Have you ever heard Tom Ahearn speak on donor communications? He spoke last week at the AFP-NJ Conference and many of his points were perfectly timed for your year-end fundraising efforts.
The Key Motivator for Giving is NOT the Needs of Your Organization
This maybe surprising to many of you, but you must be able to convey the opportunity for the donor, not just the needs of the organization. In other words, people give to satisfy their own needs, not the needs of your organization.
For example, I was working with an executive director at a hospital foundation we’ll call “Nancy”. Whenever Nancy spoke with donors, she always focused on the needs of the organization (like funding for cancer research). After working with me and practicing a new way to talk about the organization, she was able to focus on issues that were more important to the donor. Instead of focusing on the x-ray machine, she was able to focus on the how the donor could help find a cure for cancer. (It’s not about a researcher finding a cure, but the donor who made the research possible.)
Use ‘You’ in Communications, Not ‘We’
When writing your year-end appeal letter (hopefully you’ve already written yours for this year), focus on the donor, not your organization.
For example, one of my clients, an environmental organization, recently completed their end-of-year appeal letter. The original letter focused on their needs and accomplishments, and didn’t mention how the donors had helped or could continue to help. With my help, they changed the letter to focus on the donor. They changed “we” to “you” when talking about cleaning up rivers and providing safe drinking water. After all, it really is the donors that make this possible, and the organization wouldn’t be able to accomplish their important work without help from donors.
Your Case for Support Should Focus on Your Donors
Is your case for support focused on your organization or on your donors? Ahern says your case for support should answer the following questions for donors.
- Why us?
- Why now?
- Why should I care?
There are so many worthy organizations in your community and in the world, and you will need to tap into the donor’s needs with your answers. How will you help the donor make the world a better place to live?
These principles of donor communication apply to all types of communication, including verbal and written. Think about them when writing appeal letters, newsletters, emails, and any other types of communication you do.
Ask yourself, Ahern says, “Am I treating the donor as a superhero or a cash machine?”
What are you doing to make your organization more donor-focused? Let me know in the comments.