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Intro to Donor Identity

Intro to Donor Identity

In this series, our experts discuss the importance of donor identity and how to leverage it for your organization’s’ bottom line.

Motivation: It Matters.
Not everyone who shows up at a car dealership is looking for the same thing. It’s obvious, right? Every customer is unique and every customer is looking for something different from their shopping experience. In fact, even people who are looking at the exact same make and model have different motivations. A 20-year-old student might be looking to rent the shiny red convertible sports car because he wants a ride that will impress his dates. While a 50-year-old middle manager might be looking to purchase that same car to stave off a mid-life crisis. Thus, a good salesperson needs to know his client and understand her needs before embarking on the path to a sale.

Donor Identity

As it happens, the nonprofit’s business is a lot like the sales business. In order to be successful in finding and converting clients or constituents, you need to understand the range of motivation that drives each of them. For nonprofits, charities, and advocacy organizations, leaders must appeal to each donor’s motivation for giving. This unique motivation is what we mean when we talk about donor identity. It is the donor’s identity that nudges her to take out her pocketbook and write you a check. She sees herself as a certain type of person and donor and because of that, she gives to your org.
Here is an example: Joanne is a breast cancer survivor. It’s a big part of who she is, and because she beat cancer she feels compelled to make a large annual gift to a large cancer treatment center. Joanne was a patient there and she wants to help others like herself beat breast cancer.

Now, here’s another example for a different donor but the same charity. Paul is a cancer researcher at a major health organization. He studied immunology in college and wants to put that knowledge to good use in finding new treatments. Like Joanne, he makes an annual donation to the cancer treatment center. But unlike Joanne, Paul specifically gives because he is intrigued with the advanced therapies being tested on patients who have very aggressive forms for the disease. Thus, we have two donors who both give to the same organization, but for two very different reasons. Knowing what you know about Joanne and Paul what source of communication would you send each of them for a fundraising campaign?

For Joanne, perhaps a heartwarming story of a mother of three who overcame breast cancer (thanks in part to Joanne’s support) would be most effective. And for Paul, how about a rundown of the newest and latest treatment regiment being used for patients as well as their results. This personalization and relationship building is what donor identity is all about. But as you can see, the first step is finding out each donor’s identity and reason for giving.

So how can we do that? Stay tuned for Grassroot Communications’ Donor Centric newsletter Here’s a clue: we can guess, or we can ask. We will discuss both in upcoming articles.