People often ask me, What’s new in fundraising?
Every time I hear that, I have the urge to scold: Don’t ask what’s new. Ask what’s working!
Because most “new” things in fundraising don’t work very well.
Sometimes they don’t work because they just aren’t very good ideas. Someone is trying something new and it’s just going nowhere. (Thank those pioneers for taking the risk and learning!)
Sometimes it’s because their time hasn’t yet arrived. Example: QR codes in direct mail. About 10 years ago, I tested that. The QR codes suppressed response to the mail. Well, “suppressed” doesn’t quite capture it. “Crushed” is a better description. It was a cool new idea that donors just didn’t get. They seemed to run away from the codes. But now it works. Its time finally came.
Sometimes a new idea needs more testing and development to reach its potential. Most of the really good ideas have a “figuring it out” stage in their development.
So asking “what’s new” is kind of like asking “Tell me some interesting new ways to waste time and money and then fail!”
But today, I have something to show you that’s fairly new – and it really works:
Basically, meetings with groups of donors by Zoom or other webinar platforms.
A few organizations were doing them before the pandemic, but it was the pandemic that caused them to take off. We couldn’t meet most donors in person, yet donors were more interested than ever in learning more about our work and getting involved.
At the same time, online meeting software got a lot better – fewer glitches and more useful features were added. And a lot of people grew used to connecting that way. Online meetings went from a tool for techies to a mainstream part of life.
Many organizations are now using webinars to accomplish important goals:
- To show donor love.
- To connect with donors about bequests and other planned giving vehicles.
- To help build a matching fund.
- To boost results to campaigns that are happening in the mail and elsewhere.
- To help onboard and retain new donors (especially new monthly givers).
It’s a powerful way to connect with donors in a meaningful way.
In fact, just inviting donors to a webinar has a positive impact on the relationship – even those who never show up!
What I find fascinating about effective donor webinars is how much like a direct mail pack they are. If you can do direct mail, you are 80% of the way to success in donor webinars!
Let me show you what I mean:
- One goal only. The quickest way to strangle response to direct mail is to have multiple agendas going on. It’s the same with webinars. You must be crystal clear on your goal for the project and have a laser-like focus on that one goal.
- Stories are the fuel. We’ve known that for decades in direct mail. If you try to make your point with statistics and facts, you go nowhere. The human brain is a story-based operating system. Webinars offer some great ways to enrich your story with visuals and human touch. But it’s still all about stories.
- Clear call to action. Give participants something specific and compelling to do. Put it in writing from the beginning and stay obsessively focused on what you want people to do. Even if it’s “just” a thank-you webinar. Like direct mail, it’s all about action. Always.
- Emotional content. Human beings are driven by our hearts. That’s why fundraising is the way it is. And you must follow that truth when you create donor webinars. You aren’t educating people. You are emotionally connecting with them.
- Colloquial and personal. You may want to have your own staff tell stories in your webinars. After all, they are expert and know the most about what’s going on. But if they get all formal or scientific and start using professional jargon, you will lose your audience fast. (Pro tip: If you give most people a word-for-word script, they will read it word-for-word, and they won’t sound at all natural. Give them an outline of what they should say.)
- Repetition. Whatever it is you want your audience to know and do, make sure you say it several times. Saying something once is approximately the same is omitting it entirely!
A donor webinar can do one thing a lot better than direct mail can: Conversation. Take advantage of this by scheduling time for questions and comments. This is often where the magic really happens.
Think about ways you can put donor webinars to work with your donors. It’s a shiny new object that gets the job done!
You can learn a lot more about donor webinars from the online course, “Awesome Donor Webinars.” It gives you ALL the details to succeed (and avoid those things that can trip you up). It’s available ONLY to members of The Fundraisingology Lab. Members get all the tools, information, and the supporting community it takes to build a successful fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!
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