As communicators, we need to persuade and inspire – especially when it comes to asking for donations.
Despite a booming economy and new wealth created in recent years, one would think most charities and non-profit organizations would be doing really well. Not exactly. Quite the opposite is proving true – competition for donor dollars is increasing and relentless.
Higher overhead costs, mission distractions, competitors, and even legal challenges, are leaving many development officers scratching their heads. They wonder how to overcome donor fatigue and stand out in what has become an incredibly crowded field. The pursuit of grants, major gifts, and even small donations creates a flood of robo-calls, email, and even direct ‘snail mail’ appeals – many of which will be ignored or end up in the recycle bin.
These constant requests end up distracting donors. They can create confusion about what they are actually being asked to support. Without focus and clarity, it becomes easy for a donor to say no, or simply ignore a request.
“If a donor is wondering where their money is going, it is a lost cause from the start,” stated Scott Roy, the Director of Communications at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world’s largest organization dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. “Donors want to know precisely where their money is going, how it will have a positive influence, and make a difference.”
Roy makes the point that organizations need to be able to make appeals that inspire donors. They also need to show them exactly how their gift will be used. He states that at the Miami Project the communications team works closely with the development team to create content that shows the benefit of their research and programs.
“Donors are not buying something – but rather investing in a result” Roy explains.
Communicators need to be organized and have a focused message. These are critical elements of a successful fundraising strategy. They must show how the donor can get involved in the process, provide detail, and instill a sense of ownership over the results. The message must be one that inspires and makes people want to become involved.
“We tell the stories of how the complicated medical research (that our donors make possible) will help people eventually get out of their wheelchairs and walk again” stated Roy. “Be it the staff, building, or other operating expense, a donor needs to understand that their contribution is responsible for our mission – and they are the reason for the results.”
The more that non-profits focus on telling the stories about how their organization is advancing a worthy cause – the more a donor will be attracted to it. Therefore, communication leaders at non-profit organizations must pay attention to the changing landscape and work closely with the development staff.
Without a consistent message and deployment of it, donor interest will fade. It is critical to an organization’s survival to establish and execute a focused communications strategy. How are you reaching donors with yours?
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