What Can K, L, M, N and O Teach Us?

A fundraiser’s day is seldom boring. From the planned work to the unexpected crises and opportunities, it’s hard to accomplish everything — let alone keep a sharp eye on the day-to-day tasks.

That’s one of the reasons for this series of articles. No, they won’t touch on everything that matters for fundraising success. But each one highlights a few things to consider … and maybe incorporate into your daily routine.

Special thanks to Sue Pargman, senior copywriter atMasterworks! She took on my challenge last week and provided suggestions for all five letters. So, welcome Sue, my co-author for this article. I’ll be sharing some of her thoughts along with mine. So with that, let’s look at K, L, M, N and O. (You can view A-E here and F-J here.)

K is for knowledge
Sue’s suggestion was “know your donors,” an important piece of knowledge for a fundraiser. Two dangerous thoughts we can have are, “I like this, so our donors will,” and, “Our donors are different.” Remember, you are not the target audience! You need to meet the donors where they are at, and that means unique messages for different groups. Something as simple as adding some lapsed language to a letter or e-appeal can greatly improve response.

Also, don’t assume proven fundraising tactics won’t work on your donors because they are “different” from all the other donors in the universe. Studies show that the best donors to one nonprofit are most likely also giving to one, two or more other organizations. They respond to best practices, which are called “best practices” because they have been proven to lift response time and time again. Test — don’t assume.

And don’t neglect increasing your knowledge about fundraising. There are great conferences, like the upcoming one sponsored by FundRaising Success — the Engage Conference — webinars (many free or low-cost), whitepapers available for download, etc. Keep learning!

L is for listen
Your donors are constantly talking to you, even when they are silent. (“Just why did Mrs. Smith stop donating after giving consistently for five years?”) Read their notes, talk to them on the phone and visit with them (not just the major donors). Knowing who you are talking to in your fundraising is essential if you’re going to communicate, and hearing from them what they truly love about your work helps you message around what’s important to your donors, not just to your internal audiences. Knowledge of your donors is a powerful tool!

Sue had a great suggestion for “L,” as well: “Leave out the unnecessary details.” We don’t need to tell our donors everything. I contend the length of the copy isn’t as important as whether or not it keeps moving. Edit aggressively, and take out the “nice to know” that isn’t “need to know.”

M is for maximize
Whether it’s your budget, your website or anything else in fundraising, look for ways to maximize its value. For example, you’re paying First Class postage to mail a receipt; are you filling that envelope with important messages (reminders about memorial gifts, bequest requests, late-breaking news, etc.) right up to the one-ounce point?

Are you showcasing your greatest stories and photos both on your website and in your communications? Never assume they have already been seen and read by your donors; different people look at different mediums at different times. Which is a perfect segue into Sue’s “M” — mobile.

She wrote, “People are checking your Internet site and e-mails on their mobile devices. Format to load quickly and fit a small screen.”

Great advice! Maximize as many of the formats you can so your donors can find you and “hear” from you where they are.

N is for need
I came up with a few ideas for “N,” but nothing beats Sue’s suggestion: Need. Yes, you need money. But that’s not the “need” to focus on. What does your donor need? Sue suggested that he or she wants to feel recognized, appreciated and significant.

You should constantly consider those needs when writing copy for e-mails, direct-mail letters, acknowledgments, even requests for support from foundations and corporations.

One way we can do this is remember that we are talking to a single person, not to the “masses out there in DonorLand.” Keep focused on your donor’s needs, and he or she will be more likely to help meet your need for support.

O is for opportunity
That’s as in “Never miss an opportunity …” And frankly, too many nonprofits are doing just that. A few years back, I read a newsletter from a major nonprofit about a project that totally connected with me. I immediately decided to give a gift to that project. But alas, the reply form only allowed me to give undesignated, and there was no link to go online and support that project. Needless to say, that organization lost my donation that day.

Put envelopes in most, if not all, of your mailings, including annual reports, annual tax receipts and newsletters. You may not choose to enclose a reply form or make an ask, but if you provide an envelope, you just might get unexpected gifts.

Are you giving your donors plenty of opportunities to respond to what they want, when they are ready and from where there are?

Next week we’ll forge ahead into P, Q, R, S and T. And of course, any and all suggestions are welcomed for Q!

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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