Through the Eyes of a Child: Donor Communications
This past year began a new chapter in my family’s life: We became child sponsors. My wife and I decided that when our daughter was old enough to understand the concept, we would engage her in the process of choosing a needy child to sponsor.
But when I told Lauren, 11, her enthusiastic response caught me off guard: “Daddy, you mean, just like how Grandpa and Grandma sponsor a child?”
“Yes,” I said.
“And we can send her pictures of us and letters?”
Then I told her that one day, perhaps we could even visit her in her country.
“She’ll be like a little sister to me!” she exclaimed.
So we went to our chosen child-sponsorship organization’s Web site. Lauren eagerly began scrolling through children from around the world. Suddenly she found her. A 4-year-old girl named Brenda from El Salvador.
“Daddy, it says she likes to play with dolls, and I like dolls too! Can we send Brenda a new doll for Christmas?”
With Lauren eagerly watching, I entered my credit card information.
“Daddy, she’s going to be so happy when she finds out that we’re her sponsors, won’t she?!”
I was amazed as I listened to Lauren reflect on the sponsorship transaction.
“Do you think she’ll find out today?”
“Well, probably not today — but very soon, I’m sure.”
Lauren couldn’t help but tell friends and family. She said she felt so good about our choice and couldn’t wait to get more information about little Brenda.
The next day, the first thing out of her mouth was: “Do you think they’ll tell Brenda today? Are we going to get our packet of information today?”
After answering her questions as best I could, I began to think about the donor experience from my daughter’s perspective, and here’s what I learned.
Head and heart
The offer of $28 a month to help provide food, clothing, healthy living and education might be a rational offer that provides great value for investment, but what connected my daughter was the sympathetic link to Brenda — they both love dolls!
In direct-response marketing, the offer might be “king,” but that offer must tie into a donor’s deeply held values. To get to those values, you have to go through the heart. We do that by first knowing who our donors are and then crafting donor-focused creative that reaches into their souls.
The feel-good factor
My daughter couldn’t help but anticipate the impact of our sponsorship in Brenda’s life. She expected Brenda to react with joyful appreciation — and that projection gave my daughter joy.
When we communicate with our donors, we need to continuously let them know how their gifts make the recipients feel. That sense of making a meaningful difference in a needy person’s life or helping to make a needed change in the world is the gift we give our donors.
When Lauren asked if we could send Brenda a doll for Christmas, my credit card was still being processed for the sponsorship but already we were ready to go beyond that commitment to something more.
We must remind ourselves that the donor who has just given is the most likely prospect to give again — because they’ve demonstrated how strongly they feel about you — and they will want to keep that good feeling going about the impact their gifts make. So don’t ever shy away from asking your best and most recent givers to give once again. They want to!
Lauren was so excited about Brenda that she couldn’t wait to tell her older cousin. She talked with others about it too. She was an “evangelist” for child sponsorship.
What kind of opportunities is your nonprofit giving donors to spread the good news about the
difference they’re making? Note the wording of that sentence: “the difference they’re making” — not the difference your organization is making.
I never expected it, but my daughter taught me some important lessons about a nonprofit’s communications with its donors. To stay competitive and to build strong, long-term relationships with their donors, nonprofits must develop creative viral marketing plans that let the donor tell their story about making a difference in someone else’s life. Those types of stories should be communicated in newsletters, donor acknowledgements, postcards donors can send to their friends, and through e-mail programs linked to your Web site.
Jeff Nickel is the group vice president for Grizzard Signature Group. He can be reached at Jeff.Nickel@grizzard.com. Or log on to www.grizzardsg.com.
“Words from the Wise” is an occasional series of guest columns from professionals in the nonprofit sector. To submit a column or idea for consideration,e-mail the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.