News around charity fundraising sounds bleak.
The Guardian posted an article warning of an unprecedented crisis and stated that “expected losses for the sector [are] likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds, and many organisations [are] already struggling financially”.
While COVID-19 may have accelerated the crisis in the NFP world by closing down many fundraising events, declining fundraising has been a problem for some time.
Donor inboxes are being inundated constantly with pitches and requests for donations from bulk email campaigns. Phone banking initiatives have increasingly hit hurdles as caller ID raises barriers. With fewer people driving, radio fundraising has seen a marked decline.
So what can be done?
Building Personal Connections
The key to maintaining a strong donor base is personal connection.
Donors want to feel like they are more than just dollar signs to an organization. They want to feel included, part of a community, part of a mission, and that starts with a human connection to the team behind the charity managing their donations.
Charity Navigator, in a piece penned, “The Death of Conventional Fundraising” talks about the power of personal video emails to cut through the noise.
CURE international leveraged personal videos in a major donor gift campaign in April 2020 ($500 and $1000 donations focus) and fundraised $10,000 more than their standard approaches through personal video.
Here is example from that campaign with CURE: https://www.bonjoro.com/g/oM4pXYiw1vG
Personal videos are a perfect way to bridge the gap between the giver and the cause they are supporting.
Personal video humanizes the relationship, shows your team, and can also be an opportunity to showcase the recipients of the charity gifts first hand (like with the example from CURE above).
Instead of a generic, highly polished video made for mass production, what if through a personal video you could take the donor to the source and make them see first hand why it all matters? The results speak for themselves.
Part of making your donors feel seen can also come with authentic gratitude. Just reaching out with a message of thanks. Checking in to see if some of your older donors need help with groceries. Asking about their families.
This could be personal video, or a handwritten letter or a personal message on social media. The idea is to not ask for anything, but just make sure they know how much they are valued and if applicable, how much their past donations have impacted your organization.
Tim McElravy, of the YMCA, showcases this beautifully with this personal video here: https://www.bonjoro.com/g/2VyKQBFRnNZ
Why does it work?
It turns out the psychology of why video is so effective is rooted in our brains. Humans have cells called Mirror Neurons, that make it so we emulate the emotions of those we see and interface with. Have you ever met someone who was so bubbly and positive that you couldn’t help but smile? That’s your mirror neurons firing!
This principle applies not just with in-person meetings but through video as well! When a person sees the facial expressions, tone, and body language of another person, that individual’s emotions help amplify an experience.
Purple cows and you
Another reason that personal video stands out is because it is unique. Iconic marketer, Seth Godin, talks about a phenomenon he calls the “Purple Cow”.
He notes that if you are driving down the road and see cows, you wouldn’t think much of it. But if you saw a purple cow, it would make you stop, take pictures, share it around. It would be wholly different and unique.
This is likely a major reason that personal video sees substantially higher open and engagement rates than text emails. Personal videos are more memorable.
And part of why they are more memorable is context. Researchers have shown that the more context you have around a memory, the more likely you are to recall it. Think about the example with the cows. If every day you drive by a field of cows, that’s routine and there’s very little surrounding context.
On the other hand, when you saw that purple cow, you talked about it with your friends, you shared a picture on social media, and by doing all this you created context around that memory.
When it comes to donors, you want to create as much context as you can. The more you stay on the forefront of their minds, the better the chances that they will choose to support your cause.
Where are we headed?
Organizations are changing rapidly. Already teams are preparing for a future of workforces that are remote and events that are virtual.
But what we must remember is that humans need interaction with other humans. It’s wired in our DNA.
If circumstances force us to be apart physically, we need to stay connected in a way that is human and authentic – virtually.
Casey Hill is currently the Head of Growth at Bonjoro. With more than a decade of experience working with non-profit organizations, from one-person operations to major multinationals like CURE International, Casey has seen what is keeping brands relevant and seen in the 21st century.
Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash