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Putting Donor Identity into Practice

Putting Donor Identity into Practice

In our last issue of Donor Centric, we gave an introduction to the concept of donor identity and the role that it plays in not only donors’ decisions to give in the first place, but also in their motivation for giving.

If your organization is to maximize its ability to attract, reach, and resonate with donors, you’re going to need to narrow your focus and make donor identity a point of emphasis.
But how do you achieve that?

Here are two things your organization can start doing today, to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward.

1. Collect Data
The most obvious first step is learning about your donors! You can achieve this in a few different ways. First, check out your social media demographics. If you have a decent following on any social media platforms, use your platform’s analytics tool to start viewing what data is available on your followers. You might find that your followers, and the people who gravitate toward your organization, are much different than you had initially thought!

Next, issue a survey to your email list. If you don’t already have an email list – whether it’s through a newsletter subscription or otherwise – now is as good a time as ever to start putting this together. Send a survey out to those on your list, asking people to provide a little information about themselves. This might be in the form of a short questionnaire, a poll, or another method. You don’t need to pry into someone’s personal life for this to be effective. Learning about someone’s occupation, the country or state where they reside, and a few of their interests and passions can provide your organization with a wealth of insight.

Finally, just ask. Send an email to current donors only, and ask specifically why they decided to give to your organization. This will help you identify your organization’s greatest pull factors so that you can prioritize them when it comes time to make your next appeal to new prospects or lapsed donors.

 

Grassroot Communication | Donor Identiy

2. Diversify Your Appeal Strategy
Now that know a little more about your different donors, it’s time to start putting this information to use. But remember – the degree to which you will be able to execute this is dependent on your organization’s resources, as well as your willingness to do so. The vague blanket emails you might send to thousands of people at a time? It’s time to throw them out. It’s time to start diversifying, and you can achieve this in two different ways.

The first option is to use the data you have collected to segment your target audience into different streams. One group might consist of activists who are passionate and vocal about human rights or equality, for example. A second group might consist of people who have recently donated to a nonprofit. A third group might consist of people who are active volunteers at a shelter. Wherever it makes sense for your nonprofit to compartmentalize and start different appeals, do so! Now use this information to tailor each appeal to its specific demographic.

Another option is to make your next email or letter more inclusive. Perhaps you don’t have the resources to create appeals for 10 or 15 different groups at a time. But you can certainly make your appeal relevant to more people. We all can! For example, if your nonprofit provides shelter for animals, your letter needs to appeal to the different types of people you’re looking to convert into donors. For the passionate animal lover, you might want to include a heartwarming story of an animal that your shelter was able to save. For the person looking to adopt a pet, you might want to mention that you are housing animals that are in need of permanent homes.

Can you see why investing in donor identity is so important? If you don’t understand your donors and what motivates them to give, your appeal is going to be vague, dull, and ineffective. The result? You’re only going to have but a fraction of the impact that your nonprofit could have otherwise . . . Start learning about your donors and diversifying your appeal strategy today, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching and converting more prospects into donors.

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.

Why Direct Mail…?

Have you ever heard of “advertising wear-out?” It’s the term that researchers use to describe the decreased response to ads that consumers exhibit after repeated exposure to that same ad. Advertising experts have known about it for decades.

In the 1980s, researcher Margaret Henderson Blair noted that “the overall persuasiveness of an ad declines exponentially,” and even though she was referring to television, the same is true regarding online ads, a recent New York Times article says.

In fact, two business school professors, Michael Braun (Southern Methodist University) and Wendy W. Moe (University of Maryland) found that the effectiveness of an online ad falls by more than half every single time it is viewed by a potential customer, and that includes donors.

Blasting your donors with cheap online solicitations might be easy, but it gets old quick.

A well-thought-out, well-written appeal from the heart has more staying power. It’s the reason why targeted direct mail continues to haul in the lion’s share of fundraising dollars from small and mid-level donors.

So don’t fall into the trap of going online just because everyone else is—including your audience.

Yes, they may be online, but they are there in real life, too.

Consider taking a fresh look your direct mail strategy.

We’d be happy to review it with you, perhaps tweak the messaging, and ensure it is helping you keep your organization on the path to growth and profitability. And that means you can focus on your core mission.

See full article: “What History Says About the Future of Fake News” by Austan Goolsbee –NY Times, 5/27/18

How to Generate Interest in Your Organizations Cause?

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.

The Proven Formula for Donor Newsletters

by Tom Ahern, of Ahern Donor Communications — www.aherncomm.com

In the 1990s, a Seattle fundraising shop called the Domain Group took the garden-variety donor newsletter, stripped it down to its components, and began testing … to see if they could come up with something better. Sort of like rebuilding a hot rod.

Domain eventually developed a formula that made a donor newsletter HIGHLY worth doing: some Domain clients began raking in more gifts through their newsletters than through their direct mail appeals.
Domain had its hot rod. Think about that a moment. Read more ›

Writer’s Tip – Talk about Donors!

Working at an organization for a while is a great way to become both incredibly passionate and deeply informed about its mission. But one thing that such longevity often brings is a loss of perspective about what attracts members or donors to your organization in the first place. You look at all of the great work that you do and ask yourself, isn’t it obvious why we’re worth supporting?
Often, this leads leaders in the non- profit sector to adopt an outreach strategy designed to fill the so-called knowledge gap. They craft appeals that tell donors and would-be patrons about all of the great things the organization has ever done. This way, the organization’s day-to-day efforts can be appreciated by everyone—not just those who are intimately involved.
Problem solved, right?
Not so fast.
As a nonprofit leader, you may think the best way to sell your organization to prospective donors is by talking about all the great things you do. But here’s the thing: most donors find that stuff extremely boring.
Guess what donors don’t find boring? Themselves and the things they care about. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many appeal letters focus too much on what the organization has accomplished, and not enough on why donors and prospects should care.
Donor-centric fundraising isn’t just about the mission—it’s about your audience, too.
So how do you write a donor-centric appeal letter that will knock their socks off? That’s where we come in.
Stick around and we will show you how it’s done.

A meaningful appeal letter; speaking to the national mood.

Writing a meaningful appeal letter is much more than relaying your organizations goals to your donors (though this is very important as well).
Effective appeals – the ones that really resonate and capture hearts and minds – possess a certain cultural element, a snapshot of the current national mood. The national mood might be affected by significant events, whether it’s a natural disaster or a tragic mass shooting, heavily influenced by mainstream media. If the United States of America were a single person, the national mood would embody a cluster of emotions and thoughts that she is experiencing right at this moment.

It’s critical to take stock in the national mood because it influences how all citizens feel, who they vote for, and which organizations they give to. However, it’s not always clear how various donor segments of your organization will respond to different events. As a leader of advocacy, it’s up to you to determine what your donor is dwelling on. For example, are they affected by the results of Hurricane Harvey? Is the Texas church shooting fresh in their minds? What about the current wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations made by women against powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere?

Tapping into the sentiments generated by the constant stream of newsworthy events is a powerful way to channel your supporters’ outrage into action. If it’s convincing your constituents to fill out a check or ballot, your goal is to engineer concrete action by coopting current events.

So, for your next appeal or fundraising letter, tell a story that incorporates the headlines that move your donors to action.

Tell your organization’s story the right way, and don’t be afraid to borrow from the headline.

Need ideas for your organization’s next fundraising or advocacy campaign? Ask us!

The Martyrdom Effect – Recognizing Donors Sacrifice

The martyrdom effect refers to the tendency of donors “to prefer forms of giving that involve significant sacrifice and effort, such as running marathons or taking the ice- bucket challenge.” (see Wall Street Journal article mentioned below). It helps explain why many donors prefer volunteering for a charity instead of donating money – in their minds, the former activity seems more noble and requires more effort on their part. They view themselves as being on the front lines, right in the middle of the action compared to just scribbling a check which seems lazy. Passionate donors want to invest blood, sweat and tears into the causes they believe in, even though a cash donation would go much farther in achieving the organizations goals.

For content writers and communications directors, the takeaway from this is clear – craft messages in such a way that acknowledge the donor’s sacrifice in earning to give and emphasize that the donor is as much a part of the organization’s team as the official staff members. An excellent demonstration of how this is done can be seen in a year-end Doctors Without Borders fundraising campaign letter.

The letter, written on behalf of Executive Director Jason Cone, illustrates very powerful ways in which the donor’s financial contributions earned her a spot on the team.

“This year, you were with us conducting war surgery on the front line in Yemen, feeding starving children in northern Nigeria, rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, and fighting yellow fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Obviously, the donor wasn’t literally present for any of the aforementioned assignments, but Mr. Cone’s words still make it seem like the donor is part of the adventure. He continues:

“When disaster struck, you helped our medical teams bring a measure of hope – one patient at a time – to millions of people.”

“The Doctors Without Borders interventions you make possible, have an immediate impact on the communities where we work.”

This intimate sense of inclusion isn’t lost by emphasizing how critical a donor’s monetary gifts are to the nonprofit’s operations:

“…You give us the freedom to spend your dollars wherever they are needed most.”

“…Your support gives our teams the flexibility to act quickly in scenarios where acting fast means saving more lives.”

“Your generosity and commitment this year meant that we didn’t have to choose between vaccinating hundreds of thousands of people against yellow fever… taking part in the world’s largest oral cholera vaccination campaign… or striving to protect over 200,000 children… from deadly childhood diseases.”

This last excerpt is especially powerful because it highlights for the donor how the heroic and highly skilled medical team would be forced to make some very difficult ethical choices without her financial support. The specter of choosing between two patients would paralyze even the most skilled physician.

It is true that DWB is sort of an odd test subject to use in examining how the martyrdom effect can be harnessed to write persuasive copy because no ordinary donor could elect to volunteer her time instead of writing a check to DWB – the work performed by the org’s staff is simply too dangerous and requires considerable training and expertise.  But still, DWB does a good job letting its supporters tag along for the ride figuratively and, in a way, allows ordinary people to live vicariously through their medical staff. Who doesn’t want to be part of an international life-saving expedition?

So even though DWB doesn’t have a problem with donors trying to volunteer their time instead of their earnings, the writers still do a fantastic job tapping into their donors’ inner martyr to maximize their support and passion for the cause of defending non-privileged lives. It is not only the feeling of being valued that is nurtured, it is also the notion of camaraderie that transforms enthusiasm into life-saving dollars.

Editor’s note “We have emphasized the wisdom of incorporating the pronoun “You” in donor communications. The martyrdom effect now helps us understand why the word “you” resonates so strongly with the donor’s psyche.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-mistakes-we-make-when-giving-to-charity-1481512441

Segmentation – It Really Is All About Who You Know

Good journalists apply a formula to ensure that every story has all pertinent facts by always including “the five Ws and the H” – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Notice that Who is first on the list. That’s a very important fact – Who is at the crux of the story?

Unfortunately, many fundraisers forget about “who” is at the crux of their fundraising efforts when it’s time to send out a big mailing. So much time is spent developing the offer, writing and rewriting the appeal letter; deciding on whether programs are accurately and adequately described; debating about which cuddly photos are the most compelling to use, that one vital element is forgotten…the recipient.

Read more ›