Do you sometimes wonder why your donors don’t get it?
You try and try to show them how important and transformative your cause is — but response is low, donors are lapsing away, and you can’t seem to break free from the recession…
Why don’t they get it? What can you do to make them see?
Maybe it’s you who doesn’t get it.
Maybe you’ve been speaking to yourself and not to them. Maybe you’re trying to persuade yourself, not them.
Fundraising is not about showing your greatness and hoping they’ll agree and climb aboard your bandwagon. It’s about showing how you belong on their bandwagon.
You can’t change the way other people think. But you can change the way you communicate.
The recent apocalypse fad and foolishness in Congress prompts some fundraisers to ask, Are We Approaching the Fundraising Cliff?, also asked at npEngage.
The short answer is no…
- Did people give more to the presidential campaigns and less to nonprofits? No.
- Are people giving less because of possible changes to charitable tax deductions? No.
- Are people going to give less because they donated to Hurricane Sandy relief? No.
- Are people giving less because of the economy? Maybe.
It’s more like a slope than a cliff. And a lot of the things being cited as causes of our fundraising pain are really just excuses.
The other things that are putting downward pressure on some fundraisers:
- Increased competition. There are new nonprofits every day. Some of them are smart fundraisers, filling your donors’ mailboxes, inboxes, and minds with savvy messages.
- Donors consolidating. It appears that more donors are giving larger amounts to fewer organizations. That means they’re disregarding more messages than they used to.
- Cross-channel behavior. More and more donors are responding online to offline communications. Sadly, most nonprofits are not responding to this. They have websites that are technically inferior, poorly designed, or playgrounds of self-glorification. Until you align your offline and online channels, you are going to leak donors and their donations. (This is a big deal, but it is completely in our control to fix.)
Be aware of the slope. But don’t blame all your problems on outside forces.
Here’s a straightforward look at some of the things that often go wrong in fundraising, at the Fundraising Trend Spotter blog: What are the barriers to successful fundraising appeals?
Here are the common errors of poor-performing appeals:
- They fail to respond to the readers’ unspoken questions.
- They lack of clarity about what they are asking the reader to do.
- They lack cohesiveness.
- They lack authenticity.
- They’re difficult for the donor to respond.
- They have un-engaging copy.
A lot of fundraisers make a huge mistake that they think is a favor to their donors: They soft-pedal and tone down the scope and depth of the need they exist to meet.
They’re afraid it’s too harsh. Too painful. Too likely to discourage donors.
In the case of poverty-fighting organizations, the dominant images are of happy, healthy, shiny-faced children. Messaging about the problem after it’s already been solved.
Big mistake. And not a favor to donors at all.
The Passionate Giving blog says it well at How To Transport Your Donor Into The World’s Suffering:
Rather than protecting our donors from all the reality of the need we should be using media, picture, choice of words and stories to literally take the donor right into the action — right to the scene.
Remember, the reason a donor gives YOU the money is so you can DO what they want to do but can’t. So they give you the money to do it on their behalf. That is the essence of fundraising – that’s how it works. I think it’s your obligation to tell things like they are.
Your donors can handle the rough stuff. They want to handle the rough stuff. Because with you as a partner, they can change it.
Want to know who complains about tough images most often?
It’s non-donors. Those images painfully and undeniably demonstrate the price of their non-giving. That’s unpleasant. No wonder they complain.
But donors? They don’t see hopelessness, degradation and personal failure. They see an opportunity to make the world better.
That’s why you owe it to your donors to be clear and unflinching about the need you face.
It’s good fundraising. And it’s good humanity.