As we’re moving ever closer to year-end, you’re likely planning your strategies for communicating with your donors. Especially if you receive an outsized share of your annual income in the last quarter, you don’t want to miss a single opportunity to raise funds. But despite your careful plans and strategies based on best practices and past successes, you may find yourself confronted with one of the less pleasant principles of fundraising…
Board members and other staff members forget that donors are not just like them.
This often translates to concern about communicating “too much,” “dumbing down” copy or carefully explaining how to give online. As a fundraiser, your job is to be an advocate for the donor – a person who does not visit the website daily, sit in meetings where strategies are discussed in detail or (gasp!) read every communication you send.
Your best strategy is, throughout the year, to proactively share comments from donors about how much they enjoy your mail, email or newsletters. From time to time, remind your colleagues who your typical donor is. Announce results of your activities, highlighting things that worked well.
Sometimes you are going to have to reduce the year-end communications schedule or provide more technical details, however. For the schedule, look for where you can cut with (what you believe will be) the least impact on income. Put the more detailed “head” explanation in a communication or ride-along insert that is less critical for fundraising. If your file is large enough, test a less aggressive year-end communication schedule on a portion to see which group performs the best.
But most of all, be willing to listen and to offer compromises. It’s frustrating when a board member says, “Well, I would never …” Allow him or her to explain that comment and offer to reconsider based on the input and on what your results, comments from donors and income indicates. While you may not change anything, giving the concern consideration will help you strengthen your own conviction and perhaps see ways to present strategies or copy in a way that is less likely to raise objections.
How our donors respond (financially and through increased loyalty) is the best measure of fundraising success, but sometimes we must first clear internal hurdles. Preparing your team throughout the year can help minimize fourth-quarter obstructions that derail fundraising.