‘What does the donor want?’
We learn more when we listen than when we talk. Sounds simple, and it’s the basic tenet of donor relationships today.
In fundraising, we agonize over the wording of “the ask,” make sure we’re selecting the right people to solicit. We want to be sure event donors aren’t invited to the gala at the same time the fall appeal is to hit mailboxes. How do we motivate a donor to give to a cause/program that’s so very dear to the “XYZ Foundation?” How can we communicate the need - the urgency?
All important issues. But not the most important. What’s left? You guessed it -- what does the donor want?
If the answer to this question isn’t at the heart of your fundraising strategy, problems will develop with renewals. It’s a statistical certainty.
In commercial direct marketing, we want prospects and customers to buy something -- a product or service. We wouldn’t dream of trying to sell a 2005 Volvo to someone walking into a Harley-Davidson dealership. No matter what the “deal” we put on the table for the Volvo, chances are we won’t make that sale.
It’s not all that different in the world of fundraising. Donors support your cause because something you do -- either for them directly or for others -- makes them feel good.
Donor relationships are borne in the desire to quench a thirst. Maybe it’s free parking at the hospital. Or that window decal that shows the world that they care. And it could be simply the self-satisfaction they get in being part of a noble cause. Your cause.
Successful fundraising programs pay attention to all of these needs. How does that translate to your “to do” list? Ask yourself:
1. Have you asked each donor recently why he or she supports your organization?
2. Can you pinpoint donor preferences in mission focuses? Are you using that information, or are the next points of contact decided by a fixed “marketing-appeal plan?”
3. Which donors prefer being contacted by direct mail? E-mail? Which ones wait to give until they get a phone call?
4. Are you asking people to give and upgrade in a manner consistent with their other response patterns? Are you basing renewal strategies around techniques that successfully achieved the first or last gift?
5. Are creative strategies properly focused on donor need (versus organizational need)? Does your message properly transition from the last point of donor contact?
Think about it. You have X thousand donors that have made a gift within the last 12 months. Unless your nonprofit has a single mission/focus, chances are good that each donor has his or her own reason for making those gift(s).
The key is to find out why. What made that donor make that last gift? Armed with these answers, the challenge of using today’s technology to work for you becomes much less daunting.
Think of it this way: You’re not managing a fundraising program. You’re managing relationships.
Your donors already have provided key insight into what makes them tick. Ask for more information, and then use the information you learn when you plan the next “ask.”
It’s all about donor needs. If you take care of their needs, chances are good they’ll take care of yours.
Mark Jacobson is vice president of the not-for-profit division of DMW, a full-service, direct-response advertising agency with offices in Wayne, Pa.; Plymouth, Mass.; and St. Louis.You can reach him at 774.773.1200 or via e-mail at MJacobson@dmwdirect.com.