4 Approaches to Changing a Boring Message
So, you think you have something interesting to say to your donor. And you send it out. But all you get back is silence. In fact, it is so silent, it is deafening. Here’s why this is happening.
First, there is a lot of noise out there. Take a look at this data never sleeps link from Domo that documents the tremendous amount of Internet and information traffic that is happening every minute of every day.
- 204 million email messages every minute
- 4 million Google search inquiries every minute
- 46 million Facebook users sharing every minute
- 48,000 Apple downloads every minute
And it goes on. Take a look at the link. The one overarching impression you will get is there is a lot out there vying for the attention of every donor on your caseload. The second impression is that what you have to say to your donor needs to cut through all of this noise.
But you have an advantage. You have qualified every donor on your caseload, so they like you. (I hope you have qualified each one. If not, then you have a bunch of people on your caseload who are mildly interested in what you have to say. And that explains their silence.)
But let’s assume they are all qualified. So they want to support your cause, and they are interested in what you have to say. Interested, that is, if what you are saying is interesting. Jeff and I have seen a lot of messages going out to caseload donors that is downright boring. And I am talking about all kinds of communication: emails, texts, tweets, letters, phone calls, visits, PowerPoint presentations, videos—you name it. Boring.
So, if this is your situation, which there is a high probability it is, then how do you change it? Here is what we think:
- Be sure you are constantly telling your caseload donor that he or she is making a difference through their giving. If this is not happening on a regular and frequent basis, you have already ruined the receptor. In other words, you have conditioned the donor to believe that (A) your message that has just arrived, in whatever form, is likely to be something about you and the organization versus them, and (B) they remain ignorant about what their giving is actually accomplishing and, therefore, they are not too motivated to take in what you now have to say. Think about this. If you were a donor, and all you got back from the organization is more blather about the organization and no communication on what had been done with your giving, do you think you would be a good listener when that major gift officer came at you again? I doubt it.
- Have something compelling to say. Compelling means “evoking interest in a powerfully irresistible way. Enthralling, captivating, gripping, riveting, spellbinding, etc.” Stop for a second, and read that email you are going to send out to your donor. Is it compelling? How about that proposal? Is it captivating? How about the phone call you are about to make? Will it be gripping? This is where we miss it in our major donor communication. And I understand how it happens. It takes so much work to get ready in this way. And you are so tired that you just can’t spend the time. I know. I really do. But how else can you hope to cut through the clutter? Seriously. A compelling story of the problem you are trying to solve will grab your donor’s heart and will not let him or her go. You have these stories in your organization. You just have to find them. A powerfully irresistible story of a life changed, because the donor gave will capture the donor’s attention. You have those stories in your organization. You just have to find them. So, make sure you have something compelling to say. Then…
- Make sure it is believable. There are so many promises in fundraising that just do not make sense or are not believable. The test I use has two parts to it: (1) do I believe it myself? Tell yourself the promise you are about to make to the donor and honestly see if you believe it. It is amazing how just this little exercise eliminates unbelievable messaging. And (2) test the logic of the promise. Will X dollars really do what you are claiming? Ask the program people and finance how they arrived at the figure. Test it yourself to make sure it is logical and right.
- Be creative in your approach to the donor. Mix up the way you deliver the message. Many nonprofits get in a funk with how to get compelling information and stories to donors. Create emotional videos, raw, unedited video where things are happening in the moment; do audio conferences from the field; have the CEO or inspired speaker talk to donors about how their gifts are making a difference; or send a personal note with a card from someone that was helped in your program to the donor.
That’s it. Four points to combat marketplace noise. It’s simple yet profound. It’s easy, but very difficult to do—not because you don’t have the ability to do it, but because it takes time. Commit yourself to creating and trafficking in compelling and believable messages with your caseload donors. It will have huge benefits for you and the donor.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.