your organization. It’s not hard to find examples of successful Galas, wine tastings, book signings, or another type of event. But the wrong event can attract the wrong audience for your long-term needs. Do you want to build a donor base that you can cultivate for the future? Do you want to appeal primarily to your major donors? Do you want to tell your story to the business community? “Raise money” is not enough justification for selecting an event. An event will have consequences that live beyond the bank deposit so choose them wisely.

Receipting gifts is another area where your best guide is not WEEiD. The majority of nonprofit organizations appear to have abandoned saying “thank you” for gifts under a pre-determined threshold (often a gift under $25 or even $50 does not receive a thank you). Great idea for saving money, right? After all, you send out an annual tax receipt. But failing to say “thank you” is missing a big opportunity to lay another brick on the relationship path you are forging with your donor. As easily as we may assume they know we are grateful, they may assume we are not. The dollar saved on expressing genuine, personal and timely appreciation may cost of many dollars in future gifts. Every, even those that say otherwise, enjoy being thanked. Gratitude goes a long way in life – and donor relationships are no exception.

Watch out for the WEEiDs – they can choke out fundraising that is centered on your donors.

This article is Part 2 of a three-part series about best practices in fundraising. Go further by reading Part 3 or go back to Part 1.