I’m Bored!

I suppose we could argue for days about what is the worst abuse a nonprofit could heap upon its donors, and certainly ethical breeches would be right at the top. However, I contend that boring donors to death comes in slightly below that. It’s not illegal — but it probably should be.
Are you guilty of this in your fundraising? Have lean staffs, tight budgets and too long of a to-do list made it OK to be less than exciting when you talk to your donors? Here are some of the propagators of boredom I keep seeing in donor communication.

Culprit No. 1: Newsletters that have everything … but news
Are you telling your donors something they don’t already know in your newsletter? Or have you fallen prey to filling pages with filler? You know what I mean — lists of donors giving memorial gifts in eight-point type, updates that repeat what you’ve already said instead of providing new results or letters from donors that have been edited to sound like paid advertisements.

Instead, report on the project you were raising money for last quarter. Did you meet the goal? If not, can they still support it? What was the outcome of the event you promoted or the program you launched for those you serve? Make sure there is plenty of “I didn’t know that!” news if you expect your donors to look forward to your updates.

Culprit No. 2: Websites that are tragically out of date
“Click here to learn more about our event!” So I do — and you’re inviting me to register for an event that was six months ago. Or the last blog post on your site was a year (or more) ago. Photos aren’t changing, so I wonder if you’re still in business.

The beauty — and curse — of a website is the ability to keep current. Focus on having a manageable number of pages that are fresh and up-to-date, and take down the ones that aren’t current (or never get any traffic). Trying to do too much is a sure way to fail.

Culprit No. 3: E-mail that doesn’t get to the point
I recently received an e-mail that was 97 words long. The gist of it was, “Help us reach our goal/your gift will do this and that/your gift will be matched/our commitment to you is that we will do what we say/thanks.”

That summary doesn’t do it justice, but you get the point — this e-mail quickly told me everything I needed to know to make a decision. Add in a great photograph and a prominent “Give now” button, and it was a compelling fundraising effort.

By contrast, another nonprofit sent me (a lapsed donor) an e-mail that went on for 500 words and led with a request to give a monthly gift. I was bored before I got past the subject line, to be honest.

You’re passionate about the work of your nonprofit (or at least you should be). Unfortunately, your donors only know what you tell them — and what they then choose to read, watch or listen to. To stave off boredom, always ask yourself, “What will my donors learn that’s new from this communication? Will it matter to them?”

Let’s face it — feeling excited about what a nonprofit is doing is a compelling reason to give again. But boredom just turns us into whiners.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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