Variety Is the Spice of Fundraising
Have a nice slice of lemon meringue pie.
Good, isn't it?
Here, have another.
Mmmmm … enjoy. Now have another piece. And another. And another. And another …
Had enough? Getting a delicious slice of pie is nice. Sometimes seconds are nice too. But what happens when the nice person offering it keeps serving the same thing day after day after day?
It's only be a matter of time before you scream, "Enough with the lemon meringue pie already!"
Too much of a good thing stops being so good. Pretty soon it gets downright irritating.
We fundraisers don't usually think of ourselves as the dessert servers. In our relationships with donors and prospects, we generally see ourselves as askers.
But we're givers too.
Every time someone makes a contribution to your organization, you give that donor something very important in return: a good feeling. The warm satisfaction of knowing he or she helped others in need. An ego-boosting sense of recognition. A feeling of security that the donor has helped ward off some dire threat. Even the chance to feel intellectually or morally superior. (Never underestimate this one. Entire empires have been built on feeding people's craving for righteous indignation.)
When you get right down to it, those intangible feelings are the No. 1 reason people give. Maybe the only reason.
But that good feeling — whatever form it takes — doesn't last forever. It's the donors' sweet tooth. They want that delicious feeling from you again and again. Giving it to them is how you get that critical second gift. And how you develop in them the habit of giving.
But this is where you have to be careful. If the emotional reward is the same month after month, the novelty wears off. Hedonic adaptation sets in. Even the most ardent pie-lover becomes jaded to the taste of lemon meringue pie.
You certainly wouldn't write a series of direct-mail packages with exactly the same story. By the same token, you see less long-term benefit when you repeatedly offer the same emotional reward.
Remember, there are at least six proven motivators you can tap that encourage people to give:
The most successful fundraisers use most or all of them at one time or another. There are complex strategies, not to mention testing and experience, that can determine when and how to use various motivators to maximum effect.
The important thing is to touch your donors' emotions in a variety of ways. Your mission may be simple. But the ways you can ask for support are not.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.