In a recent post, we talked about the importance of donor centric language in our direct mail letters, newsletters, eAppeals and eNews, blog posts, social media posts – in short, anything that supporters and potential supporters will be invited to read. So, what’s a donor centric conversation look like?
When it comes to acquiring new donors, the traditional letter often explains what the organization does.
For more than 15 years, XYZ Nonprofit has been working to end homelessness in Metropolis. In fact, we recently received an award from the city, honoring the success we have had helping single mothers find safe, permanent housing. But as long as there are still single moms who need our help, we won’t give up this critical work. And that’s why I am writing to you today.
OK, that’s interesting – but my drain is clogged, the dog got into the garbage and my car insurance just went up $100…
Instead, think about what your potential donor wants to hear. Assuming they are concerned about the homeless problem in Metropolis (if they aren’t, you probably won’t convince them in a few hundred words), they want to do something – but they really don’t know what they can and should do. Should they give a dollar to the guy at the stoplight on their way to the office? Should they donate their used clothes to the shelter? Should they send you $25 and figure you can solve the problem for them?
When you’re thinking like a donor, you may tell yourself, “Yeah, $25… Like that’s going to fix the problem. Let’s face it – it’s hopeless. I wish I could do something to fix it, but I guess I have to rely on the professionals to figure it out. But I sure wish I could do something…”
So here are two phrases to think about when you sit down to write an appeal to a prospective donor:
- “You can make a difference.” Yes, it’s a cliché, but how really can that person who sends in $25 make a difference? What can they do to help one person, one whale, one tree? Make the problem something they can fix, or at least have an impact on. You may worry about breaking down your program into specifics because of fear of designated funds. But as long as you are only focusing on the total organizational need, you’re painting a picture that the donor can’t even imagine him- or herself being part of.
- “In their own words…” Forget what you or your executive director says about how great the program you have developed is; what do people who are benefiting have to say? Don’t tell your prospects a lot of statistics; a few may be OK, but you have to engage their hearts. So instead, let the beneficiaries talk for you. “We do great work” is never going to excite a prospect like, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the room where my daughters and I could stay while I got back on my feet. It even had ruffled curtains at the window and a cuddly teddy bear they just fell in love with!” Curtains? A teddy bear? Now that’s something I can understand!
When looking for your future donors, remember – it’s not about the organization. It’s about exciting someone about what he or she can do to make a meaningful difference.