March Madness: Is your organization ready for the Big Dance?

Whether you’re a basketball fan or a fundraiser who’s a little overwhelmed, “March Madness” is a feeling we can all relate to right now.

How will your team perform? Will the investments made over the last season pay off?

The NCAA Tournament champion won’t be crowned until April 4. But RKD’s 2021 Animal Welfare Benchmarks are already in.

Check out the video below for a few performance highlights from 2021:

As you can see from the results above, our animal welfare clients are experiencing year-over-year growth. But to keep that momentum going in the current fundraising landscape, we’re recommending that teams do the following 3 things: 

  • Focus on the fundamentals. 
    Any good basketball player has spent hundreds of hours perfecting the fundamentals—dribbling, free throws, passing. Even when they reach the collegiate level, fundamentals are the foundational element of their game.

    Animal welfare organizations must have the same mindset. Acquisition, retention and cultivation are our fundamentals, and any organization who masters these will see it pay off in dividends. Feel like you have the fundamentals down in direct mail? The next step would be assessing your digital maturity. This checklist provides a great starting point. 
  • Invest in your game. 
    The teams we see in the Final Four have invested significant amounts of time and energy in their games, no matter the challenges or adversity they’ve faced. Animal welfare organizations must have this same mindset. There will always be animals in need of our care, which means we must continue to fundraise no matter the challenges of today’s market. 

    Given the paper shortages, inflation and postal increases, you may be considering abandoning direct mail for digital. While digital growth is always a sound investment, direct mail is still critical to successful direct response programs. As we saw at the start of the pandemic, those who continued to invest in their direct mail acquisition programs saw year-over-year growth. You can see proof of this in the revenue chart shared in our video. Those who didn’t invest will pay the consequences over the next two or more years. It may seem challenging at times, but staying the course and continuing the hard work you do every day will lead to long-term, sustainable success. 
  • Diversify your skill set. Every team must be well-rounded. Different players have different skills, and they work together in harmony to win games. For animal welfare organizations, diversifying your skill set means reaching donors through multiple programs and channels. 

    This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start from scratch. If you’re struggling with acquisition, mine your files for people who already have a relationship with you. Mail deeper into lapsed, build stronger relationships with mid-level donors or grow your monthly sustainer program. Focusing too heavily on your “star player” could mean you’re missing out on additional revenue without even realizing it.

It will be a challenge, but I know our animal welfare team is strong enough to make it through. Stay the course, remember your fundamentals and keep your eye on that championship trophy—raising revenue to help animals who need it most. 

More from David Miller

4 Simple Stewardship Practices
3 Keys to Closing out 2021 on a Strong Note

Photo: Disney


David Miller is Senior Vice President at RKD Group, a leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations. He brings more than two decades of animal welfare experience to help organizations craft their fundraising strategies for success. Prior to joining RKD in 2011, David spent 14 years working at animal welfare organizations, including serving as the CEO of three organizations in Florida and North Carolina.


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