Jeff Brooks recently wrote about 9 Ways To Be An Anti-Donor Fundraiser with most of them revolving around it being about you, the organization, and not your donor. Flipping some of those 9 items around to be positive or proactive, you can find 7 ways to be a hero donor fundraiser. Hero donor fundraising is much like donor centric fundraising, where the donor, not your organization, is central and should be catered to. Hero donor fundraising takes a slight step further when it tries to inspire and empower donors on a quest to give more of their resources than just money but the principles are the same. So without further ado and a tip of the hat to Mr. Brooks, here are…
7 Ways To Be A Hero Donor Fundraiser
1. Write and design for them.
What words do you like to describe the population you serve? What about the colours and layouts you like to look at? IT DOESN’T MATTER. Well not very much at least. You are writing for them. You are designing for them. When your writing and language as well as design and aesthetic preferences line up with your donors then great, go for it. But when they don’t, or if there’s any question if they do, then guess what? You lose. They win. Or they should if you want to be a hero donor fundraiser.
2. Tell stories
Facts are great, just don’t lead with them. Your financials are important, they just don’t move people. Talking about the people you serve in generalities is okay, but talking about specifics, stories and ONE person is better. We are wired for story and connect with stories in aways that we never can with facts, financials and generalities. So do the hard work of learning how to tell great stories, find them and tell them. It’s what donors want.
3. Inspire, don’t educate, your donors
Similar to the above, we often think that “if only they understood the problem they’ll give”. First off, that’s not entirely true. Donors need to understand the problem, yes, but even more so they need to understand the solution and even more importantly what their role in that solution is. Remember, in hero donor fundraising, your goal isn’t to just get someone to give but go on a quest giving up their time, networks and resources on that journey. Do you think people are going to do that if they just understood the problem? The answer is no.
4. Offer choices
Donor centric fundraising that caters to donors by allowing them to choose Credit Card or direct debit is great to offer but falls woefully short of giving donors the choices they crave. Where will the money go? What project will it go towards? What will the impact be? Can they do something other than give? Can they see the work? Can they give their talent and time as well as treasure? Can their families get involved? Donors are humans and in today’s world we not only love our choices and options but we expect them. So give them to them.
5. Acknowledge and thank in meaningful ways
Thank you letters, acknowledgement receipts and tax statements are not meaningful. That’s standard operating procedure (or it should be). Being specific with the donor, what they did or gave and how it is helping is meaningful. Getting creative with your thanking is all well and good (and consider it to keep things fresh) but the most meaningful thing you can do with donors, especially in hero donor fundraising, is being very clear what THEY are accomplishing through you while being as specific you can. Add in a story that relates to what they are accomplishing and your into hero territory.
6. Close the loop
Tied to the acknowledgment and thanking, reporting back to donors on what they were able to accomplish through you (note how it is not what you were able to accomplish thanks to them) is essential. I believe the “winners” in the nonprofit world will be determined by who closes the loop with their donors the best in the next 10 years. Closing the loop builds trust (the key to fundraising) and makes donors feel good (why they give) so the more of it you do and better you do it the more donors you’ll get, and more importantly, keep. Your best hero’s are donors who have a lot of trust in your organization and work.
7. Create a great giving experience
I can’t stress this point enough but your organizational brand is merely the sum total of people’s experience with you. So make that experience a great one and your brand will also be great. A great giving experience doesn’t just “happen” but takes some time to think through and resources to execute. Go through a sample flow of your next appeal from what they receive when, how they respond, what they get when they respond and how you follow-up. Is it clean? Is it about them? What about your calendar? Are you making sure you close the loop with donors before asking again and again? Are you giving them options and opportunities to self identify their desires? Your organization is not THAT unique and if the donor doesn’t like their experience they can easily go somewhere else that will give them a better one. Make it easy for donors to give to you and very hard for them to leave you.
Hero donor fundraising is not easy. In fact, it is very difficult. Generally, the older your organization, and in my cases the more success you’ve had in the past, the harder it is to move towards a radically donor minded organization where THEY are the hero’s and you exist to help them, not the other way around. If you can do it though, your hero’s will do such wonderful things (like give, get others to give and advocate on your behalf) that you’ll wonder how you ever raised money any other way.