The Futility of Educating Donors
● Things she has to deal with.
● Things she wants to deal with.
● Things she can safely ignore.
When something says (or even seems to say), “You need to learn something,” she can breathe a sigh of relief and let it fall into the recycle bin.
If your attempt at education gets through that merciless screen, it still faces an uphill battle: Learning takes concentration and dedication. These are traits direct-response media don’t encourage. Like all marketing, they excel at motivating quick, right-brain decisions. They’re built for skimming and are meant to stand out among the 1,500-plus marketing messages Americans see each day. Direct mail isn’t good at promoting contemplation, internalizing, memorizing — nor any of the other struggles we go through to learn.
What to do
So do you just give up? Is educating donors a bad thing? Not at all. It’s very good. The more a donor understands your cause, the better donor she’ll be. The better advocate, volunteer, thinker, voter and prayer she’ll be. She’ll even be a more well-rounded human being.
But education has to happen on the donor’s agenda — not yours. Before education can happen, someone has to care in an active, intentional way. And charitable giving is a huge step toward deeper caring. If you concentrate on raising funds (that is your job, after all), you’ll help more donors get educated than you ever will by hitting them over the head with your attempts to teach them on your agenda.
In this time of free-flowing digital information, you can simply make all the important stuff available on your Web site — at almost no cost to anyone.
There’s a Zen saying: When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears. Reach their minds through their pocketbooks. Then you can be the teacher they want. When they’re ready. FS