Like any pitch, direct response fundraising has two aspects: the bait and hook. The bait attracts the donor, the hook, in a sense, is the requested donation amount. To get prospective donors to latch onto the hook, you need to have a clear view of what sort of people compose your target audience and what they are most likely to respond to.

With such a large sea of donors, it’s hard to pinpoint your target audience exactly. And, even when you do, the process can still be a shot in the dark. That’s why the fundraiser has to be persistent and willing to try new methods. Change your bait for different donor classes. Maybe consider changing your hook—you may be asking too much, or too little. Donors are ever static and as the fundraiser you must constantly adapt. But one of the most important things to remember is that your line must be in the water at all times– if it’s not there you will never catch anything!

Fortunately though, technology is on your side. Contact cadence models have become more sophisticated; recent reports show that contacts and number of donors are down, but net revenue is up. What does this mean? In many ways it’s never been easier to find your specific audience. Also, many organizations are finding that their donors, albeit a smaller group than in the past, are more faithful and more likely to give. A whole new world of direct response fundraising is opening before us. Get your line in the water and keep adjusting the bait and hook as much as needed.

See Nonprofit Pro for more, as well as an excellent fishing metaphor.