The other night, I was desperate for something to watch.
I didn’t want to bother with a movie – just something to fall asleep to. I settled on the National Geographic channel.
And it reminded me of the magazines. I no longer subscribe, because I just can’t find the time. But I loved reading them. What always fascinated me were articles about people living far away. Lives that seemed so interested and different from my own.
Now, it seems that any random tag sale will include a stack of old National Geographic magazines. And that makes you wonder why people don’t simply recycle them after they’ve read them. It seems there’s something about the information and imagination the magazines inspire that makes it hard to throw away.
And I thought: imagine if something we send our donors made them feel the same way?
Seriously. Think about what it might take for a donor to eagerly look for your letter or newsletter in the mailbox. And then sit down and enjoy it.
And then… not want to let it go.
Maybe she’d show it to her family or friends. Maybe she’d pass it along to them.
Because instead of only asking for something, it gave her something, too.
What would that take?
I mean, compelling stories. Can’t put the paper down stories.
Telling a story well is hard. But you can do it if you go after it intentionally.
Curiosity is key, I think. Consider the last page-turner of a book you read. You know – the kind you sit reading at the dinner table. Or sneaking to an event, just so you can keep reading in spare moments before the event starts.
You keep reading, because you MUST know what happens next.
So, I know it’s easier said than done. Accept that it’s a practice. And to succeed, you must keep trying.
If all National Geographic had offered me were articles about people near me, it probably wouldn’t have grabbed and kept my interest. But how were people in remote areas of Afghanistan living? What were the lives of our Neolithic ancestors like? What have we learned about the universe? And where I the world did the Basque come from?
Those things were a joy to read – because for me, they were new. They let me travel long ago or far away without leaving the safety and comfort of my chair.
Long after reading, they fill your mind and tickle your curiosity for more.
Key to any successful communication with donors is answering “why are you writing to me? And why should I care?”
You don’t get there with a public relations piece. You cannot brag your way into someone’s heart.
You can, however, involve them and offer them a problem they can solve. Or thank them for their part in solving the problem.
Did you know that asking a small favor first makes someone much more likely to do you another, bigger favor?
It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But it’s true.
And I think it’s because people like to be helpful. And doing something good feels good.
Be sure they personally feel both needed and good.
I suspect National Geographic knows exactly what their readers are like. And even if you’re sitting in your living room, they know how to make you feel like an adventurer, simply because you’re reading.
They also have a “photo of the day“. Readers are invited to submit. Imagine how important you feel if your photo is there along with the amazing images they’re known for?
You know a lot about your donors, too. (And you should always be looking for ways to learn more.) But for a start, you know they’re kind and generous. You know they care about your mission (at least to some extent).
And they want to be seen as kind and generous. As the people who choose to do something in the face of a problem.
Are you telling them that? In all kinds of ways?
You don’t stop telling someone you love them because you’ve already said it once. Donors deserve to know they’re wonderful. Over and over again.
And donors want to know they belong. They’re part of your cause. (Not just funders of it.)
Are you sending something they’ll cherish?
Are you sending love letters? Something that will make them curious? Something that will make them feel good about themselves?
Something they’ll want to act on?
Aim high. Who knows? Maybe that newsletter will turn up in a pile of treasures at an estate sale someday.