We’re zooming, we’re calling, we’re writing… but are we connecting? Here are some ideas to help people feel connected now.
I read an article recently in Psychology Today about the importance of feeling understood. In fact, the title was: Feeling understood more important than feeling loved.
Maybe this is a good time to look at the relationships you build for your organization in that framework. Because whether we’re locked in our houses, sheltering from a pandemic or not, some things are universally human. Your donor communications should reflect that. No, celebrate that!
I’ve borrowed their headers and added a fundraising twist. See what you think – then let me know!
1. You’re known. Your identity is confirmed.
People become known to you when you collect a bit of information about them. Their address or email or even “liking” your Facebook page. That first gift of information is the start of a connection between a person and your cause. They want – on some level to feel connected now.
But to make a meaningful connection, people want to have their sense of self verified. They care about your cause; therefore they are good and caring people. Guess what? It’s ok to assume that. And it’s even more OK to tell them that.
Have you ever met someone who just “got” you right away? That feeling of connection is what you’re looking for in your donor communications.
How to? Well, at the simplest level, get their details right! (Name, salutation, etc.) Listen when they tell you something – even if they don’t come out and say it. Ask how they prefer to be addressed and how they prefer to be contacted. Then follow through.
Practice this in the office, too. Because how you think about people who support your cause carries to them even when you don’t think it will. Try to think of your donors not as dollar signs (one of our $250 and up donors).
2. You exist.
External assurance that we exist helps us feel real. I love this quote from the article:
As Michael Schreiner duly notes in The Need To Be Understood, “The unconscious fear that seems to always be lurking in the background is that if we aren’t understood it will be as if we never existed.”
If you work to be sure your donors and potential donors feel seen – feel real to you – you will be more successful in building good relationships.
3. You belong. You’re part of something larger than yourself. You’re accepted.
Right now, the need to feel part of something can be almost overwhelming. We miss feeling connected now. It’s there every day. It’s part of being human.
When you communicate, make it clear that to you, the individual person does belong to the family. Raising a hand, showing interest in the cause – that’s enough to welcome them in.
Donor lists can be annoying. And they can unfairly rank donors’ importance by their giving amount. But they also can work, because a donor has the chance to see herself announced in public as part of the effort.
Underline that message in your donor communications. Add a donor highlight to your newsletter. Repeat that sense of welcome and belonging in your communications.
Being part of a larger effort or cause makes us feel good. And it makes us feel connected. We need that satisfaction to be happy. So make people happy!
4. You’re empowered.
When you feel powerful, you do powerful things. When you feel unimportant, it’s much harder.
You want your supporters to feel powerful. You want them to feel connected. Able to do something. That’s an important part of your donor communications. Key to asking for their support is showing them how it is possible – and what kind of “return” they can see on their investment.
Think of the person who is not wealthy but has been making room for you in their tight budget. They’ve been doing this for years now. Why haven’t you had a conversation with them about a legacy gift? Even thinking about the possibilities might empower them to dream big!
5. You understand yourself better.
Listening is key to good relationships. If you think of your communications as one-way, you’re missing so many opportunities! Finding ways to listen to your supporters will not only help them feel more connected, but it can help you and your organization understand yourselves better.
Inside, you have developed a particular way of looking at your work. Seeing it from the outside in can improve the way you do that work.
6. You experience more satisfaction in your relationships.
From the article:
Feeling understood prompts you to relate more fully to others, to show more willingness to be open and vulnerable with them. As Carl Nassar (The Importance of Feeling Understood) astutely observes: “When we feel understood . . . we show [others] our true selves—flaws and all. In turn, they are more likely to be vulnerable and honest with us. This helps us connect . . . on a deeper level, improving the quality of our relationships.”
Have you been taught to portray your organization as your work as strong, infallible, the best? Try vulnerability. Fundraising is about relationships. It’s hard to relate to perfection. It’s much easier to build connections when you’re willing to be human.
7. You’re shielded from the depths of depression.
When people feel separated, they become depressed. Even now, if you can help people feel part of your work – understood and accepted for themselves as individuals – you can help them and help your cause, too.
There is a vast amount of strategy and tactical fundraising advice to be had out there. But if you skip the being human part, you will be less successful. And you risk missing the most rewarding part of the work.