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Stop Talking (A Note from Your Dearest Donors)

My "Stop Talking" socks have an inspiring story behind them I didn't even know when I bought them (and "Mr. Perfect" socks for my husband.) Click the image to learn more. (Go, John!)

My "Stop Talking" socks have an inspiring story behind them I didn't even know when I bought them (and "Mr. Perfect" socks for my husband.) Click the image to learn more. (Go, John!)

Dear Favorite Nonprofit,

Lately my favorite pair of socks say it all: STOP TALKING. I feel weary, cynical and numb from the flood of words and images popping up in my electronic devices. Even the crafty and colorful communications I receive from nonprofits I value and admire seem demanding and loud. 

Fundraising is about relationships. Email and social media are about data.

Please don’t confuse “getting stuff out there” with building actual relationships or telling compelling stories. 

Please say more, less often.

I hope you don't mind that I offer a few friendly suggestions about how to communicate with me to strategically meet your organization's goals for fundraising and relationship-building: 

1.     Social media is not how to make friends. Maybe you told your kid this the other day, and it’s true. Facebook’s recent changes make it nearly impossible for your nonprofit to be seen by your followers. Unless you…

2.     Feed the kitty what it wants. That said, Facebook’s ever changing “native” tools (and video if done right) are designed to attract eyeballs. Test internally. Be real. Let go of perfection. Invest in ads, too. Do not aspire to “go viral.”

3.     Talk to me, not everyone else. Research says the average donor age is 60-75. Younger donors will always give less than older ones. This is a fact. Also be kind to these generous people: use 14 pt. type for the main text of everything. 

4.     Every day, decide to communicate with those who matter most. The best 5% of your donor file give the most and will stay with you through thick and thin. When is the last time you called them, thanked them, gave them a tour or sought their advice? 

5.     Give me a choice. Email? Newsletter? Phone call? Text? Dogs, cats or exotics? Let your donors tell you their interests and how often they want to hear from you and how. Invest in the technology and people that make this easy. Research says donors who are asked to indicate preferences are more likely to stay with you.

6.     Stories raise money. Our brain is wired for stories. Stories are how we learn, build community and find pleasure. In fact, scientific research reveals that stories make us more empathetic. Stories about relatable characters overcoming adversity cause the neurochemical oxytocin to be released. (Yes, that’s the mother-baby bonding hormone that moms enjoy when baby nurses.) A newsletter with stories showing challenges overcome thanks to your donors' support of your nonprofit’s work can raise more than a fundraising appeal.

So when I say STOP TALKING, what I really mean is: stop sending me so much stuff about you. Tell me a story about how I changed one person's life through your work. Remind me that I have a deep desire to do good and that giving to you is the best way I can do it.

And also, sometimes, be silly and make me laugh.

Love,

Your Dearest Donors

P.S. French beret off to Tom Ahern, fundraising writer extraordinaire, Francophile, and fellow Brown alum, whose 20 Questions: The Donor Communications Test inspired some of my advice.