You Can’t Communicate Too Much (Unless You’re Doing It Wrong)
Communication is key in fundraising. There are three overarching principles:
- The best communication is face to face.
- Fundraising communication is different.
- You need to be consistent in communicating and in your messaging.
1. The Best Communication Is Face to Face
As you develop fundraising communications strategies, make sure that you have sufficient face-to-face opportunities with key constituencies, like major donors and your board and potential board. What is the value of face to face? First, it is most personal. While being in-person is best, even having a video call, for example, can really enhance the personal touch and connectivity.
The ability to ask questions, listen and respond is truly magical. The best communicators want to listen. They are great at asking questions. With this, you learn about your donors and how to tailor future communication to meet their preferences and interests and to begin a dialogue on gift investment opportunities.
Never mail a donor when you can call or visit instead. Call or visit on a regular schedule to deepen the relationship. Find ways to ensure you engage in person regularly with your best prospective donors.
2. Fundraising Communication Is Different
Fundraising is relationship-based and built on shared values and aspirations. It is not transactional. We have found that too often marketing and public relations professionals and firms without fundraising training, while they do an incredible job with other communication, often fail to understand basic fundraising best practices. This is why major organizations have communications staff dedicated to the fundraising function.
The best communication is personal to the recipient. Communication needs to be as segmented and tailored to the audience as possible. A beautiful brochure that screams mass appeal is not effective. A message or document that is clearly tailored to the donor’s interest—and even better yet, to them personally—is ideal.
3. You Need to Be Consistent in Communicating and in Your Messaging
We just completed a church campaign planning study. The church had presented a master plan, but then communicated little about the process for over six months. The communications director didn’t have a plan, and materials were more about appearance than content. The study showed that there is catching up to do—and some more listening needed.
Communications should be deepening donor relationships. Communication that is unclear or that starts and stops doesn’t do that. Have a communications and cultivation plan to regularly reach out to your best prospective donors. Don’t create a void that has them wondering or wandering to other causes.
Fundraising communication is different—understand the variances, make it personal and consistent, and you will be taking great strides in deepening donor relationships.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.