I know I’ve talked about compassion/donor fatigue before. We have so many communication channels available to us, and every one of them – from email to Facebook to snail mail – are asking us to give. These weapons of mass communication are powerful, and they’re a positive tool on the one hand, but we have to work that much harder to connect with people when using them. What can we do, say, or design that will catch people’s attention??? Is a video enough?
The best tool I’ve learned to use is personalization. I was working on an event recently – an art auction – and was brainstorming some ways to get more attendees there. I didn’t just want more attendees though, I wanted people to attend who would actually buy the art. So since this was the fifth time the event has taken place, I looked back at records to find out who had bought art in the past, which artist’s art they had bought, and whether the same artist was submitting again this year. If they were, I wrote a personalized email to each of these past buyers, inviting them to the event, letting them know that “their favourite artist” was submitting again, linking them to the event website (specifically to where this artist’s piece was featured), and also letting them know that they could submit an absentee bid if they couldn’t make it.
This process was lengthy and tedious, but it comes with a great ROI. A few of these individuals submitted absentee bids, many of them attended, and at least one purchased another piece by “their favourite artist”. Regardless of the outcome though, this personal touch is a great way to engage members of your community. One person I emailed was impressed we even knew what he’d bought before, and others were simply pleased to have been personally contacted.
This event is simply an example though, and the strategy can be even more effective with fundraising. I’ve worked on custom proposal packages that include archival photos of an alumnus from when he/she was at the school, videos that have the head of the school addressing the major gift prospect who is meant to receive the video… the list goes on, and the result is always positive. Personalized communication resulting in a large gift or a piece of art being purchased is really the cherry on top. No matter what, personally connecting with people is always worth your while.
Part of this post was inspired by Dan Allenby’s recent blog post, “Content vs. Distribution”, from his amazing website: The Annual Giving Network.
Written by Maeve Strathy
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.