My husband, son and I went to a Jackson Browne concert recently.
Now, I’m about to make myself look foolish. But enjoy it and stick with me, will you?
I’ve been seeing JB since high school. In fact, I’m pretty sure the three screams you can hear in the middle of The Road were my friends and me. (People weren’t as enthusiastic as we thought they should be, so we livened it up a bit at 2:56.)
So I love to see him. And I especially love to see him at a place nearby. It’s small – maybe 5,000 seats. And feels even smaller, because it’s set up well. The sound is good, the venue is comfortable, I can park easily and be home in 20 minutes.
Mostly, though, I get to sing along – adding the harmonies I know so well now to everything he sings. (Apologies if you end up sitting next to me.) I love to imagine a sudden need for a backup singer. And there I am!
That’s nice, but what’s it got to do with fundraising, Mary?
I watched this seasoned performer handle the crowd. (He’s gotten us used to calling out the songs we want to hear, so there’s lots of back and forth.) And I realized how important my sense of being almost that close to the performer is.
It’s intimate, if you can call Jackson Browne, his band and 4,999 other people intimate. But it works. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels involved in the performance.
That’s the key to a fantastic performer, of course. He makes the audience feel important. Taking requests. Laughing at his mistakes. Telling a few personal stories – sometimes about something emotional or embarrassing – pulls the audience right in.
For every one of us, it’s Jackson Browne looking right at us and sharing his music.
We often talk about our donors as heroes.
As the center of our stories. I know I do, because I want us to feel donors are that important.
But I think our donors feel like the audience. They don’t see themselves as center stage. They just like to be part of it. Add their voices. Cheer.
So how do we make them feel like their part is critical to the performance? How do we make them feel noticed?
By being human. And grateful.
Know your audience – and show them you do.
At every one of the last Jackson Browne concerts we’ve been to a few drunk guys repeatedly call out a request for one song. It’s become something of a joke now between the audience and the performer. He knows enough of us have seen it before and we all laugh together.
How can you make your donors feel like you know them?
A distant thank you doesn’t have the same effect as a hand-written note.
And if she’s sent you money, doesn’t she deserve to be called by her name – not “friend”?
An appeal that mentions what her last gift was and what it accomplished lets the donor feel she’s known. A phone call even more so.
Use your data to make every conversation and written communication as personal as possible. Remember what that feels like to a donor.
Don’t just perform – relate.
Any performer knows the audience changes a performance. A great audience lifts you up and carries your performance to places it couldn’t go alone. Without an audience, there is no show!
Most donors are happy to play the audience’s role.
They expect good performance and consistent results. And if they get that, they’re happy to pay the ticket price – to give.
But you have the chance to do so much more! Like a great performer, you can bring the audience on stage with you.
How? Ask for opinions and advice. (Surveys are not just about collecting data.)
Ask them to get involved in the work. (Volunteers who give are so committed!)
Recognize their contribution to the mission – not just their dollars.
And don’t be distant. Donors should know who they can talk to with a question or a problem. And when they do call, they should feel welcomed and well cared-for.
Make it memorable.
Does your organization’s ask sound like every other organization’s?
Often donors give to a cause, and are less concerned about the organization.
So if you’re asking for generic “support” – or help to reach your annual appeal goals (SNORE) – you might not be as important as you’d like to be.
What makes you unique? Is there a way you can stand out?
Or can you provide donor care that sears your organization into their memory? (The answer to the last is “yes” – you just have to commit to do it!)
Is your performance worth the price?
Do you donors feel not only satisfied, but eager to contribute again?
Or are your donors names on a list? (With dollars attached.)
Does everything you do honor them as individuals – people with their own dreams? Can you show them how your mission can help make those dreams happen?
Are they part of the performance or just ticket buyers?
I do think we should think of donors as heroes. We should treat them like stars.
But keep in mind they may see themselves differently.
Our job is to reach out and pull them in.
Just for fun: what’s the best concert you’ve seen? Why did you love it?
Tell me in the comments – we can compare notes!
Photo: By Craig ONeal CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons