7 Strategies to Create Happier, More Generous Donors
Do you know what motto is channeled by the most effective businesses?
1. Help—don’t sell.
It’s a powerful concept coined by Jay Baer of Convince and Convert, and it’s known as “youtility”—being useful and customer-centered. It extends to your fundraising.
Think from your prospective donor’s perspective: How will giving benefit them?
Whenever human beings are faced with a decision, it’s natural for them to ask the WIFM question: “What’s in it for me?”
Dismiss this natural instinct at your peril.
2. Wrap rewards for giving into your appeal.
People have many, many options when it comes to spending their limited resources. So why should they choose to spend it on philanthropy? And why, specifically, should they give to you?
I was struck by a recent Seth Godin post on the topic of cutting through the clutter:
“You're trying to get through all the noise and the distraction and the clutter with your message.
Here's the thing: You are the noise and the distraction and the clutter.
Just because it's important to you doesn't mean it's important to us.
It is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.
Instead of creating a campaign that somehow cuts and invades, consider creating a product, a service and a story that we'd miss if we couldn't find it.”
Nonprofits need to tell a compelling story the donor wants to enter into. Make what you say relevant to people’s experiences. I may not have a daughter with a disability, but as a parent, I can relate to wanting my daughter to have all the best life has to offer. I may not have been a hurricane victim, but as someone living in earthquake country, I can relate to how it must feel when disaster strikes.
3. Help your donor feel empathy.
This is one of the keys to effective fundraising.
To help your donor associate your appeal with, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
To help your donor connect with the value of, “Doing unto others as I would wish others would do unto me.”
4. Help your donor achieve meaning in their life.
If you’re familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you know that once people’s basic needs have been provided for, they begin to look to fulfill higher level needs. There’s a parallel Donor Hierarchy of Needs.
For most people, meaning is deeply intertwined with community connections. Victor Frankl in his famous chronicle on the search for meaning wrote, “Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire." Remember, “philanthropy” means love of humankind.
Humans want to feel a sense of connection and a sense of purpose to life. Giving (time, money, and energy) is a central way we strive to find meaning.
5. Give your donor a shot of dopamine.
The old adage, “It’s better to give than to receive,” may have a biological basis.
By now, it’s well established that even contemplating giving gives people a rush of good feeling. MRI studies reveal that the pleasure centers of the brain light up when people give; even when they just think about giving!
Consider your appeal a way of helping your donors find true pleasure, then consider how to make the experience a true feel good.
Rather than filling your appeal with a litany of facts or an egocentric broadcasting of your nonprofit’s merits, tell a story that shows the donor how they can become a hero. That’s what will capture their attention. That’s what will make them feel interested and energized.
6. Flatter your donor.
Flattery is a gift. People respond to compliments; in fact, they crave them. Sadly, criticism can be more free-flowing than praise in our society. When you help people feel appreciated and loved, you help them attain the highest goal to which most people aspire in their search for meaning.
If your donor gave previously, remind them of the good thing they did. People will tend to repeat good behaviors because they want to be consistent (see “Influence” by Robert Cialdini).
If they’ve yet to give, assume they will. Encourage them by saying things like, “Because you care; I know you want to prevent this from happening; Your support means so much.” When you expect the best in people, you’ll often get it.
7. Help your donor feel good about giving.
There’s science underlying why people give. Brady Josephson wrote a wonderful article for the Huffington Post outlining how you can use this science to help donors feel good about giving. In a nutshell, he suggests you can maximize your donor’s happiness by suggesting:
- Giving to specific projects. When gifts go to something concrete and tangible, it combats a sense of futility: Will my donation even make a difference? It makes donors feel they’re making a direct impact.
- Giving more frequently in smaller amounts. Giving more often gives your donor a more frequent pleasure high. This is a great argument for a monthly giving program as a way to offer donors greater rewards.
- Giving with no strings attached. When you offer tangible incentives, such as gifts (tote bags, mugs, t-shirts) in exchange for giving, this diminishes the pleasure high.
- Giving when the donor knows who their donation will help. Studies on the "identifiable victim effect" prove people care more when you tell a story of one person they can help rather than offer data about countless people in peril.
- Giving in public ways. It’s human nature to want to be recognized and appreciated for good deeds (even if a part of you feels this is braggadocios). Positive reinforcement works, so encourage donors to let their giving be made public. It has the side benefit of inspiring others to follow their lead, which leverages the value of their gift.
Giving is good for your donors—don’t shortchange them. Think of ways to facilitate their philanthropy, so they can feel the joy of giving and feel happier. What’s good for your donors turns out to be good for your organization’s mission too. Just check out this infographic on Goodnet from Happify about the science of giving and the impact of being generous on our psyches. I think it’s pretty cool. You?
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.