The reply device gives the donor two choices — but both choices involve sending a gift:
Background: The letter details how the organization went ahead and gave Christmas gifts to wounded vets, even though there was no budget for that. Now they’re asking donors to step up and make it good.
Of course, that’s not good policy. And I have to wonder if the story is even true.
But set aside those things and consider what this piece is doing: It gives donors a “voice” while assuming that the donors fully support the goal of supporting the veterans.
Choice is good for fundraising. Even when the choice isn’t very meaningful. It’s like the once-common (now rare) reply device formula that goes like this:
Choice allows the donor to engage, even if she can’t give. Or, in this case of this piece, to express her disapproval for a dodgy action while she gives.
Choice does its magic even when it’s meaningless. It can be better yet when the choice is meaningful.
Did Sandy flood out your year-end fundraising? The Wall Street Journal thinks is may have, based on a tiny number of interviews: Nonprofits Fear Donors Have Post-Sandy ‘Ask’ Fatigue. Yes, it’s that old myth, “donor fatigue” — this time covering for inept year-end fundraising strategies everywhere:
Donors poured 9 million into Sandy relief efforts in the three weeks after the Oct. 29 storm…. But the generosity for Sandy victims is hurting other charities during the holiday season, when they usually see a surge in donations.
Disaster giving has little or no impact on regular giving. That 9 million is almost entirely added generosity from donors and giving from people who don’t usually donate.
Organizations with donors concentrated in areas directly impacted by the storm probably took a hit — where large numbers of donors weren’t at home, had no power, or weren’t getting mail for some period.
Beyond that, donor fatigue isn’t a real thing. Whenever you see that term, just replace it in your mind with “fundraiser fatigue,” an excuse given when things aren’t going well, or they get tired of talking about the same old subjects.
Our industry faces some actual challenges: Changing donor behavior as Boomers replace their elders in the donor market. Increased competition for every donor dollar. Lower levels of religious participation.
Periodic disasters are not part of the problem.
Thanks to Charity Navigator for the tip.
Here’s a video about story-telling that every fundraisers should see:
Or watch it here on YouTube.
In short, it describes a study that found the most impactful stories have two key elements:
- Distress, produces cortisol, which helps us focus attention on the story.
- Empathy, which produces oxytocin, which promotes a sense of connection.
And when these things are present, hearers of the story are much more likely to give.
Do your stories have both distress and empathy in them?
One of the most destructive attitudes I encounter among fundraisers is that that what they do annoys donors, takes away from them, and is generally a shady practice.
If there was a painter who thought painting was stupid and wasteful, do you think he’d be a very good painter?
The Far Edge of Promise blog throws fundraisers a challenge at Do You Believe In The Benefits of Giving?
The point is this: Giving does not hurt donors. In fact, it does them a huge amount of good. Giving…
- is an important component of a healthy life.
- stimulates our brains in much the same ways that food and sex do.
- reduces chronic pain.
- lowers anxiety.
- increases antibodies in our blood.
- people who give report feeling stronger and more energetic.
- is as good a stress reliever as any relaxation technique.
And, by the way, giving supports the good causes your donors care about and makes the world a better place in exactly the ways they want it to be better.
If you’re serious about fundraising, you need to remind yourself every day that the work you do is not an annoying, unwelcome, or harmful thing in donors’ lives.
It’s a miraculously positive thing that makes their lives better every day.
Believe that and remember it — and you’ll be like a painter who knows that painting is a gift from God.
Because that’s what fundraising is.
Another widely misinterpreted study has some in the fundraising community in a tizzy. This time it’s the Millennial Impact Report, which headiness the following factoid:
93% of surveyed Millennials gave to nonprofit organizations in 2010
A more accurate way of saying that would be:
93% of surveyed Millennials said they gave to nonprofit organizations in 2010
Because this study is not donor data. It is the compiled responses from 2,953 survey participants, age 20-35. It’s what they said, not what they do. That’s not to say the survey is wrong, or that it can’t be generalized with a reasonable margin of error to the attitudes of the 20-35 population. But you simply can’t look at that number and think these people are donors the same way your current stable of donors are donors.
Here’s what the survey does not tell us:
- 74 million donors up for grabs.
- People born in the 80s are extraordinarily generous.
- Any nonprofit that isn’t investing heavily in Millennial fundraising is doomed.
That 93% who said they gave in 2010 includes those who:
- Dropped money in the church collection plate at least once.
- Sponsored a pal in a walk or run.
- Gave or via their phone, mostly likely to Haiti quake relief, since the year in question is 2010.
- Gave money to panhandlers.
- Believe giving is good, but didn’t quite get around to it.
… as well as those who were committed, ongoing supporters of causes.
If you’re like most nonprofits, less than 5% of your donors are under age 35. There are reasons for that:
It’s hard to find them.
More important, it’s even harder to keep them.
That’s the way it is with people in their 20s and 30s.
If you’re in international relief, you get floods of them after major disasters. But nearly all of them lapse away, not giving again until the next disaster. Or until they turn 60 or so and become the type of loyal donors that make charitable work possible.
Every fundraiser should be deeply concerned about finding more young donors. But young donors are better defined as people between 50 and 65. Those are the folks who are about to transform, Get them now, and you have an amazing asset for decades to come.