That’s what we all really want, isn’t it?
To be seen. To be known for ourselves, as people. To be recognized.
That’s what our donors are looking for as well. So why is so much communication impersonal and generic?
The lazy answer is because it’s easier that way. Large organizations might think: there’s no way we can know every donor anyway, right? So let’s just get something generic out and hope it works for enough people to make a dent. Small ones think: we don’t have the staff!
I don’t know about you, but that bugs me.
Everyone you’ll solicit isn’t a personal friend. So how do you let donors know you see and value them as individuals?
It takes a little bit of effort, but nothing superhuman. Just human.
Here are some things I think help.
Start by writing to a person, from a person. Address your letters or emails with a name. (Remember, they’re not your “friend”, right?)
Write about your donor. Talk about what she’s done and what he can do when he supports your organization. Imagine you’re at a party. Do you want to be stuck next the person talking about themselves all night? Yeah, don’t let your organization be that person. No one is that into you.
Talk the way your donors do; don’t use jargon or generic phrases like “make a difference”. Think about how your donor would describe what you do. Want to show off your flowery prose? Save it for your novel. Want to show off your impressive vocabulary? Save it for your grandma. Write simply, clearly and emotionally.
You might not know everything, but you absolutely know some things. Find a way to use those things. What programs have they supported in the past? Where do they live? How long have they been giving? Back to our party: you’d use that information to start a conversation, right?
Ask them to tell you more about themselves. I love surveys – and so do donors. People like the chance to tell you what they think. And you’ll be gathering great information.
Simple things matter. Like “how do you like to be addressed?” For example: a former employer still sends me letters with a formal salutation. I spent nearly twelve years there. I’m sure they think they’re being polite. But it always makes me feel like a stranger. That hurts a little bit. If they’d ever asked, they’d know that.
Then be sure you keep the conversation going once you ask. Back to our party: you know that person who asks you a question and then wanders off while you’re answering? Yeah, don’t be that person, either.
And please, please, don’t let the conversation end after the gift! The gift is a beginning, not an end. Thank your donor graciously and personally. Have a real person sign the letter. Add a handwritten note. Thank them every once in a while for no particular reason. Believe me, people will respond!
We’re in the business of building relationships. Real people have relationships. Treat your donors like real people. You’ll be happily surprised, I promise!
Share your ideas! What do you do to treat your donors like individuals?