From time to time, I get an email from someone looking for fundraising help. They want to know how they can get their message out to everyone.
So, first, let me clear something up: fundraising consultants do not have a magic contact list you can use.
And while I admire their conviction – “If everyone knew about us, we’d have no problem with money!” – they have things turned around.
Everyone is not ever going to be your donor.
And if you need to raise more money, targeting everyone will cost you more money, without great results.
Fundraising is personal
And yes, that should be true even if your list is 100,000 or 1,000,000.
Do you need to organize and segment your list? Absolutely. Can automation help make digital communications easier? Sure.
But does every donor need to feel they are making a difference? They do.
There’s no getting around it – building a base of support is hard work. It takes time and effort. Broadcasting is not the best use of your time.
So how can even a larger organization think small?
I’m not only talking about names here. But look for and keep information about your donors.
Notice how they’ve behaved. (How often they give, when they’ve increased or decreased their gift, when they tend to give, in response to what appeal…)
Ask for their thoughts, and record them. Ask for their preferences and follow them.
Then use the information you glean and ask them to help in a way they want to help.
Use the information to reference past gifts, or their neighborhood (social proof works!).
And use what you learn to make your thank you personal. (Reference a past gift or a comment.)
Treat them like valued individuals
Have you ever had a hard time identifying the fundraising staff at a larger organization? Say you have a problem or question and you find only a contact form. Frustrating, right?
Frustrated is not where you want your donors to be.
Make yourself available. Answer calls yourself – don’t hand them off to the intern. Answer emails personally, not with some canned response. It’s a great opportunity to make a personal connection – why waste it?
And while you can’t write a separate appeal for every donor, you can make what you mail feel more personal.
Remember, donor communication is always one to one. Talk to each donor. Never treat them as a group in your writing.
And don’t talk only about your organization. Create a donor persona – or a few, if that works better. Then address the donor directly – her wishes, her worries.
I’ve used this example before, but it shows how simply keeping your database clean is helpful. A former employer, to which I still give, changes my salutation from “Mary” to “Ms. Cahalane” every time they have a new development director. I ask to be Mary again, but somehow the new person’s sense of how things should be overrules my preference. “Mary” felt like family. “Ms. Cahalane” feels like just another random donor.
Are you paying attention to what your donors are telling you?
Too many donors have grown used to never seeing a thank you. (If you’re guilty, fix that one, stat.)
But how often does something arrive in their inbox or mailbox that catches them off-guard?
That something could be as simple as a hand-written note. (Borrow this idea from my friend Pamela Grow.) Or a link to something they might feel interesting.
Too many donors to do that for them all? Set yourself a weekly goal.
Say you’re sending a hand-written thanks. Commit to doing a certain number every day or every week. Track them in your database. You might see better retention from these donors. And that ought to persuade you that time spent on donor relationships is worth more time – or more staff.
Your donor doesn’t think of herself as everyone
One last suggestion for you. If you’re on Twitter, follow The Whiny Donor. You’ll gain some valuable insights into a donor’s point of view.
As a fundraiser, it’s all too easy to think of “donors” as a block. Current donors, lapsed donors, monthly donors, etc.
Fight to remember each donor is a person, with her own values and her own reasons for giving.
The little touches that say, “We know you, we recognize you and we’re grateful” are the ones that keep your donors engaged and eager to help.
They make your work feel more meaningful, too.