Who Are You Speaking To? Creating a Donor Profile
Creating a donor profile is one of the most illuminating things you’ll ever do—and my first step in working with most new clients. It’s only when you truly can envision the individual you’re writing to that you’ll find your overall writing—from your appeals, to your emails, to your website copy—will take on a deeper, more personal approach.
This is not the type of wealth-screening “donor profile" you may be envisioning, but rather what some marketers refer to as a “persona," a tool to aid you in your donor communications.
One of my favorite things about Ken Burnett’s marvelous book, “Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money," is that he prefaced every chapter with a donor profile, an in-depth story about one particular individual, and how and why he or she gave.
Each profile gives a detailed description of a particular donor’s day-to-day life, the individual’s likes and dislikes, the kind of car that he or she drives, and even the donor’s upbringing.
The very idea of donor-centered fundraising often seems to be perceived as a trend in the nonprofit world when, in reality, it is the only legitimate (I would even venture to say honest) method to long-term, sustainable funding.
What we fundraisers often forget is that the who is so much more important than the what. We’ll spend hours crafting our mission statements or our organizations’ stories—without giving the slightest thought to the person who is reading it!
And while a natural disaster or tragedy may bring out nearly everyone’s humanitarianism, you’ll strengthen your development efforts by spending some time really getting to know your donors.
One direct marketer I follow went so far as to suggest you attempt to whittle down your ideal client—in our case, this would be our most loyal and dedicated donor. She referred to that individual as your “tarquet.”
Do what Ken Burnett does and truly envision that person. What they do for a living, what they wear, where they live, how many children they have, where they worship—give that person a name!
Here’s an example.
I worked with an organization with a dual mission: It provided inner-city middle school children with the tools they needed to go beyond their public school education and receive scholarships for private schools or the city’s best magnet schools, and eventually college. Talented high school and college students, who in turn drew talented teachers into urban education where they were most needed, taught the programming. A definite win-win.
After reviewing a sampling of our most loyal donors, when I envisioned this agency’s “tarquet,” I arrived at “Lisa.”
Lisa is a 47-year-old woman with a master’s degree in political science. She didn’t grow up in the area but moved to the region with her husband for his career 12 years ago. She considers herself a progressive liberal and an environmentalist, and believes in the importance of giving back. Lisa and her husband enjoy a relatively affluent lifestyle and live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Their eldest son is in his junior year at Berkeley and their daughter is in her junior year at the local public high school. She drives a Prius and shops at Whole Foods. Lisa volunteers for three organizations and serves on two boards.
When I put one of my coaching clients through this exercise, he was surprised. He always had seen his organization’s mission—providing school supplies to kids who couldn’t afford them—as appealing to teachers. And while the organization did enjoy a base of teacher support, the vast majority of its donors were middle-aged women who had known poverty as children.
Can you see how identifying your ideal donor will help you in developing your messaging?
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.