Here's something we bet you've never heard before: Fundraising is all about relationships, and the better you know who you are writing to when you send your fundraising letters, e-mails, tweets, etc., the better your response will be.
Shocker, huh? And here's another: Different donor segments respond in different ways to different approaches. Successful fundraisers know that nuances in messaging can mean the difference between a gift and a gaffe. Don't believe us? Try getting a donation from an animal lover with a letter that refers to her beloved pet as a "that" instead of a "who."
Here, some fundraising pros talk about messaging to specific donor segments.
by Phyllis Freedman
What do Bob Dylan, Betty White and former President Bill Clinton have in common? At ages 70, 89 and soon-to-be 65, respectively, these well-known individuals all fall into the broad group that some (unfortunately) refer to as "seniors." The first thing you should know about fundraising strategies for mature donors is to never refer to them as "seniors"! The second most important thing to know is that one size does not fit all, especially the leading- and trailing-edge baby boomers who are often quite different from each other. Here are five tips for fundraising to mature donors:
1. Throw out your long-held beliefs about this group.
Challenge your assumptions, and picture the people mentioned above when you sit down to think about how to approach mature donors. A mental picture of vibrant, active people is more accurate than an image of a frail, housebound grandma.
2. Mature donors are as time-pressed as the rest of us.
Use bullets, captions on photos and other techniques that help "skimmers" get your message without having to read the entire letter (unless they want to).
3. Make sure you use at least 12-point, serif type.
One of the truths about aging is that eyesight usually diminishes. Make sure your copy is readable.
4. Fundraising strategies that are good for younger donors are also good for mature donors.
These include telling stories, opportunities to engage, prompt and relevant thank-you letters, good stewardship — just to name a few.
5. With longer lives, philanthropic decisions become family decisions.
Not only are those families multigenerational, but they are also increasingly multicultural and inter-religious.
6. Boomers will long be with us.
Though the World War II and silent generations are declining in numbers and will soon disappear, the baby boomers and especially the leading-edge boomers who are turning 65 this year will be with us for two decades or more.
Even with the downturn in the economy and the significant loss of wealth this group has suffered, these individuals will be our core givers for the foreseeable future. They have "grown up" giving through the mail. Multichannel strategies certainly work for some, but abandoning the mail as a cost-saving measure is a mistake when it comes to fundraising from this group.
Phyllis Freedman is president of SmartGiving and author of the Planned Giving Blogger. Reach her at email@example.com
by Tracey Webb
FundRaising Success: Describe African-Americans as donors in three words.
Tracey Webb: Collective, responsive, purposeful.
FS: Which types of organizations are most attractive to African-American donors?
TW: Ones that have a focus on education, health and social issues impacting the black community. In addition, high-profile donors are increasingly giving to the arts.
FS: Has fundraising marketing to African-American donors changed in the past few years?
TW: Yes, organizations are tapping in to the millennial generation for prospective donors. In recent years, many young adults have formed giving circles and philanthropic networks to support nonprofit organizations in their community.
FS: What is something that most likely will never change about fundraising marketing to African-American donors?
TW: Education will continue to be a priority for African-American donors. And traditionally, African-Americans have a communal approach to giving, so organizations and fundraising professionals will continue to reach out to African-American membership organizations, professional groups, associations and other similar networks.
FS: List two tips for reaching and engaging African-American donors.
TW: My top two tips for reaching and engaging African-American donors are: 1) Ensure that your donors know how and where their donations will be used; and 2) acknowledge and thank them!
FS: Additional thoughts?
TW: The perception that there's a dearth of high-profile African-American donors is false. We're not passive recipients of philanthropy; we're active donors — you just don't see our stories of giving in the media. Shirley and Bernard Kinsey, Eddie and Sylvia Brown, Sheila Johnson, Reginald Van Lee, Earl Stafford, Anthony and Bea Welters, Alphonse Fletcher Jr., and Roy and Maureen Roberts are among the nation's prominent philanthropists. This is one of the reasons why I created BlackGivesBack.com — to highlight these donors and share their incredible, often untold, stories of giving.
Tracey Webb is founder of the Black Gives Back blog and Black Benefactors giving circle. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian and Other Faith-Based Donors
by Philip Zodhiates and Matt LaPorta
Fundraising Success: Describe Christian and other faith-motivated donors in three words.
Philip Zodhiates: Altruistically, selflessly motivated.
Matt LaPorta: Consistent, informed, generous.
FS: Aside from churches, which types of organizations are most attractive to these donors?
PZ: Evangelistic groups, humanitarian groups and social activist groups.
ML: The most attractive para-church organizations are the ones that are able to best articulate the goal of the ministry and show real results in accomplishing that goal. Some faith-based donors will be more sensitive to feeding programs for orphans or the poor, while others may be more sensitive to evangelical missions (organizations that are leading people to Christ) — and still others will be sensitive to groups that are framing the political debate in a Christian world view.
The point is, each donor may be moved to give to any one or all of these types of organizations. However, they will give to the groups that demonstrate success at accomplishing their stated goals.
FS: Has marketing to faith-based donors changed in the past few years?
PZ: Yes, more online and more based on personal relationships.
ML: Sure. Just like everyone else, the faith-based donor has been affected by the recession. The difference, though, between a faith-based donor and a humanitarian donor is that the faith-based donor is more likely to give sacrificially, while other types of donors will cut their donations before they change their lifestyle.
Some organizations have realized this and tailored their messaging to emphasize faithfulness and stewardship. Hopefully, it is a trend that will not just be a market-driven change, but a true change in how organizations communicate with donors and partners in the ministry.
FS: What is something that most likely will never change about marketing to faith-based donors?
PZ: Direct mail will always be king when it comes to response rates.
ML: The faith-based donor will always be highly sought after. They are a group of people that will give faithfully for years if the organization can communicate to them effectively. They also have the capacity to become more involved in the work of the organization through volunteering in many different ways, not just on a board, but actually feeding the hungry and working "in the trenches."
FS: Can you list two tips for reaching and engaging faith-based donors?
PZ: Play to their emotions. Politicize your mailings.
ML: First, you must be real. Throwing a few "Christian catchphrases" or quotes from the Bible won't get you very far with a faith-based donor. They want to see some real results — not just platitudes.
Second, for most faith-based donors, they don't see their donation as a donation to a specific organization, but a donation they are making to God's work. When the communication becomes solely about the organization and not about God and what He is doing, you have lost them. Donors want to see how the organization has used their donations to directly and positively impact people's lives.
FS: Any additional thoughts?
ML: One of the things we have been stressing to the faith-based mailers we work with is that they can't treat their supporters like a wallet or ATM machine. The people that have given a donation are doing this so that they can become a partner in the ministry and build a relationship with the organization. If an organization can give back to the donor — making this a true relationship — and not just constantly take, the donor will likely stay committed to the organization for much longer. FS
Philip Zodhiates is owner of Response Unlimited. Reach him at email@example.com
Matt LaPorta is sales manager at Response Unlimited. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org