The hallmark of effective fundraising is in transforming appeals to be more donor-centric. But what does it really mean to create donor-centric communications?
Often misrepresented as messages that revolve around the philanthropic audience, donor-centric communications should not exclude the important work that your staff and organization does. Donor-centric communications consider the position of the donor first and make them feel good about giving.
As a brand new year of fundraising begins for nonprofits, let’s take a step back and reimagine our donor communications together.
The Right Words
Any advertising copywriter will tell you that certain words are triggers. Good copywriters are masters of making their audiences feel a certain way.
Using the word “You” in a text, for example, is a great way to introduce immediacy and create a connection. It’s a wise way to start a persuasive communication. Building or establishing trust before making a request will likely make the request more fruitful.
There are other words to which you should pay particular attention. According to Jennifer Shang, Professor of Philanthropic Psychology at Plymouth University UK, people are motivated o give when a communication describes “a core sense of who people actually are, as well as a core sense of who people would ideally like to be.”
During her research, she has identified 9 key words that motivate donors. They are:
In one study, for example, Shang discovered that thanking contributors for being “kind and compassionate” increased giving among female donors by 10 percent.
Consider your audience and how they’d like to see themselves. Modify your message to acknowledge the traits that they value most.
Just using the words is not enough, however. Make your messages meaningful and give donors the opportunity to reflect on who they think they are—and how your organization fits into their life.
The Right Appeal
An organization that talks endlessly about itself and all the good it does before asking for a donation may be excluding donors. At worst, communications like these can come across as boastful and self-satisfied. At best, this kind of message pushes donors to the edge of the big picture.
Donor-centric communications, on the other hand, make sure that donors know they’re not just part of the story, but integral to it. Your organization would not be able to help your cause in the way it does without donors.
Creating an atmosphere of trust is very important to donor-centric communications as well. Since trust is paramount, the goals of donor-centric communications include:
1. Establishing trust that your organization is spending money responsibly on worthwhile things.
2. Establishing trust that your organization is efficient.
3. Establishing trust that donors are central and vital to the success of the organization’s mission.
Your message to your donors and potential donors should be an invitation to do something incredible and feel good about doing it.
Tom Ahern, considered to be the leading expert in donor communications, says: “You have got to make your donors feel good in order to retain them.”
You can make donors feel good by establishing trust, appealing to their best nature (try selecting from the 9 powerful adjectives), making sure they know how important they are, and communicating with the right people.
The Right Audience
Research and analysis of your data will help you refine your donor persona. If you don’t know your donor persona, you are not being as efficient as possible.
For many non-profits, the right audience consists of older generations. According to Blackbaud, people born in 1945 and earlier give an average of $1,367 per year. Millenials, however, give an average of $481.
If you want to receive gifts from older adults, it will help to research and execute an appropriate plan. For example, senior donors prefer print to digital communication. The best way to reach these donors, therefore, is via direct mail, despite the explosion of digital communication.
After crafting your message and going through it with a donor-centric toothcomb, you need audience information like this to make sure that the message is heard.
Your marketing and messages are integral to the success of your organization and how impactful it has the opportunity to be. In order to maximize your ability to make a difference, you need to maximize the reach and effectiveness of your messaging.
Donor-centric communications are the answer. Whether your primary campaign format focus is in print, online, or other media, consider the lessons learned by researchers and experienced fundraisers. If you want to serve your cause, reach out to donors with messaging that makes them feel great about giving. After all, they are the heroes in the story—and it feels good to be recognized.