4 Ways to Get to Know Your Audience
Our mindsets as organizations, like people, are self-centered on our own needs and desires: What can we do at year-end to yield the best results? How can we maximize revenue?
These questions are fair, but also remember to ask how you can tweak your messaging to achieve your objectives with an understanding that your constituents may have different priorities now.
Before making a big year-end push, a reminder to find out who’s on your team. Not knowing who will show up is gambling big with bad odds and high stakes.
The issue is that some donors who once cared passionately about your organization’s mission may have shifted their priorities and moved on. That’s ok! There are others passionate about your cause who are unknown to you.
We all know about the tremendous shifts in our society, and with those significant shifts naturally come variations in how we determine how to give. Can you imagine the number of life-changing events that happened to your donors over the last three years? It is unfathomable.
How can we assess and predict year-end outcomes without knowing what has changed and whether our current donor database accurately reflects the population available and willing to give and support?
Assess Your Donor Engagement
How do we tactfully and respectfully identify whether the frequency of our communication needs to change or if a donor has moved on to other issues?
While it is still the advent of autumn, I suggest testing the waters before the year-end push.
It may be a bold move to assess your donor’s level of engagement, yet it is more reckless to decide not to want to know. One move comes from strength, caring and curiosity, and the other from fear.
Revise Your Message
How your message is crafted matters. It could be taken the wrong way. Fundraisers with in-house skilled communications teams will be able to work together to achieve the objective.
Smaller nonprofits that do not have a dedicated communications team or staff member can always select the individual most adept at wordsmithing to create this messaging for you that is tactful, respectful and delivers the insights you need. Reaching out to a consultant or a professional writer is also an option.
It is unlikely that a donor will call you and let you know that her priorities have changed. She will likely be annoyed by the emails and either unsubscribe, ignore them or move them to the dreaded spam.
Review Your Data
If you ask the right questions, the answers will provide a clearer picture of your donor base.
The reality is that most of everything donor-related is completed through donor management platforms. Your CRM or donor management system is your best friend. Your best contact to go for guidance may be your contact at your chosen platform. They are the subject matter experts on how to do this. They have the most information compiled over many years about donor behavior and strategies that have worked and not worked.
When in doubt, seek their guidance. If your representative isn’t particularly responsive or knowledgeable, consult with someone higher up.
Get Donor Feedback
If this concept is new and seems dangerous, I suggest starting small and putting out one communications piece, by text or email, gently asking the donor about the frequency of your organization’s communications. A quick poll is a valuable tool as well.
Some ideas are:
- Is there anything you would like to see more of in our communication with you?
- Is there anything we are missing when we communicate with you?
- What would you like to hear more about?
As a fundraising professional, you are most likely subscribed to a ton of communications, and your inbox is flooded. Have you received communications of this nature from organizations? Do they ask how they could offer you better, more finely tailored communications, or do they provide a mix of updates and asks? Doesn’t it feel like a one-way transactional relationship if they haven't sought your input?
By testing the waters, you will identify whether you need to spend more dollars on marketing or place more emphasis on delivering richer content suitable to your audience. Either way, your donors will appreciate being included in the dialogue instead of being talked at rather than with.
Before the big game starts, you have to know who is on your team and who will show up on game day. This is one integral part of your internal nonprofit evaluation management process to become the best at what you do.
Pete Kimbis is managing director of PKC, a boutique social good consulting firm based in North Bethesda, Maryland, that delivers technical and grant proposal writing, opportunity and solicitation analysis, legislative research, budgets, program analysis and evaluation, small business development, and acquisition support. Pete works with entrepreneurs and businesses based around innovative and inclusive missions that protect or improve lives or the environment.