Want More Loyalty? Grant These 6 Donor Wishes
To get the best results from fundraising appeals, every element of a message must be as donor-centered as possible. That includes every aspect of communications, from strategy, through copy and design, all the way down to understanding what fonts, sizes and color schemes resonate with the people who support you.
Most important, it means your donors' needs must always be front and center. The people who support you don't want to feel like customers. They don't see their gifts as transactions. They believe they are in a relationship with you. And if you want them to love you, you need to look at them the same way.
That means you need to start talking about yourself less and start talking about them more.
The temptation is always strong to focus on your organization, its mission and accomplishments. You do so many great things, and it feels like you have to tell people them. But you don't want to be in a relationship with someone who talks about himself or herself all the time.
When you do need to talk about your mission, the crisis you're facing and how much you need her help, your ask has to be couched in terms of your donor's needs and wants. Remember, you're asking her to give you money in return for nothing more than a good feeling. So the onus is on you to make her good feeling as strong and lasting as possible.
What are her needs and wants? Donors (and prospects) want at least six things from their interactions with you:
- Value: She must believe her gifts are making a difference — that you are a good steward of her money and that every dollar is spent wisely. Every time you say, "I need your help again," you also have to say, "You have already helped so many people. Look at the difference you've made!"
- A sense of accomplishment: More important than telling her that her money is making a difference is telling her that she is making a difference. When you tell her how far her money has gone, you also need to tell her that she has done a heroic thing by helping.
- Recognition: The sense of accomplishment she feels will last a lot longer if she also feels she's been noticed and personally recognized as an important part of your organization. Let her know that you know she is helping.
- Input: We all want to feel our voices are being heard and that our opinions matter. Make sure your donor knows her feelings, values and ideas matter to you as much as her money.
- Access: For many donors, it's important to feel they are on the "inside" and that the people in charge are available to them in some way. This doesn't mean your CEO needs to take phone calls from $25 donors all day. But as any successful politician can tell you, the ability to make everyone you meet feel special is an important leadership skill.
- Blessing: For religious donors the idea of feeling blessed for their contributions is literal. But all donors need to feel they are doing God's work in the world and will receive some kind of spiritual reward in addition to an emotional one. Even the most secular groups need to appeal to a donor's higher sense of ethics and morality.
It's not always easy to make your donors' wishes come true. But it is important to remember donors are fickle. And more important, they are constantly being courted by other organizations. If you don't put forth the effort to meet their emotional needs, someone else will.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 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, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.