You and U, V, W, X, Y and Z
For the past several weeks, I have been posturing different things fundraisers should consider, using the letters of the alphabet as a guide. We're now up to the final six letters. (Read about A, B, C, D and E here; click here for F, G, H, I and J; here for K, L, M, N and O; and here for P, Q, R, S and T.)
While none of these ideas in and of themselves will radically alter your fundraising program or results, sometimes the simplest tweaks or slight changes in focus can impact bottom line —assuming you think of them! So check out these final six ideas, and see if there are a few you should implement this week.
U is for unified
The more an organization grows, the harder it seems to be to keep your message unified. One person writes the direct-mail appeal, and another updates the website. Still others are posting to your social media.
It's not enough to assume that one part of your messaging is for baby boomers and another part is for Gen Y. People cheat, and they may read everything they can find about your organization before making a giving decision. Make sure your main copy points are unified, even if the look and feel change by the target audience. It's important to always "have the same face on," no matter where a donor or prospect goes to check you out. You don't have to be boring, just consistent in your messaging.
V is for visible
I'm one of the odd people who (usually) types in a URL when I'm given one, but I know that a lot of people instead just type key words into a search engine. How visible is your organization in a search?
I just searched for a nonprofit school by "school" and the city and state it's in. Nothing on the first page — and honestly, who looks further than that? When I added the name of the organization, it came up, but for most people, this nonprofit is invisible. Try many combinations of words that "average people" might use to see if your nonprofit appears, and if not, it's time to launch a strategy to improve your search engine visibility.
W is for welcoming
Once you've made your website visible to potential and current donors via a search engine, are you welcoming them to your organization? Does your homepage feel comfortable to your typical donor (which may not be you or your Web team)? Is navigation simple for someone who isn't an insider? Is the nomenclature donor-friendly?
And what about your phone system? When a donor calls in, can he or she quickly get to a live person? Or will the donor finally hang up in despair after yelling at the recording? (Or maybe it's just me who does that ...)
Look at every portal where a donor can come in to your organization — online, on the phone, the actual building, etc. Are you welcoming — or confusing?
X is for X-ray
Yeah, this one is a stretch ... so work with me for a minute! I'm not suggesting that you X-ray your donors or your colleagues. But, are you looking below the surface of donor comments via mail, e-mail, phone, social media, etc.?
What does "You send me too much mail" mean — other than the obvious? Is your mail uninteresting? Are you not doing a good job explaining what makes your nonprofit unique? Do social-media comments from donors and prospects show an understanding of your work or more confusion than fact?
Once in a while, if you don't already have that in your job description, answer donor calls and read their letters, e-mails and posts. Are there changes you need to make to be sure you are communicating to the donor, not just to yourself?
Y is for you
No, it's not a breakthrough — but this is essential. You are talking to a single person. It's all about "you, the donor," not "we, the organization" or "me, the executive director." If you aren't opening your copy by engaging your donors, you're likely losing them before they've barely started.
Who are you envisioning as you write your copy for newsletters, e-appeals, landing pages and letters? Having that person in your mind is one of the best ways to make sure you stay focused on your target audience and that you are talking to your donors, not at them.
Z is for zealous
We all know that fundraising is hard work. Long hours, frustrations and even an occasional failure can often overshadow the great victories we have throughout the year. But I think the worst thing is if we lose our zeal for fundraising and for the mission of our organizations.
Be zealous about your nonprofit. Be passionate about telling its story to your supporters. And never lose sight of the great things that are accomplished when your donors are generous because you helped them capture the zeal of your program, too.
We have a wonderful calling as fundraisers as we truly do help make the world a better place. Some days it may seem like an uphill battle, but celebrate every victory. You're doing great!
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.