Like many people, perhaps you, I watched the presidential debate last night. (And that’s as political as I am going to get in this article.) Being a fundraiser, there were a few things I observed about the debate that apply to our profession, too.
It’s not what you say; it’s what they hear
We work hard at our nonprofits to get our message out to our donors and potential supporters. But too often our donors hear what they want to hear — and sometimes they decide to give or not to give based on their erroneous interpretation of our words.
Our challenge is to make sure that our messaging is consistent and realize we are communicating to people who aren’t as well-versed on our nuances as we are. What is different about your organization than the others with similar names, similar missions or similar-looking logos?
Are you talking to your donors or to your “insiders” — staff and board members? Your challenge is to communicate a message to “undecided donors” that is believable and motivational. That’s what “undecided donors” expect to hear from your nonprofit.
Sometimes donors get overwhelmed by the numbers
We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we want to share the success with our donors. We have opportunities and financial needs, and we know we need our donors’ support to address them. But all the numbers can cause a donor to mentally explode.
Three things to ask yourself when presenting numbers to your donors:
- What are the numbers we want to communicate at this time?
- Which ones are essential to telling our story, and which ones should we eliminate?
- How can we present them so they are remembered?
Spreadsheets aren’t stirring. Bar charts are boring. Percentages often don’t stir up passion. When sharing numbers, presentation matters.
Retaining donors is essential for ongoing ‘wins’
We all know the pain of acquiring new donors, only to watch them fade away without ever giving second gifts. The only thing that hurts more, perhaps, is when a longer-term donor stops giving.
Setting goals to improve your retention is essential — as is then strategizing methodologies to make those goals a reality. You’re probably going to have to spend money to increase your retention, but a simple calculation can help put a value on the payback of that effort: Say you want to increase by 3 percent (for example) the number of donors you retain this year compared to last year, and every retained donor last year had an annual value of $XXX. How much more income would that conceivably raise? Multiply $XXX by 3 percent of last year’s donors — that’s your potential! (And see what I meant about numbers in the last section? I’m sure I lost a few readers in this paragraph.)
That’s real money. How much can you afford to invest in solid, well-thought-out plans to achieve your goal, and therefore raise that additional revenue?
Donors appreciate the human moments
It’s hard to get all warm and comfy with an organization. Reading “We’re a 501(c)(3) organization committed to maximizing the investment of our strategic partners to empower the disenfranchised” may be factual, but it’s lacking the “heart” that helps us mere mortals connect.
Don’t be afraid to divulge some personality with your donors. Sharing a personal story about how one of your projects touched you, saying “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake, picking up the phone and calling just to say “thank you for your gift” or handwriting a short note on a receipt — all these help donors feel more connected with your organization.
Are you on the campaign trail to win the hearts and dollars of your donors for your cause? Your organization’s survival depends on what your donors decide — not just on one day, but again and again as they are presented with your messages.
Originally published in NonProfit Pro.