Patting yourself on the back hurts.
Jeff Brooks warned us about the dubious utility of anniversaries in fundraising. You should read it (I read Jeff’s blog every day), but the point is simple: you might care about your anniversary, but donors do not.
He’s right. What seems a momentous occasion to staff and board members is meaningless to most of your donors. Why?
Because it’s not about your donors.
I’ve joked for years that I ought to make “It’s not about you” into a sign. And every development office ought to display it. If you want to really succeed, you should remind yourself of that constantly.
Donors don’t give because you’re great. They give because they’re great.
They give because giving to you makes them feel great about themselves.
That’s why your anniversary doesn’t move people. Why your annual fund goals are completely unimportant to a donor. And the end of your fiscal year?
What’s in it for me?
Your donor wants to know: what’s in it for me? How will my gift make the world a better place? What person will I help if I give?
How will giving to you make me feel?
She also wants to know: why now? Why is it urgent that I grab my checkbook or click on this link right now?
If you’re not answering those questions when you ask for a gift, you’re losing donations.
Don’t depend on anniversaries or annual fund goals to drive your fundraising campaigns. Sorry, but that’s just lazy fundraising.
If you can’t come up with a better reason why gifts are needed right now, you need to keep thinking. You need either a more important reason or a different organization.
Ok, so now you’re thinking:
Mary, my boss is going to freak. Are you saying to ignore our successes? Forget the big anniversary? I mean, we bought letterhead and everything!
Not really. Your successes are important to donors. You want to show them you get done what you say you will. That’s a matter of trust. And trust is critical.
Just quit patting yourselves on the back. An appeal isn’t the place for it.
Truth: your triumphs wouldn’t happen without support.
Celebrate success, talk about it – but pin it on your donors. Make sure donors know your good work happens only because of their gifts. (And that without their support, you couldn’t do the work.)
Anniversaries are great! You’ve been around for a while. It’s an achievement. But the key is to make it a time to celebrate the people who made it possible. No, not your executive director. (Sorry, boss.) Your donors.
Big anniversary-themed appeal? If you do it, make sure it’s all about thanking donors. Make it a celebration of them, not your organization.
Your budget and goals aren’t meaningful to donors. Talk about what you’ll do with their gift. Or what you won’t be able to do without it.
The end of your year? Again, it’s not your donor’s big concern. The end of their year might be. Your need to plan well to deliver services better might be.
It’s all about what matters to them, not what matters to you. Remember your insider position skews your view. Talk to your donors and watch their behavior if you want to know what matters to them.
Don’t spend your communications trumpeting your successes. Celebrate what your donors have accomplished through you. Give them the credit.
Because you really don’t need credit. You need gifts.
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire