By: Ephraim Gopin
Your organization is 24/7/365 busy changing lives.
Helping youth at risk graduate school, providing people experiencing homelessness a hot meal and a bed to sleep in, ensuring elderly persons receive the care they deserve. Your team works overtime to help your beneficiaries. Your volunteers give their all to turn the words of your mission into action.
You’d love to shout from the rooftops (ping from mobile towers?) about how great we are, how amazing the work we do is, how we are changing the community. But nonprofits who think only about “we we we” and neglect “you you you” are in for rough times.
We Is Not The Audience
Nonprofits are forever engaged in storytelling – direct mail appeals, newsletters, social media posts, campaigns, videos, brochures and presentations. We want our supporters to see the good work we’re doing, get all the feels and give, give, give.
However, when sending out fundraising, marketing and communications materials…
- Do you know what your donors are interested in seeing, hearing and viewing?
- Are you giving them what they want, not what we think they need?
If your answers to the above questions are ‘no’ or ‘not sure’ then you’ve got a problem. It’s gonna cost you: time wasted, lost funding dollars, lower donor acquisition and retention and potential public embarrassment.
You need to deliver what THEY want to receive.
As Mary Cahalane says, “Relationships are not one way”. If your communication plan is all about pushing information at donors, you’re missing wonderful opportunities.”
Lemme tell you something about Mary: She knows her stuff!
Thinking About You
For each type of donor material your nonprofit produces, you need to consider how the audience will receive it and respond. For example:
- Fundraising materials: Talking about “we we we” is not going to move donors to action. The verbiage has to stress “you you you.” Tell donors and supporters what THEY accomplished through their partnership with your organization. Considering year-end appeals are about to be sent out, review the content: If the word “we” appears more times than “you,” time for a rewrite.
Keep in mind that your organization didn’t raise the money; donors gave their support. That’s what you want to be stressing. And if you have to use the word “we,” the context should be about the partnership: donor + organization.
- Website: The terminology and wording used on your website should be familiar to anyone reading it. Using terms on your website – especially in the menu – that people don’t know? Fix that! The terms might be familiar internally but if the user has no clue what they mean, they’re leaving your site. Another opportunity lost to attract eyeballs to your site and potentially move people to take action.
- Marketing collateral: You’re putting together a marketing campaign to raise awareness. A big part of achieving your campaign goal is the need to see the messaging through the eyes of your intended, targeted audience. How will they react? Will they understand the message and take action? What you and your fellow employees think will go viral can backfire in an Internet minute. Just ask Breast Cancer Now in the UK. OY!
Avoid groupthink by having people outside the organization read, hear and view your campaign materials before going public. Their fresh eyes and feedback could be the difference between disaster and a rousing success.
- Google searches/ads: Sure, you’d like people to search for the exact terms and keywords you think are important. But that’s not how search works.
Keyword research means understanding how everyone out there is searching for terms related to your organization. Want your site to be one of the top 3 search results on Google for specific phrases? Better make sure you’re speaking the language of those doing the searching.
Same applies to ads. Google Grants offers your organization the opportunity to advertise on Google (up to $10,000 per month). But those ads will be useless if you’re using terms no one is searching for.
How Will I Know If He Really Reads Me?
Since all communications must be donor-driven and donor-focused, how do we find out what donors actually want?
The most efficient way would be to conduct a survey of donors, supporters, volunteers, social media followers and newsletter subscribers. A properly worded survey will allow your organization to
- understand your supporters better
- know what donors are interested in and looking for
- find out how they like to receive material from you (snail mail? Email? Text?) and
- potentially discover important demographic information.
All of that is extremely valuable to your fundraising, data management, marketing and communications teams.
Data about supporters also allows your team to build audience personas – a composite of the various types of people receiving your communications. Each individual group – for example, Gen X vs. Boomers – might have different needs and wants which your materials should address. That could mean having to change the wording on materials for each demographic group. But if it you provide them what they want, your chances of donation success rise.
If you don’t wish to survey everyone, you can send out personalized emails to a select group of people and query them about their preferences.
You can call supporters and talk to them. Asking for their assistance adds another layer to the relationship you’re building with them.
Finally, you can talk to supporters at events or fundraising meetings. There’s no reason not to ask how they prefer your organization stay in contact with them and what type of content most interests them.
It’s not enough to know which programs your donors wish to donate to. Knowing what methods to use to contact them and what content to send them is key to ensuring they keep up to date on how you’re changing the world.
Guest author: Ephraim Gopin
Ephraim Gopin is the owner of 1832 Communications. 1832 helps grow donor lists and increase donations by addressing and solving your nonprofit communications and marketing challenges. Ephraim is always happy to talk with nonprofit staff- the best of the best! Ephraim is also the creator and publisher of Your Daily Dose of Nonprofit, a daily (Mon-Thu) newsletter which brings content to your Inbox relevant to any nonprofit role you fill. Connect with Ephraim on LinkedIn or on Twitter where he’ll be happy to discuss nonprofit life and/or 80s pop culture. As a former New Englander who lives abroad, Ephraim has one request: Send snow pics!