If you think about it, the true challenge for the activist – whether the CEO of a major non-profit or the founder of a grassroots political movement– is to relate the necessity of the core cause to everyday citizens who have no personal experience or connection with that cause.
How difficult it would be for Cancer Research Institute to raise the astronomical funds they raise if the disease did not affect so many of us and our loved ones – would it even be possible?
After all, people have their own priorities like paying bills, dealing with health issues, taking care of children… etc. So why should they be interested in your org’s cause? Thus, the hallmark of a great outreach campaign is the ability to connect with your audience completely by penetrating the layers of apathy, of cynicism and nudging your prospective supporters to embrace the necessity of your org’s mission while momentarily forgetting about their own workaday concerns. The only question is how?
Part of the answer is that it depends on who exactly is on the other end of your communication. Research suggests that smaller donors prefer personal stories of the very real people benefited by your org’s work while larger donors, who tend to be more organized in their giving, tend to view gift giving as an investment.
In the latter case, numbers may prove more effective than words.
However, even within these two brackets, there is sufficient scope for customization. Should the personal anecdotes feature innocent children as subjects? Alternatively, do some small donors relate better to stories featuring the point of view of working-class parents?
In addition, when it comes to quantifying impact assessment for our large donors, should we discuss the immediate economic value to the local community? Alternatively, should we analyze the org’s results in a more global context?
For instance, we might report that contributions to your educational non-profit focused on local public school reform is expected to increase the value of real estate in nearby districts starting in 10 years.
The next generation of non-profit communication involves detailing not only how a donor fits into the life of the org, but also how the org fits into the life of the donor. It is an art as much as a science – augmented by both social media analytics and one’s own social experiences.
Most importantly, it is a fluid and dynamic process that requires both creativity and a penchant for experimenting. When executed properly, however, the payoff can be extraordinary.