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Tell Donors, "I Need You"

I read somewhere recently that donors, on average, give to about 14 charities per year. It’s no wonder then that they don’t wake up thinking about your nonprofit. I’ve got additional news for you: they don’t go to sleep with your latest direct mail appeal circulating in their dreams either.

The truth is donors are probably approached by many organizations seeking new donors. Boring them over and over or making the decision not to mail or email to them because you’re afraid of bothering them too much, gives them a real opportunity to consider other nonprofit causes and switch allegiances.

That’s money taken away from you and your cause. Great for the other npo, but not so much for you.

Do you let weeks go by without any meaningful conversations with your donors? How can you maintain a relationship with someone that you’re not connecting with for months at a time? After all, if you can’t do anything else, at least you have Facebook to help you share things with your donors.

As you tweak your strategy for the remainder of 2015 ask yourself this questions:

Question #1 - Are the communications you send out interesting to you and your staff or to your donor? Are you sending out blogs that no one cares to read? Do your newsletters generate any response? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then you need to figure out why.

Sometimes it could just be a matter of inviting people to check out a blog or social-media page. Make certain that what you’re writing isn’t simply boring and be sure that it makes the donor feel proud to be a partner of yours.

A couple of years ago I received a year-end mailing of a catalog that offered various program needs for me to help meet by sending a donation. Unfortunately, the copy on all 28 pages was so tiny and of poor color quality that I found it nearly impossible to read. The lesson here is that unless your audience is in their 20s and 30s, use a larger point type and make sure the quality of the color is good. Readability is so important!

Question #2 – Do you constantly make a good case for giving? It’s easy for donors to forget. Like I said, they aren’t focused on your mission 24 hours a day. You have to remind them again and again – that the work you’re nonprofit is doing is important and their gifts are needed to continue to make a difference. Your newsletters should report about the great progress your organization is making but also reaffirm that the job isn’t done yet and that there’s more to do. Direct mail and email should ask for a specific amount to do a specific thing.

I promise you this: the days of a nonprofit saying to its constituents, “Trust us; we’ll use your gift wisely” are over. Today’s donor is often a non-believer. Scandals in the nonprofit industry have a way of outlasting any good that has been done in the past. You should treat each and every communication as your first and only chance to lay out the case for support.

Question #3 – What are your alternative strategies for people who claim they receive too much or hear from us too much? It certainly doesn’t have to be all or nothing these days. We’re able to handle donor preferences much more precisely because of the computer. There are a wide range of options that can be offered. For example, quarterly mail, newsletters only, no phone calls, or other arrangements that you can manage and that will please the donor who raises a concern. The important thing to remember is to honor a donor’s preferences when they are known.

Finally, some donors are very committed to the causes they support. For others, though, we should try to make our requests clear and interesting. Also, let’s give our donors what they’re asking for in terms of communication-not just what is the easiest to manage.

Maybe some of them will wake up in the morning and actually give your cause a thought.

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