You know that identifying your donors is important. But do you know where to start?
Easy: With your own lists, and some basic categories that are meaningful to your organization or fundraising in general.
Your data may be well-organized, or you may have a bunch of lists that identify some basics, such as who donated during your last push, which contacts have opened your email communications, and so on. Regardless of the state of your data, this is where you start your donor-identification process.
Among the most important things you should be tracking and segmenting on: when your donors (or prospects) give. Are they annual donors? Lapsed donors? Prospects? Figuring out the frequency of when your audience gives will help you tailor messages that fit. A lapsed donor will need a different sort of coaxing than a prospect, and a regular supporter should be treated altogether differently.
Another key attribute: the cause that convinced them to donate their money. If you don’t have different causes, this probably won’t apply to your organization. But if you have different reasons for your pushes–an annual building fund for facilities vs. a targeted campaign to help provide scholarships to young people, for instance–you should be able to tell who gave to what cause. This information can help you cut down on unwanted communication to donors that favor one cause over others. It could help you uncover willing donors by communicating to them the value of supporting other causes, too.
Once you understand the categories of donors and potential donors you have, and their giving patters, it’s time to start determining what motivates them to give. This isn’t easy–trying to understand what triggers a person’s desire to support a cause is guesswork at best (unless you’re conducting a survey, which is a great way to gain periodic insight). But you can begin to understand what triggers the give by paying attention to how your audience interacts with your messaging.
Start with the obvious–tracking how donations come in. People sending in money in a reply-to envelope were clearly moved by that campaign’s message. Electronic communication, especially emails, provides important insight as well. Track who is reading your messaging and cross-reference their donation patterns.
Perhaps you’ll learn that donor frequency does not correlate with the amount of interaction a donor or potential donor has with your messaging (though this would be unusual). What you are more likely to find is that a subset of your infrequent donors is in fact reading your messaging, liking your Facebook posts, etc., but they are not quite motivated enough to give. This type of insight gives you a very specific target of engaged, compassionate candidates that merit a very specific campaign.
The same types of patterns can help glean what moves your prospects from potential donors to first-time donors. Are you getting more via direct mail vs. online? What about at specific times of year?
The science of donor identity is both effective and can be very complex. But it does not have to start out that way. Understanding the basics of your current prospects will give you ideas on how to begin targeting your messages and your tactics. This is an ideal way to start as you’re determining how you will move into more sophisticated categories.
Helping clients build donor-identity datasets is one of our specialties.
If you are looking for ways to jump-start your donor-identification process, or take it to a higher level, we’d be happy to talk to you!
Every experienced fundraiser understands the need to segment donors, identify them, and adjust campaigns to appeal to them. But a lot of fundraisers are not taking this deep enough–and it is costing them money via unproductive efforts and lost donations.
Donors do not have simply one identity. They have many, and most can be easily explained in a few words: things like conservative, union member, active church member, and football fan. They have work-related identities, and social identities. And many of them have nothing to do with each other, or why they may donate to your cause. Then there are identities created by life circumstance: cancer survivor, dementia patient care-giver, parent of suicidal teen.
An insightful article by The Donor Voice’s Kevin Schulman explains the importance to know which identities you are targeting, and your message should be radically altered to suit. For instance, life-circumstance identities usually fall into two general categories: someone who had or has the ailment, or someone caring for another that does. These can generally be considered “direct connection” identities.
Appealing to these direct-connection identities requires a very different approach. These people don’t need to be emotionally drawn in by a well-written story detailing someone with their same problem, and then explaining how your organization helps them. They understand the emotional side already–they live it. What they are about are the services you provide for people like them.
As Schulman explains, appeals like these should skip the emotional set-up and hit hard on the array of services–from seminars to hotlines to guide books. Whatever it is you do to help your target audience–this is what will motivate these people to donate.
Now, let’s take this a step further. Your campaign should not be limited to these so-called “direct connection” prospects. There are plenty of other identities out there who may be swayed to support your cause. The campaigns for these people will need a different, and perhaps more traditional, approach. Share stories of people you’ve helped, and highlight some of the services that donations support.
The difference is subtle, but leads to profound differences in how the campaigns are set up.
Segmenting your donor lists by identity is a must. Taking the next steps and really understanding what those identities want to hear from you is crucial to maximizing donor response, and ultimately, retention.
How is social media influencing our perceptions?
Trust in social media is low, and Americans have been spending less time on Facebook, partly because so much of what they see online is negative and dubious, a recent article in The Economist says. Globally, users spent around 50 million hours less per day on Facebook in the fourth quarter of 2017, which translates into a 15% drop in the time spent year after year, according to Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for relying too much on social channels to get your message out. Let’s be clear: social media is nowhere near dead. But it does suffer from a major credibility problem. Many people no longer trust the platform to deliver high-quality content or persuasive messaging because it is simply too easy to manipulate by nefarious actors.
That’s one reason we always advocate for a direct-mail component in every campaign–fundraising or political.
When your organization’s constituents cannot be safe in the certainty that the appeals and ads in front of their eyes are not the work of propagandists or fake news peddlers, then your online campaign will suffer. Donors will close their wallets, not wanting to chance being duped into funding a scam.
A beautifully written personalized appeal letter, on the other hand, addressed to your donor buys you instant credibility in a way social media simply can’t.
Using today’s digital channels—from Facebook to e-mail—is wise to consider when putting together your distribution strategies. But don’t forget to complement those efforts with tactics that offer a contrast, both in where they will be seen, and how people feel about them. Direct mail fits right in here.
It’s time to get back to the basics. Let us show you why high-quality direct mail still delivers.
While every person is different, you’ll find that many people share similar motivation for giving to a nonprofit organization. Of course, this motivation varies from organization to organization, and it’s in your nonprofit’s best interest to do its homework and learn more about its donors. This will help you craft the most effective appeals.
But we’re going to address some of the most common reasons, or “pull” factors, for why people choose to give. We hope that this “cheat sheet”, of sorts, serves as a springboard for your own research!
1. Emotion | As you’d expect, emotion plays perhaps the largest role in people’s motivation to give. Whether it’s a story that tugs on their heartstrings or a family member who is actively fighting a disease, emotion often compels us to take action.
2. Religion | Much of nonprofit giving, particularly if it’s to a religious charity or organization, stems from a commandment to give and help others in need. Even if there is very little emotional investment in the nonprofit, many people will still donate to organizations because their religion instructs them to love others and give to the poor.
3. Community | Nonprofits bring people together. Why? It’s because nonprofits aren’t self-serving. They exist to benefit and bring aid to others. This creates a sense community among donors, and people often donate to become part of that community.
4. Legacy | You’ll often hear of people giving to a nonprofit because it “runs in the family”. Yes, many people donate because their forefathers made donations, and they want to carry on that tradition. This adds to the family legacy and strengthens the ties between family name and nonprofit.
If you’re not sure where to start when crafting your next appeal, keep these four “pull” factors in mind! If you’re able to touch on each of these elements without disrupting flow or making your letter sound contrived, you’ll certainly be able to resonate with a larger audience. But remember – there is no substitute for nonprofit-specific research.
The more you’re able to learn about your own donors and prospects, the better you’ll be able to position your organization during your next set of appeals.
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.
In Chronicle of philanthropy, an article illustrates beautifully why your data people need to talk to your writers who both need to talk to your printer in order to execute a successful campaign.
Put simply, researchers from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza’s college of business, found that in order to boost interest in supporting environmental causes in men, campaign designers need to make the appeal “more masculine.”
What does that mean? It means ditching the frilly font and light colors and emphasis on “togetherness,” and replacing it with an image of a howling wolf and dark color patterns like “wilderness” and “rugged.” The point is that you need to build your campaign with your different donor groups in mind. What works for one segment such as women, may not be as effective for another (men who want their masculinity subtly reinforced).
Read more about the testosterone-fueled campaign comparison study tier (More cash from the he-man nature lovers club)
If you want to learn more about deploying highly personalized direct mail campaigns, we are here for you.
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.
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!
What is mindshare? Mindshare refers to the collective opinion, belief and perspective of the electorate. In your case, it refers to how people feel and
think about your organization’s cause and the social or political issues related to it.
Advocacy groups, for obvious reasons, must constantly find new ways to influence mindshare. The better they can, the more support those organizations will receive in bringing about the desired social or political change. Crucially, newspaper coverage on these issues has a tremendous effect on citizens’ mindshare. According to a recent study published in Science Magazine, stories on news sites – both small and large (like the Washington Post) – increased discussion of those issues on Twitter by 60%. Additionally, the stories shifted the nature of the views expressed in those tweets closer towards those of the original news pieces.
For advocacy organizations, the conclusion is obvious: inject more content on news sites and social media. The former can be accomplished by writing insightful and captivating guest op-eds, which are usually published daily. With regard to sites like Twitter, organizations should place one of their own influencers online in order to engage users who are actively discussing issues of interest.
Done correctly, this strategy sets up a one-two punch using digital touch points. First, constituents read the editorial on their favorite news outlets; then they share their thoughts on Twitter where they interact with fellow advocates and change agents.
Changing hearts and minds is a process – not a single act. To be successful in nudging people to your side, you must embrace a multi-channel engagement strategy that includes both social and print media. That’s how your mind your mindshare.
Talk to us about writing your next appeal or fundraising letter today!
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