And why that’s a mistake
We all do it from time to time. We fall a little in love with our own organization. Or we get a little tired of the hard work.
Then we forget that good fundraising focuses on the donor and the mission.
Are you making these mistakes?
1. You make decisions about donor stewardship based only on how much work something will take.
I know. Fundraising isn’t easy work. So if you can find a shortcut, it feels like a gift.
And I’m all for shortcuts that don’t short-change your donor relationships.
But thinking first about “how hard will this be?” instead of “how effective will this be?” is a great way to undermine your fundraising program.
So sure, become a whiz at nested merges so you can run those letters once. Use smart automation to send out welcome messages.
But every donor deserves a personal thank you (not a receipt). You should communicate in the donor’s preferred medium. And it’s usually worth the trouble to personalize your appeals.
Find the Zen in envelope stuffing. Put on some music and roll up your sleeves. And while you’re stuffing, think about relationships – and what they will mean to your mission.
2. You assume your donor is you
Here’s the thing: for most organizations, your donor is older than you. Your donor is probably female. And while they may give online, they probably respond better to mail.
So if you make your fundraising choices based on what you or your friends would respond to, you may be veering way off course.
This can happen in many ways. You can use language that’s pitched too young. You can choose a channel (email, social media) that’s less effective. And you can format for your eyes – not your (older) donor’s. You can also pass on an idea that’s worked without trying it – because it doesn’t appeal to you.
We all have our biases. I hate phone calls, for instance. But when I had access to telephone fundraising, I used it. And I loved it. Because our donors loved it. And we raised a lot more money with it.
Remember this also if you are urged to chase millennial donors and ignore those older ones. We grow more altruistic with age.
Most of those young donors are not ready to be donors yet. And if you fundraise only for them, you’ll be missing the people who are ready to give today.
3. You want to “sell” your donor on your organization with features
Sigh. I see this so often. I think it comes from a good-hearted place. You love your organization. You think the work you do is critical. And if people only understood how important your work is, they would rush to give!
Not so much.
When you ask people to give, you’re not really selling them on your organization as much as you’re persuading them to indulge their generous impulses. Yes, you need to establish a level of trust – especially if they don’t know your organization. (And that can happen even if they’ve already given!)
But there’s an old sales axiom: “sell benefits, not features”.
When you write paragraph after paragraph about how amazing your organization is, you’re selling features. That’s going to cut into your success.
But what benefits can you promise? Not tote bags. Good feelings. Partnership in an important effort. Absolution. Increased happiness.
No, they can’t hold it in their hands. But your job is to fulfill the benefit promise you make. In your thanks. In your ongoing stewardship. And by reporting on what your donor has made possible. (Remember to keep your donor center-stage in those reports!)
4. You are more concerned with sounding important than with communicating effectively
This is connected to the last mistake. It’s about placing the organization’s image before the donor’s.
What donor image? The way she sees herself when she chooses to do something good. The happiness she feels when she sees her gift made a difference.
You polish that image with a constant drumbeat of gratitude. The way you underline that she is a wonderful person. And that changes how she sees herself. And it ties her to you.
This also happens when you have a spokesperson who is more concerned about his or her image than about winning donations. If you write for donors, you’ve probably heard from a board member that “I would never read a two-page letter!” or “I wouldn’t use contractions in a letter!”
In truth, what they’d do or what they like doesn’t matter. What matters is how effective the letter is.
And how effective you are is tied to how you make your readers and donors feel.
It’s not about you
Every one of these problems can be boiled down to one critical mistake: forgetting that fundraising is not about you.
It’s not really about your organization, either.
Fundraising is about finding people whose own personal mission meshes with your organization’s mission. You’re inviting a partnership. You’re focused on your donors.
Yes, your organization will benefit when they give.
But you won’t wow donors into giving.
Giving is personal. You’re inviting a partnership.
Giving is a personal, emotional decision. Your organization is a means to donors’ ends.
You’ll be more successful as a fundraiser when you understand that.
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire at Gratisography