5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

Hi.

How are you?

It’s been a while.

As some of you know, I’ve taken a long hiatus from this blog; around 6 months. It was starting to feel like a chore and the posts were feeling a bit uninspired, so I took a break – for 3 reasons.

  1. I didn’t want the blog to go to s*&t only for me to never return.
  2. I wanted to throw myself even more into the job for which I’m actually employed (at Blakely).
  3. I needed a break.

But recently – for the past month or so – I’ve had an itch. Incidentally – but not ironically – it is the busiest time of year for fundraisers…when it rains, it pours.

I think the itch was particularly itchy about a month ago when I celebrated my 2-year anniversary at Blakely. I can’t believe that the time has gone so fast; it feels like only yesterday I made this bold move for my career.

And yet I’ve learned and grown so much, and so I’m inspired to take a moment to reflect on…

5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

CREATIVE COUNTS. Yes, you have to segment your data well and make the right ask to the right people. But without creative that catches the eye and stands out in the mailbox, inbox, Facebook newsfeed, etc., your organization doesn’t stand a chance. And this isn’t just about good design or nice stock for your OE (outer envelope), it’s about a compelling story, too. No matter what channel you’re telling your story on – mail, email, a few lines on a Facebook ad, video, etc. – it needs to be emotional, compelling, and motivating.

PROPOSITIONS PUSH. But those compelling stories? They need to tie back to the need. The need is expressed through the fundraising proposition: why do we need the donor’s support now? What’s the problem? What’s the solution? How can the donor be part of it? What’s their role in all of it? What will their impact be? How will they know they’ve made a difference? The story moves donors emotionally, but the proposition can trigger that rational part of the brain, which can be critical in the decision to give.

INTEGRATION INSPIRES. Direct mail isn’t dead, but it doesn’t stand alone. Our donors are engaging with us in many ways – they’re getting our mail and emails, maybe they’re seeing our videos on TV, YouTube, or Facebook, they’re searching us on Google, they’re going to our website… they’re everywhere! So we’ve gotta be everywhere, too. But we need to be integrated. If they’re seeing us everywhere, we want what they see to have a common thread; they saw our mail and forget about it. Then we came up on their Facebook feed and they scrolled on. Then, it’s nearly December 31st and they want to make their year-end gift, so they Google us. Is what they see connected to what they saw? Ideally it is so they feel seen and heard and what originally caught their attention is seen through to the end. Give thought to the full journey; it matters.

PASSION PERSEVERES. But none of these learnings matter if you don’t love what you do. I love my work and the company I work for, but things get crazy and stressful. I have weeks where I feel on the ball, and weeks where I feel like I’m dropping balls, and then I have days like a month ago when I was on a video shoot for a client and we interviewed a family impacted by the organization’s care and donors’ support. The gratitude was so palpable and I thought: “This. This is why I do this.”

CULTURE CUTS. Unfortunately passion doesn’t persevere through everything. I’ve worked in fundraising for almost 11 (!!!) years now. I’ve worked in super inspiring environments, and mediocre ones. My passion hasn’t been able to lift me out of the mediocre ones. Now I work for a company where culture is our competitive advantage. My booming voice is celebrated (mostly), not quieted. My habit of distracting all colleagues from 2:00-3:00 every day (my worst time for productivity) is tolerated, not discouraged. My ideas are always welcomed. My humour is encouraged. My stress is worked through. My hard times are comforted. I – as an individual – am fully valued. So on the hard days, I feel I am working with people who love me, and so I can always make it through.

It’s been an awesome 2 years at Blakely, and an amazing 11 years in fundraising, and I am ready to get back to this blog.

See you soon!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What stories have we been telling our mid-level donors?

what-stories-have-we-been-telling-our-mid-level-donors

In a few hours, I’m jumping on a plane to Chicago to speak at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference and I couldn’t be more excited!

This conference has had such a positive buzz about it since it started 3 years ago, and I can’t wait to be part of it.

What will I be talking about? Surprise, surprise: mid-level donors. You know they’re my favourite kind of donor, and I can’t wait to share some thoughts on them with the crowd.

My presentation is called “Telling mid-level donors the stories they want to hear”. I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but I will say this: if I’m saying that we need to tell mid-level donors the stories they want to hear, am I suggesting that we haven’t been?

The answer is yes.

So what stories have we been telling our mid-level donors that haven’t been working?

#1 – The brand story

I spoke about this in my post on “The Field of Dreams Myth”, as I call it. A lot of organizations have the instinct to brand their mid-level giving program – give it a name, a logo, and letterhead. This tactic is not off-base, but it’s not enough. (And all too often, it’s based on internal organizational needs vs. the needs of the donor.)

#2 – The variable paragraph story

Variable paragraphs are best practice in direct mail (and email, to a degree) and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. But, if we expect to inspire mid-level donors to step it up just because we call them “generous” in a variable paragraph, then we’re going to be sorely disappointed. We need to do more.

#3 – The closed envelope story

One of the most commonly used tactics is to send mid-level donors exactly what your regular donors get, but with a distinction – rather than a #10 envelope with your usual postage indicia, mid-level donors get their letter in a closed envelope with a real, live stamp on the front! Don’t get me wrong – it’s a classy touch, makes the package stand out in a pile of bills… but is this going to inspire donors to give at a new level? No.

#4 – An insert story (if they’re lucky)

Finally, the most we might do for mid-level donors to try to distinguish their experience from everyone else is to insert something extra into their package – maybe it’s a lift note from someone meaningful to them/the package, maybe it’s a small insert that expands on the funding priorities… And this comes from a great insight about mid-level donors wanting more from the organizations they support. More content! More behind-the-scenes info! More! An insert will take you part of the way, but on its own will it do enough? No.

The stories aren’t working. 

I promise you I’ll talk to you about what stories will work in a few weeks.

Until then – what are you seeing that doesn’t work? What does?

Let me know in the comments!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal

It may seem crazy sometimes, but mail continues to be the best way to engage donors or potential donors in our work.

Direct mail is both and art and a science… but it’s not rocket science.

Here are my 10 categories to consider in advance of your next DM appeal.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (1)

I know it’s boring and uninspiring, but let’s be realistic: the amount of money we have available to us drives what we do. If we think about what we’ve budgeted for before we get going on a campaign, we can allow the budget to guide us rather than limit us. It can help us determine how many people to mail, how many components to include in the mailing, what kind of paper to use, etc. If we realize that we need to increase the budget to achieve our goals, that’s fine, but think about the budget before anything else… and it won’t become our enemy.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (2)

Next (somewhat driven by cost): Who are you mailing? Existing donors? Prospective donors? Females? Males? Both? How many people? Are they in your charity’s geographical area, or outside of it? Are they really engaged and generous donors? Donors who are long-lapsed? Your audience drives so much of what you’re going to do in any given mailing, so let this be your second consideration.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (3)

Obviously the main goal for any campaign is to raise money, but we also have the opportunity to get insights beyond the dollars we bring in. Before you start really planning for your mailing, determine whether you have the budget to do some testing. If you do, think about what you want to find out: will a more aggressive dollar amount ask generate more revenue or will it freak donors out? Does referencing your donors’ location in the world lift response, or does it make little difference? Think about it. The opportunities are endless, and it’s worth using some of your budget for.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (4)

OK, onto creative. Creative is somewhat dependent on the story you decide to tell in your mailing, but it’s also determined by budget, audience, and testing opportunities. What do you have the money to do creatively? Can you use something more exciting than a #10 envelope? Can you include some full-colour photos in the letter, or an insert to expand on the ask? Or – let’s go crazy – can you create a video to accompany the mailing? The creative needs to be aligned to other things in the package, but it’s better to get a sense of your parameters early on.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (5)

I know this seems crazy, but only now is it really key to determine what you’re asking for. You may know already; it may be unrestricted funds like it always is. Or you might have a really urgent ask to make. However your process works, it’s now time to finalize the key priority you want to inspire the donor with, and you also want to figure out the ask amounts and how they might be based on the segment the donor falls into, their past giving, etc.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (6)

These things aren’t really in a critical order, but if you haven’t figured it out already, it’s time to determine your story. The more personal, the better. If you can tell an individual’s story, that’s ideal. This story should be determined by some of the decisions you’ve already made; maybe it’s based on the audience you’re mailing. Maybe it’s part of a test. Maybe it lends itself to some creative you want to work with. Or maybe it ties perfectly to the ask you want to make. Whatever it is, make it inspiring!

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (7)

Just like we have to think critically about who sits across from the donor in a 7-figure major gift ask, we have to think about who “signs” a fundraising appeal. Who’s appropriate? Who matters to the donor? Whose voice do we want to use? We know that people are more motivated to give when someone they know asks, so we have to think about that just as much in direct mail. Have you always used your CEO? Great! Could it be worth testing another signatory? Probably! Just make sure you’re thinking about it strategically. It matters.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (8)

OK time for a #donorlove break! Before you actually write this awesome and inspiring letter, think about the decisions you’ve made. Then think about the donor. Are they synced up, or is there some disconnect? If there’s a disconnect between the donors’ needs and the decisions you’ve made, then you need to stop and reconsider. Are you doing a test that could alienate donors? Be careful! Is the ask you’re making inspiring, or just an urgent need? Maybe you can do better! Is there truly a story in your letter, or is it organizational jargon? STOP. Think about the donor. If you need to make some changes, do. It needs to be about the donor.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (9)

So the letter’s written, the creative’s created, and the package is nearly there. Time to consider variability (if not before this stage). Variability is your chance to speak to different donors within this larger group you’re mailing. Maybe you’re mailing regular donors and you want to acknowledge whether they gave recently, last year, a few years ago, or it’s… *cough*… been a while. Or maybe this is an acquisition mailing and those receiving it are made up of internal people (a.k.a. really inactive donors) AND external people (a.k.a. rental lists). You might want to acknowledge those groups differently. Make sure you consider this before you go any further; the more a donor – or potential donor – feels like you’re speaking to them, the more moved to give they will be.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (10)

And finally – YOU. No, not YOU… the donor YOU. This is the final step. Take out the package, take out your red pen, and “circle the you’s”. This mailing isn’t about us – the fundraiser or the organization. It’s about the donor. It’s meant to speak to them, inspire them, and move them. So review your package and make sure you’re seeing many more “YOU”‘s than “WE”‘s. If you’re not, be prepared to start again. It’s worth it.

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So that’s it! 10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal.

If you’re excited about this post, you probably want a chance to win one of these beauties!

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That’s right! Your very own red pen, ready to circle the you’s in your next appeal (as per #10)!

How can you win one? In one of two ways:

  1. By subscribing to my newsletter! OR
  2. Sending me an email with a quick message about what you liked about this post.

Do that, and a pen is in the mail!

Thanks for reading!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What does a “culture of philanthropy” look like?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like-

I went out for a drink with a wonderful fundraiser the other day, Juniper Locilento.

We got on the topic of the elusive “culture of philanthropy”. We were talking about where Juniper works and how great the culture of philanthropy is there. Lucky her!

When she said how great it was, what she meant was that internally, staff – fundraising or otherwise – really understood the mission of the organization, felt its importance personally, and were motivated to give back, even though as a staff member they were already serving the organization so well.

How wonderful is that?! We find it so wonderful because unfortunately an internal culture of philanthropy can be hard to find. It doesn’t mean staff at an organization don’t care passionately about what they do. What it means is that there’s some disconnect between “the work” and “the money”. Staff members may not realize that the fundraisers are on the same team as they are. Or they don’t understand the importance of fundraising, where the money goes, how it all works, etc.

We’re focused – rightly so – on our external stakeholders; trying to get them to understand all of these things, but we ought to spend a little more time internally, too.

How could we do this?

Well, there’s always the strategy of putting together a slide deck and teaching people about fundraizzzzzz……

(If you didn’t get it, I’m suggesting the above strategy will make your colleagues fall asleep with boredom.)

LET’S GET CREATIVE!

One awesome idea Juniper shared with me was giving staff members the opportunity to tell their story. Why did they want to work for your organization? What matters most to them about the work that you do? What is an experience they had working there that really inspired them?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like- (6)

It’s not about learning the math of fundraising. It’s somewhat about knowing what the money does, for sure, but getting people thinking about their values, making it personal, and feeling inspired… That’s going to go a long way.

How do YOU inspire a culture of philanthropy?! Share in the comments below, or send me an email.

Thanks for reading!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: 3 Ways to Use Stories to Provide Donors with Better Stewardship

3 Ways to Use Stories to Provide Donors with Better Stewardship

You’ve probably heard that donor stewardship is one of – if not the most – important parts of fundraising. Donor stewardship is the process of thanking and following up with donors after they have made a gift. It is also what helps increase the chances that they will stick around as donors for years to come.

There are many ways that you can steward donors. Thank you letters, special reports, newsletters, phone calls, and events are just a few of the options available. But what is more important than the option you choose is the content you use.

You see, not all donor stewardship content is created equal.

Just sending a thank you letter is not enough to improve donor relations and retention. If that were the case, our sector’s retention average would be significantly higher!

Donor stewardship content needs to inspire, demonstrate accountability, and show impact. Stories are the best way to accomplish these things.

Here are 3 ways that you can use stories to provide donors with better stewardship:

Idea #1 – Go beyond “your gift is making a difference” in thank you letters

I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of uninspiring thank you letters. I know I have. My biggest pet peeve with thank you letters is when there is a broad, general statement like, “your gift is making a difference,” or “you’re making an impact in the community.”

What’s the difference or the impact? Don’t just tell donors this. Tell them a story to give them deeper peek at their impact.

Here are a few tips for finding a story to tell in thank you letters.

Idea #2 – Refresh your thank you call script for volunteers

If volunteers or board members help your organization make thank you calls to donors, be sure to refresh their script at least twice a year. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure that they are telling current, interesting stories of impact.

Alternatively, you can also empower your volunteers to tell their own story during the call.

Idea #3 – Rethink your event program

Spring is when many non-profits start planning fall events. Rather than having the same old boring speeches at your donor appreciation event, think about how you can make the event experiential for donors. Maybe you can recreate a common experience your clients have, or you could have a client share their story. This is a great way to make a story literally come to life for donors in a way that deepens their connection to your organization.

What stewardship does your organization typically provide to donors? How can you incorporate storytelling into one of your touch points? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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Do you like what Vanessa has to say? Then register for her upcoming #DonorLove webinar! Vanessa will show you how to seamlessly incorporate stories into your non-profit’s stewardship touch points. You’ll learn how to use stories in impact reports and thank you letters. This webinar will discuss key ideas for telling stories that delight donors and helps them feel more connected to the work.

Learning outcomes:

  • Why stories are essential content for great stewardship
  • 4 keys to telling a great story, plus the most important element every stewardship story must have
  • How to tell a story in a thank you letter
  • How to tell a story in an impact report

Steward Your Donors With Stories
With Vanessa Chase Lockshin
April 12th: 10:00 EST / 1:00 PST (You will also be sent the recording)
Recording Available April 23rd
$24.99

REGISTER TODAY!

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Written by Vanessa Chase

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Vanessa Chase is the President of The Storytelling Non-Profit – a consulting group that specializes in helping non-profits raise more money through communications. You can find out more about her and non-profit storytelling on her blog.

Explaining a capital campaign to a 3 year-old

Exp

Back in November, I was on the streetcar in Toronto where I live, and we drove past a hospital, which happens to be a client of mine.

I overheard a boy – he must’ve been 3 or so – ask his mom, “What’s going on?” He was pointing to the scaffolding that was up around part of the hospital. The scaffolding is there because there are massive renovations happening at the hospital right now, and – naturally – a capital campaign is in progress to support all the enhancements.

The mother replied:

“They’re fixing the hospital. They’re making it better… and bigger.”

My jaw dropped.

How perfect! How simple! How concise!

This moment was a great reminder of how verbose we tend to get when developing messaging around a campaign, or a case for support.

We go overboard in order to incorporate as many details as we can.

We bring our drafts to program staff – whether they be administrators, doctors, professors, researchers, people “on the ground” for our cause – and everyone chimes in making sure you don’t forget about their needs and their programs.

Before we know it we have something institutional and wordy that’s eased the tension internally…

…but is not at all compelling.

And that means that it’s not donor-centric! It’s not showing #donorlove! It has satisfied the needs of the organization, but not of the donor.

We haven’t inspired and engaged the donor

And who are we – as fundraisers – here for?

The donor.

So the next time you sit down to do this difficult work of boiling down your campaign messaging or case for support into something the donor can get behind, imagine you’re the mother or father of a 3 year old boy, trying to explain the scaffolding around the hospital.

After all, I want to help fix the hospital! And make it better and bigger!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Fundraisers & This Little Piggy

Fundraisers & this little piggy

Let me start this post with a cliché: fundraisers are storytellers.

“Wow, Maeve! Tell us something we don’t know!”

You’re right. We all know the best fundraisers are storytellers. We’re embracing that. We’re all recognizing the power of stories in engaging donors in our causes and showing them the power of philanthropy.

So how come the dollars aren’t pouring in?

Well, it’s not good enough to say we’re storytellers. They have to be the right stories. And they have to be told the right way.

So what are we doing wrong?

I’ll tell you one thing: we’re acting too much like the last piggy.

“Huh?”

Yes! You heard me right!

This little piggy went to the market

This little piggy stayed home

This little piggy had roast beef

This little piggy had none

And this little piggy went WEE WEE WEE all the way home

Fundraisers are the last piggy.

The one saying WEE WEE WEE.

We are doing this. We are achieving this.

We. We. WE!

It’s not about us. It’s about them.

It’s not about we. It’s about YOU!

You being the donor.

How are we ever going to show donors the power of their philanthropy if we keep telling them about the great things WE are doing?

We have to inspire donors by telling stories about themTheir impact. What they achieve.

Want to see what I mean? Want to see the power of those kinds of stories in action?

Here’s a recent example: Prime Minister Trudeau’s victory speech on October 19th.

I was following the conversation on Twitter on this momentous occasion and my fundraising friends were all saying the same thing: Prime Minister Trudeau is so donor-centric!

Watch this clip to see what I mean.

Are you noticing it? Here’s an extra clip to bring the idea home.

It’s the most powerful word in fundraising: YOU.

Prime Minister Trudeau was telling a story; not just to his donors, but to supporters, voters, and all Canadians. The story wasn’t about his success or the party’s success; it was about what YOU made happen.

Let’s all make sure that’s the story we’re telling our donors, too.

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: Three Resources All Fundraising Writers NEED to Know About

3 resources all fundraising writers NEED to know about

#1: Vanessa Chase – the Storytelling Non-profit

Vanessa Chase is one of my go-to resources on story telling. Her newsletter and blog are a treasure trove of tips and case studies. The section of her website dedicated to copy writing is amazing. Check it out here.

“Put your audience in the action from the start. Ideally, we want to connect with our audience as quickly as possible. This increases the likelihood that they will stay engaged with the story through to the end.” – Vanessa Chase

#2: SOFII

If you aren’t  a regular SOFII reader you should be! SOFII, the brain child of Ken Burnett, is an online collection of fundraising appeals combined with insider information on how the appeal did. It is a huge source of inspiration for me! Here are a few of my favourites:

#3. Tom Ahern

Almost everything I know about writing fundraising copy, I learned from Tom Ahern. His books are amazing, and worth a read – but he also has a fantastic section on his website of real-life appeals he has written – with his insider’s comments on what makes it great.

BONUS: Webinar: Creating a Case for Support that ignites passionate commitment(with Denny Young, Wednesday November 18th, 12:00 pm Eastern )

Are you inspiring your community to take action or treating donors and prospects like wallets? Supporters want to join the cause. They want evidence that you share their determination to make the world a better place. They want proof that your organization can realize their dreams.

Does your Case for Support make that connection, or is it just another boring plea for money?

You have a choice: make a grab for dollars or create friends for life. Which Case will you write?

In this webinar you will learn to create a Case for Support that builds loyal relationships among donors, prospective donors, volunteers, and staff.

Highlighting the well-tested research and experience of some of the world’s best Case writers, Denny will provide you with a step-by-step approach that results in committed support.

 You will learn how to:

  • Engage immediate interest by using the power of one story
  • Successfully balance logic and emotion to inform and inspire
  • Create urgency using statistics that clarify rather than confuse
  • Achieve maximum response by tailoring the call to action to audience segments

Sign up now!

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Written by Rory Green

rory

 

Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter

 

Guest Post: Storytelling and the Next Generation of Donors

Storytelling & the Next Generation of

As fundraising professionals, we face a constant challenge – we need to raise money. Right now, many organizations are starting to wonder how generational transitions will affect fundraising. In other words – as Millennials start to donate more, how will their preferences influence our fundraising programs?

Should we be using Snapchat? Will email still work for us? How will we get ahold of Millennials since none of them have landlines?

Perhaps some of these questions sound familiar to you. Up until last October, I would have said that you were right to think about these questions. But then I attended bbCON and Chuck Longfield shared a piece of data that rocked my world.

The average age of a new donor in 2014 was 51. That’s right, 51!

It makes sense of you think about it. Someone in the earlier 50s likely has more disposable income than say someone in their late 30s. Thus at 51, a person might be looking to become a first time donor to an organization.

How does this information influence our fundraising strategies to acquire Millennial donors?

You don’t need to abandon your plan to acquire Millennial donors. You do however need to be prepared to play the long game. Organizations should strategically focuses on engagement, so that when that donor is able to make a gift your organization will likely be top of mind.

Engagement is kind of a tricky word. The key to making the most of it is to define the various stages of engagement someone can have with your organization. In other words, how does someone go from not knowing who you are to being a loyal donor?

In the instance of Millennial donors, this likely won’t happen in one fell swoop. It is prudent to figure out what the various stages of the relationship are leading up to that donor making a gift. Then the task of moving them between those stages.

Unlike older generations of donors, Millennials have a desire to understand their impact, to feel like they are part of something meaningful, and contribute to a reputable organization that speaks their language. One way that non-profits can achieve all three of these things is by cultivating relationships through communications, and specifically by telling stories.

Stories naturally demonstrate impact in a tangible way and when they are told well, they make the reader feel like the hero. During a recent project I worked on with a client, we did extensive content analysis to understand the differences between Millennial, Gen Y and Boomer donors. What we found was that Millennial donors tend to respond best to stories that are inspiring and have a positive vision for the future. These stories don’t try to guilt the reader into donating, nor do they sound “doom and gloom.” As we analyzed the stories that Boomers responded to, what we found basically the opposite.

What’s the key takeaway from all this? Engaging Millennials through fundraising and communications requires a big shift in messaging. Look at your appeals over time. What are the messages that come through? How have your donors responded? What was their demographic? Use these questions to do your own content analysis to find the right message that will resonate with Millennial donors.

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Written by Vanessa Chase

VanessaChase15Apr2014-5-3198824182-O copy
Vanessa Chase is the President of The Storytelling Non-Profit – a consulting group that specializes in helping non-profits raise more money through communications. You can find out more about her and non-profit storytelling on her blog.

 

You’ve only got part of the story

you've only got part of the story

As fundraisers, we’re constantly working with partially-told stories.

Last week, Andrew Littlefield showed us how to be P.D.D.D. — pretty damn data-driven.

Data is so important, and I think within every passionate fundraiser lies a bit of a data nerd. I love poring over spreadsheets and analyzing results, but it’s only part of the story.

I went to the Blue North Do-Gooders Summit this year and saw an awesome session called “Inspiring New Ideas with Donor Data”. The presenter, Tim Rowley, said that fundraisers have some issues with correlation analysis; we draw conclusions that we shouldn’t.

Here’s an example: there is proof that going to bed with shoes on leads to headaches in the morning. 

Is that true? Yes, but not for the reason that statement implies.

If you are too drunk to take off your shoes before bed, you’re likely going to be hungover and will therefore wake up with a headache. 

Going to bed with your shoes on is just part of the story.

We have a lot of data, but not enough knowledge. We have to take the time to turn our data into information, and then turn that information into knowledge, which is something we can actually use. That’s when we can be data-driven, as Andrew rightly encourages us to be!

How can we find out the rest of the story? One way is to ask great questions.

It applies to looking at mass amounts of data OR looking at one specific major donor.

If a donor makes a $10,000 gift out of the blue, can we make assumptions about how engaged they are with our charity and how they might want to be involved moving forward?

Well, sure! But that doesn’t mean we’re right! We must ask questions to get the whole story.

As for what kinds of questions we can ask, check out this video I saw on Movie Mondays for some inspiring ideas!

Telling the full story is worth the extra work!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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