Have you noticed that as soon as a human being starts working for a nonprofit, something changes in them? They start talking like robots, using lots of big words, and trying to sound as impressive as possible as if the path to a donor’s heart lies in cold, official language…
But that’s really ironic…
Because donors don’t want to read more cold, official, boring copy than they already are forced to, AND pay for it with their donations…
And charities are actually made up of wonderful, passionate people, who are putting up with lower salaries and longer working hours just because they want to make a difference in the world…
Yet the way they start talking once they are representing their organization leaves a lot to be wished for.
And that’s why so many nonprofits fail in their communications.
I know because I open and read every single fundraising appeal I get in the mail. Sometimes I take a pen to it and circle all the things I like or dislike. I donate to the ones that touch my heart and throw out the ones that don’t. They compete for my gifts, and only the human-sounding appeals win.
I suggest you start doing the same because it helps you figure out exactly…
What Your Donor Wants
Imagine having a type of laser vision that allows you to see exactly what your donor wants from you. And then think of what you could do with that knowledge… If only there was a way you could dive into their minds and hearts and find out what it is that they really want…
Just picture to yourself the power that you’d have to help your organization!
It’s no wonder that businesses spend so much money on market research… Because they know that if they get it right, their businesses can potentially make billions. Wouldn’t you want that for your nonprofit?
If you do, I can share the easiest way you can find out what your supporter wants from your organization, so that you can give it to them. The funny thing is, once I reveal it, you’re going to realize you knew it all along…
Hang on to your seat, because…
The easiest way to understand what a donor wants from an organization is to become a donor yourself.
But don’t go giving to a nonprofit you’re already familiar with. Pick a new one, donate, and enjoy the mystery of a new and (potentially) beautiful relationship… Notice and record your reactions after you’ve sent your first gift.
Since you’ve turned into a donor, you won’t be able to keep from wondering:
Will the nonprofit respond?
Will they tell me they are grateful?
Will they let me know what they did with my gift?
How is it going to help?
These are all very interesting questions to the donor—but very rarely to the nonprofit they are supporting.
And because of that, some charities don’t respond to their supporters at all. How do you think this makes the donor feel?
Let me show you what some organizations (who do amazing, LIFE-changing work, by the way!) get up to in their quest for your dough.
A few years ago, I had the misfortune to donate to a wonderful nonprofit. Why would giving a gift ever be a misfortune? Well, it was because the organization started stalking me…
Here’s what happened.
One day I gave a small donation to a charity. They never responded, so eventually I forgot about them. From all appearances, they’d forgotten about me too.
But the story didn’t end there.
About a year later, they asked me again. And that would have been okay.
Except for the way they asked me.
You know those annoying “it’s time for your teeth cleaning appointment!” cards you get from your dentist?
That’s what I got from that charity: a card saying, where’s the donation you were going to give us?!
I got mildly annoyed and threw the card away. I thought that if I didn’t respond, they would eventually forget about me.
How wrong I was!
Because they decided they were going to hold on to me for dear life!
They sent me another card — more insistent than the first one — demanding their next donation. And when I ignored them again, they sent me a letter saying: Hey, you gave us $15 on this date. Aren’t you going to help us again? Are you really so heartless? Etc., etc.
I felt so persecuted and guilty, I thought I had to move to get away from them!
Fortunately, I was relocating in a couple of months and I didn’t forward my mail. To be frank, I’m afraid to visit my old house. I’m too worried I’ll find a stack of progressively angrier letters about my first $15 donation 15 years ago…
Oh, wait… If they treated all of their donors like that, they are long out of business! Phew!
Now it’s your turn: Donate to a new organization and mark your reactions when they do (or do not) respond.
I love collecting fundraising materials from other nonprofits. I have a huge stack of delightful thank-you notes from one of my favorite charities, which I look through regularly because they make me just a little bit happier!
So, by now, I’m sure you understand that fundraising is all about relationships. The donor does their part by giving, and your part is to accept, thank, report, and repeat! But that’s not quite enough.
Here’s what the donor wants from you:
Donors want to know they made a difference.
Nobody gives if they don’t care about what’s going to happen with their donation. Every donor wants their hard-earned money to have made a difference: saved a life, put a meal on the table, paid for a new bookcase for a library, covered someone’s medical expenses, bought a bicycle for a kid in need, etc.
And your responsibility as a fundraiser is to make sure you let them know you can be trusted with their money. That you do what you promise, and that you allow your donor to be a catalyst for good in a broken world.
Donors want to feel appreciated.
How do you feel when someone keeps asking for favors, or borrowing money but never pays it back? You don’t like it. You feel used. You lose trust. You start avoiding them.
So does your donor!
A donor doesn’t want to be an ATM. But it’s very easy to make them feel used. And as soon as you do… POOF! They’re gone forever!
Sadly, most nonprofits don’t thank their supporters at all. Or at best, they send them a cold, official-sounding letter, or even just a receipt. Why is that wrong?
Well, allow me to explain.
Let’s say your friend Edna tells you she really wants this new Vietnamese cookbook that’s coming out in a couple of months. She saw a TV piece about the amazing recipes and can’t wait to start cooking. The trouble is, the book is expensive, and money is tight, and she can’t afford it.
What does a good friend do? You buy the book and send it to her on her birthday. You expect lots of excitement and a warm “thank you.” Maybe you even hope she’ll invite you over when she makes one of those scrumptious-looking Vietnamese dishes. But instead, you don’t hear anything from Edna at all.
You wait and wait.
A few weeks pass.
You keep wondering about that cookbook… Did she try out any recipes? Maybe the book wasn’t that good after all… Why didn’t she even call you to tell you she got it? Didn’t she say she couldn’t wait to get it?
All these thoughts are going through your head. And then, in a couple of weeks, she sends you not a thank-you card but… a receipt, saying something like: “I got the book. Thanks. Best wishes, Edna.”
How would you feel?
Upset, confused, and …used.
Would you want to do this again for Edna? Probably not… But being the kind person that you are, you’ll gladly do it for someone else.
This is exactly how your donor feels if you don’t thank them. If they feel unappreciated, they simply will give to another organization.
So, what you must do is thank donors often and profusely, report on what their donations have accomplished, and… ask again!
Donors want to know your nonprofit is trustworthy.
One thing to keep in mind is that even when the donor’s money is in your organization’s bank account, it’s still THEIR money! You’re just a temporary custodian. And your job is to use those funds the way you promised—and wisely!
The way you make them feel you’re trustworthy is by reporting back to them through annual reports and newsletters. This is where you’re going to talk about all the amazing things your donor accomplished, and not about how awesome your organization is. Because fundraising is always about the donor!
Donors want to feel heard.
You’ll always have people writing or calling with comments. Take note of what they are saying. Some will be nice, a few will be mean, and some will be very constructive. Maybe the font you used was unintelligible, or maybe a part of your website isn’t working, or maybe they want to donate $5,000,000?
So, make sure it’s very clear how to get in touch with you, and take their comments seriously.
Donors want the donation process to be easy.
Now that more and more gifts are given online, it’s absolutely imperative to make it easy to give!
Make the donate button on your website HUGE! NOBODY should be able to miss it!
Make sure the whole donation process doesn’t take more than a minute or two. Nobody likes to fill out countless forms and pay for it!
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard of donors giving up on donating because the process was way too complicated.
So, test-test-test! That means donate to your own organization, so you’re positive that everything is working the way it’s supposed to! And watch as your relationship with donors grows stronger and stronger and your charity’s income explodes.
(Adapted from the book Fundraising From Scratch by Alena Plavsic.
Alena is a copywriter and fundraiser with a devotion to the power of story and a member of The Fundraisingology Lab online community.
Want to see your fundraising through donor eyes and benefit from the insight you’ll get? Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll get the tools, the information, and the supporting community that will take you to new places in your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!
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