Matt Sommer

QUICK SHOT: How to have certainty in an uncertain world. (And sleep better at night.)

Ahh… certainty. Not easy right now when the world seems to be coming unglued.

You don’t want to make a mistake, because the lives and welfare of the hurting people you serve are at stake.

But there is a peaceful pathway that awaits. A few principles you can take to heart that will help provide confidence and rest as you navigate raising funds in these stormy seas. And for certain… produce better results.

To conquer uncertainty, we have to go a little egghead… a little math nerdy, if you will.

Lots of folks down through time have tried to figure out how to manage risks and not get broadsided by volatility. They tackled that often painfully erudite discipline: probability theory.

(Okay… maybe not the most fun topic. But hang in there. This will become very practical in how you conduct your fundraising and communication efforts. However, if this reminds you too much of those math classes you hated, then skip to the end. We sum it up.)

Thomas Bayes was an English statistician, philosopher and Presbyterian minister, no less… who lived from 1701 to 1761. He is known for formulating the theorem that bears his name: Bayes’ theorem.

Thomas Bayes
Bayes Theorem

Yikes! (Like I said… you can skip to the end.)

We won’t get into the particulars of Rev. Bayes’ genius. (If you want to totally nerd out read: Bayes Theorem.)

In practical English, it’s summed up this way: “… in a dynamic world, there is no single answer under conditions of uncertainty.”;

No single answer.

In an uncertain world, fear leads us to “singular answers” – going with the status quo… or nothing at all. But Bayes proves the least scary approach is to broaden, change, be nimble, activate new approaches.

In other words: diversify… try multiple options.

Ironically, the very things that probably make you feel a little uncomfortable will actually lead to greater comfort.

Not convinced?

Here’s an interesting fact: Bayes theorem actually provides mathematical, statistical proof to what king Solomon wrote thousands of years before: “Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth.” Ecclesiastes 11:2

(Could it be that this verse, which the Right Reverend most assuredly read, inspired his theorem?)

There’s no singular answer in an uncertain world. Solomon knew this.

Of course The Wise King also prescribed additional truths as you move forward dividing your portion. “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.” And… “He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.”

So, during this pandemic and time of unrest, the astute, practical and even proven course is: Don’t look at all the storm clouds and be afraid. That will paralyze you. Rather… diversify your efforts. And cast your bread on the water… i.e. try additional ways to reach out and touch hearts.

The 4M’s. (It’s not 3M, but certainly worth writing down on a 3M Post-It-Note.)

Let’s make it even more practical. Call it: The 4 M’s. You can diversify and cast your communication efforts in four main ways.

The 4 M’s:

  • Market – reach out to new markets, new donors. Tap into potential expanded target groups that go beyond your tried and true core.
  • Motivations – understand that donors might have fresh motivations spurred by this crisis. For instance, emphasizing safety or your community coming together might be very compelling factors, beyond just a meal appeal.
  • Media – there’s a dynamic, broad spectrum of old and new tools available that can enlarge your footprint: Guerilla marketing. Geofencing. Supportive telemarketing to mail campaigns. Skippable and non-skippable pre-roll ads on Youtube. Through platforms like ViewSpark, Mission directors can reach out to donors with urgent needs and updates quickly.
  • Message – diversify your messaging. Don’t abandon what works. Rather, build on it. We added COVID language to our direct mail and digital messages and saw a dramatic increase in results. Dynamic Facebook ads mix and match multiple copy and image sets and then deliver the most responsive combination.

The Big…(Easy)… Finish

To sum it up, we offer another profound, sagacious tenet: Don’t put all your fundraising and communication eggs in one basket.

(Duh. “Why didn’t you just say that from the get-go?”)

Or to say it another way: Don’t be a chicken when it comes to uncertainty. Move boldly forward, knowing that as you diversify and activate an expansive, multi-layered market, motivations, media and message… you WILL REALIZE REAL RESULTS. And that’s for certain!

*For a really deep and fascinating dive into this subject, read: Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein

Check out last week’s Quick Shot: “4 tips for a donor-optimized donation page” >>

  • Matt Sommer

    Matt Sommer, VP/Creative

    For over 30 years, Matt has created campaigns and helped raise money for nonprofit organizations, including World Vision, Joni and Friends, CBN, LIFE Outreach, Boy Scouts of America, Life Without Limbs, Joyce Meyer Ministries and The Salvation Army. Matt has also produced creative for corporate brands, including Coke, 7-Up, Kleenex, Purina and has written for major network television including CBS & Lifetime.

    Your vision is unique. But your messaging can get lost in a media-saturated world. Matt’s passion is helping clients execute communication that is as big and bold as their vision. By touching hearts with your distinct message, across all touchpoints, response magnifies.

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