Chances are, your mailbox and email inbox have been busy the last few weeks.
SO MANY appeals – sometimes from organizations you haven’t given to. Sometimes, you wonder how they even got your address.
Sound familiar? I thought so!
But it’s 2019 now. A new year. A fresh start.
So instead of sighing and deleting, let’s use what we experienced as donors or potential donors to make what we do even better.
Here are some of the most common mistakes I saw. Please chime in with your observations in the comments – that way we can all learn together.
Year-end goals matter to organizations, not so much to donors
Don’t mistake your eagerness to meet your internal marks for a reason to give. To you, it’s important. It’s not your donors’ problem, though.
Most of the time, the same goes for named campaigns. Cool thing to hang your hat on, but absent a compelling message, it’s meaningless to donors.
Next time, push yourself harder. Keep asking “why” until you come to a meaningful reason to ask for gifts. It goes like this:
Help us meet our year-end goal!
So we can keep the doors open!
So we can give people a warm place to sleep.
Because it’s cold, and there are too many people without shelter in our city.
Do you see how the first ask is weak stuff… and where you end up can be much stronger?
Tax-deductibility is not such a big thing
Your organization is unique. And if you know your donors very well – their behavior as well as their preferences – you might know for a fact that they value the tax deduction.
But unless you know that – again, based on their previous actions and what they’ve told you – chances are it’s not a big deal.
Changes in the tax laws mean fewer people will be able to use that deduction. So why build your entire ask around it?
You want donors to be thinking about impact. About the warm feeling they get when they give. You want them to think with their hearts. Engaging the numbers and money side of their brains is not a good way to get there.
No one believes this is their last chance to give
Yes, urgency is critical to getting someone to act. But just as with your internal fundraising goals, your calendar isn’t urgent to donors.
Use the same “Why?” exercise from above to find the real urgency.
And sure, a matching challenge is a time-tested technique. It’s a donor bargain – they get twice the impact for their gift. But again… a match, by itself, has little meaning. Dig deeper. Find the why. THEN use the match to add extra oomph.
Know who your donor is
Does your communication make it clear that the person you’re talking to is known? If you want to help donors feel connected to your cause and organization, making them feel like you have no clue who they are is not going to work well.
Get names right and use them. Mention the donor’s history with your organization, if they have one. And do your best to keep your lists up to date. I know it can be hard – especially with mail. But if you outsource your printing and mailing, you need a good relationship with your vendor. Call them daily with names to remove from the mailing – right up until they send them out.
Segment! It’s not that complicated, I promise. Even small changes in text can help.
Too often, your database isn’t built to talk to your email client. But push for solutions. This is a technical issue – it can be solved. And it shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of donor relationship building.
It’s tempting to one-size-fits-all. It’s certainly easier. But it’s a short-term solution that causes long-term problems.
Give donors and prospective donors a great story
You can do this, even in a short form for email. Use a story to make your ask human-sized. Give donors something or someone to relate to. Make it all about them and the people they could help.
Use images to trigger emotions. Your building probably isn’t that inspiring. A person (or animal, if that’s your mission!) is more likely to work. Look for emotions in the image – and remember that most of the time, you don’t want the happy “after” image here. That says “problem solved, thanks. No need to help”.
If privacy is an issue, you can still tell a story in pictures – hands, a back to the camera… there are ways to say a lot without hurting anyone.
The bottom line?
Plan to make your 2019 year-end appeals all about your donors and your mission. If you focus on building donor relationships, the money will follow. So think donors, not dollars.
Happy New Year!