Limited Time Only! Selling you my ABC’s of Fundraising

Even if you’ve never seen Alex Baldwin shouting, “A: Always, B: Be, C: Closing; Always Be Closing!” in Glengarry Glen Ross (I confess I haven’t myself), you are no doubt familiar with the phrase. It is often referred to as the key to sales, or “The ABCs of Selling.”

This got me to thinking, are there ABCs of Fundraising? Is there something you should “always be” doing with your supporters as you engage with them either through direct mail, online, or in person?

My answer is a resounding “yes,” though I have two different “C’s” in mind when I say that. Let me try to sell you on them:

ABC #1: Always Be Communicating

Surely a top priority for something we should always be doing with supporters is communicating with them. This will sound like a given to you I’m guessing, but I still see many organizations who are not actually communicating – they are informing, educating, telling, or notifying. I covered this difference in more depth in Going Beyond the Buzzwords: Donor Engagement, so I won’t repeat that here, but will say that to achieve genuine communication it should be:

  • A two-way process: The supporter should be able to interact with the messaging, and offer their own thoughts to you or the organization.
  • About the “Why”: Dig down to the real importance behind why you are sending every message to a supporter. On the surface you may be seeking funds for a new building campaign, but why will that new building matter? Why should it be of importance to a supporter? Why does it align with their interests?
  • Personal: Just because your messages are sometimes, by definition, mass communications, doesn’t mean they can’t feel personal. You can do lots with personalized digital printing, online personalization, etc. but I always suggest starting with injecting your personal communication style into your messages to donors whenever possible. This makes the messages more human, less formal, and more inviting. This means supporters are more likely to respond, and take you up on the invitation for two-way communication.

ABC #2: Always Be Connecting

My second, and related, “C” would be, to always be connecting. How is this different from communicating you ask? Well, when I aim to really connect with a supporter, or supporters, I ensure I have firmly in mind that I’m endeavouring to:

  • Connect to the supporter: Part of this is keeping things on human terms, part of it is being personal, but part of it is being open to really hearing their feedback. Asking them questions, trying to understand them and their interests, and being genuine yourself.
  • Connect to the supporter’s values: When you understand your supporters’ values, you understand what drives them. You understand better why your organization is meaningful in their life, and you understand what they hope to achieve by giving to you. So be sure to always include how whatever you are bringing forward to them fits with their core values.
  • Connect to your mission: Demonstrate to your supporter the connection between what you are seeking and your organization’s mission. Even if it seems obvious, showing them that you are actively doing things to fulfil your stated mission is important. And it helps you, and them, keep that mission in mind.
  • Connect to your vision: Most people who support an organization do so because they share the same vision of a better future as you. Highlight how the topic you are communicating about gets you one step closer to achieving that vision, and they will naturally be interested in making it happen.
  • Connect to the impact: I’m not talking about accountability reporting here – but rather, on a tangible scale, how does their giving to your organization impact the world they are seeking to improve? So instead of stats about how many pairs of socks were distributed, or a report on how many new acres of land were protected, or an announcement of new piece of medical equipment funded – you share a quote from someone who hadn’t had dry socks in months and who felt better when given some, you show a video from a naturalist documenting the return of a native species, or you tell a story of a life saved and well lived after treatment.

With these two sets of ABCs in mind, communications with supporters, and, in particular, fundraising communications, are more likely to result in genuine donor engagement, interest and giving. I’ve seen the dramatic difference this shift in focus can make, and encourage you to consider whether your own communications could benefit from some of these ideas.

But now I invite you to engage in some two-way communication – do you buy my ABCs? Or do you have another idea about what we should “always be” doing as fundraisers? Let me know!

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