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Kevin Gentry Interviews CHQ Chairman Richard A. Viguerie (Part 2 of 7)

Richard Viguerie
Memo: To Conservative Leaders

From:    Richard A. Viguerie

Recently I had breakfast and follow up phone calls with my friend Kevin Gentry during which he posed this question to me: “There is a great need and opportunity now in the nonprofit world for conservatives to GO BIG – to truly make a difference in the direction of our country.  In your opinion, what is holding us back?”

What follows is the first in a series of blogs Kevin has written about our conversation. I’ll run a new blog every few days over the next few weeks.  From the 1960s through most of the 1980s conservatives dominated grassroots marketing.  Unfortunately, today the Left is not only ahead of us, but way, way ahead.

These blogs go into some detail about how conservatives not only can catch up with the Left, but how we can once again dominate at grass roots marketing and give our side a huge advantage.

P.S. I like to start each Saturday morning with Kevin’s fundraising tips and a cup of coffee.  I urge you to do the same if you are involved in marketing for a conservative organization or a candidate with or without the coffee.

P.P.S. You’re welcome to subscribe and/or forward these Tips to friends and colleagues who could benefit from them.  Just email: [email protected] to be added to the list to receive these weekly Tips.  Or request by postal mail to:  Kevin Gentry c/o Stand Together, 2300 Wilson Blvd. Suite 500, Arlington, VA  22201

The interview with Richard Viguerie shared as part of last week’s Fundraising Tip received more comments than any post in recent memory.

Actually, way more.

Thank you for your thoughtful feedback if you were one of the many who responded.

One Tips reader likened Richard’s advice to pouring gunpowder into his coffee.

Many felt challenged, but inspired.

And lots of readers told me they forwarded the email to colleagues, board members and friends working in other non-profits.

Here’s last week’s Tip if you missed it.

Richard Viguerie pioneered the concept of political direct mail in the 1960s.  Since then, he has raised hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars for multiple non-profit causes and candidates.

My question to Richard was this –

With so many opportunities right now in the non-profit world for us to GO BIG, to truly make a difference in the lives of others, what’s holding us back?

So in last week’s Tip, Richard suggested six big reasons our growth and effectiveness was constrained –

There are too few non-profit leaders who are entrepreneurs. 

Not have a fully functioning, professional development team.

Not knowing the lifetime value (LTV) of your donors.

Ignoring 95% of your donors.

Not putting enough resources into acquisition.

The failure to appreciate the power of effective marketing.

Okay.  Then what are we to do?

I promised you that in this week’s Tip, we’d return to our discussion with Richard.  But this time, we’d counter with six solid recommended actions.

Here’s Richard’s response:


Number One:  Write a Plan

My heritage is Cajun. Ask a Cajun chef how to prepare any Cajun dish, and they will all start with the same sentence, “Well, first you make a roux.”

My advice before starting any important project is “First you start with what I call Newt’s Four-Part Plan.”

Starting in the mid-1970s for about ten years, national conservative leaders would gather at my home in McLean, Virginia for a two-hour breakfast meeting, and sometimes in the evening for dinner and more strategizing.  If there ever was anything that could be called “Hillary’s vast, right-wing conspiracy” that was probably it.

Whenever we came up with a problem, Congressman Newt Gingrich would go to the blackboard and write five words: Vision, Goals, Strategy, and Tactics/Projects.  Thirty minutes later, after we had filled in these four categories, we saw a clear path forward.

Before starting any important project, you need to clearly understand where you want to go—where do you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20+ years?

The number one benefit of writing the plan is not to work the plan.  That’s important, but it is secondary.  The number one benefit is WRITING THE PLAN, because as you write the plan it helps to clarify your thinking.

I do this exercise 2-3 times a week.

As you write the plan, things will come into focus.  You will realize you need to do more of X, less of Y, and once you’ve finalized your plan, share it with others.  This will put pressure on you to follow through with your plan and others will want to help you.  It’s permissible to alter or change the plan, but it’s vital to start a new, major undertaking with a written plan.


Number Two:  Invest Money on Acquisition

Invest money to be spent only on acquisition of new supporters/donors/members.

You might convince a major donor – or several major donors – to make this investment.

You can tell them to think of this as helping you learn to fish rather than giving you a fish.  If they give you a fish then you will be regularly coming back for more, but if you learn how to significantly grow your organization you can raise tens maybe hundreds of millions of dollars because of the lifetime value of the new donors.

Invest in quickly growing your small-dollar donor base.  The late John Von Kannon, the longtime leader of fundraising and marketing at the Heritage Foundation, said that more than two-thirds of all of Heritage’s major gift donors started in their postal direct mail program with a gift of $100 or less.

In other words, the more postal donors an organization has, the more major donors they will likely have.


Number Three:  Build a Professional Development Team

I tell our clients that 85-95% of the value of acquiring new donors via direct marketing is for major gifts, including bequests that are received primarily due to the work of your development team.

Ninety percent plus of the fundraising value of building a donor file is so the development team can solicit 50x-100x-1,000x gifts.  

Unfortunately, most organizations do not have a professional development department, or, if they do, it’s part-time or has only one full-time person—instead of the 5 or 10+ that they should have.

A successful major gifts program depends on a vibrant, on-going direct mail program to identify potential new high-dollar donors.  Major gift donor development takes years to create relationships, build trust, and ultimately get the big gifts.  But cultivating new prospects is paramount.

If you have a development team, you probably should be doubling or tripling its size.

If you don’t have a development team, start building one immediately.  And don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.  If you can’t quickly find the right person to head your development department, hire 1, 2, 3+ people quickly and get them writing, calling, meeting with your donors, while you’re looking for the next John Von Kannon.


Number Four:  Raise Money for Projects

The lack of a project when seeking funding may be the biggest mistake most non-profits make.  The vast majority of fundraising letters that I see (postal and email) are what I call cuss letters—bad things are happening, therefore send me money.

Prospective donors want to know how you’re going to solve the problem.

Donors are smart.  They can tell you have great compassion and concern about problem X, but they also know you don’t have a serious plan or program to solve X.  They may send you a token gift, but they send serious money to those who have a serious plan to solve X.

This is true whether you’re asking for $25 or $1,000,000.

Also, be sure to give your project a strong marketing name.


Number Five:  Read, Read, Study, Study

I spend 2-3 hours a day, six days a week studying marketing.

If you throw yourself into a major study of marketing, within five years you can be in the top 3-4% of nonprofit marketers.

In addition to spending several hours a day studying marketing, I recommend you join different professional groups—some dealing with business, such as YPO, Strategic Coach, CEO Clubs, etc., and others that are focused on marketing.


Number Six:  Find Several Mentors

I was fortunate to have four giants as mentors.  If you want someone to mentor you, convince them you are worth their time.  If possible, have a marketing mentor and a business mentor.

Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I’ve seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”


Your thoughts?

How do you react to Richard Viguerie’s recommendations?

I don’t want to let Richard go just yet.

Last week he mentioned his “Four Horsemen of Marketing” – Position, Differentiation, Benefit, and Brand.

Several readers asked to go deeper on that subject as well.  Would you like that to be the subject of next week’s Tip?

Please let me know.

Until next week, very best wishes,

Kevin Gentry

P.S.  Richard Viguerie advised to “Read, Read, Study, Study.”  Most of his recommended readings are included through this link.  Take a look.

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