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Create Hero-Donors with your Fundraising Communications

Create Hero-Donors with your Fundraising CommunicationsWe hear a lot about being donor-centered in fundraising. Typically, it’s in the context of major gifts, emphasizing listening to a donor, uncovering their philanthropic passion and aligning it with a funding opportunity at your organization. While we definitely don’t want to minimize the importance of being donor-centered in major gift solicitations, we challenge you to take a look at donor-centricity through another lens—annual fund appeals and marketing communications.

When writing annual appeals and marketing materials, our first reaction is often to tout how effective our organizations have been at addressing a social issue or how dire the need is for a particular group or service. Both of these are important aspects of creating a case for support, but they are missing a key link—positioning the donor as the hero who makes this important work possible.

Take a look at your past appeals and make a note of every time you mention your organization (or “we”). Now, how many times do you reference your donor, using their names or “you”? Most organizations tend to be heavier on the former. Think about the subtle but important distinction in how a donor interprets “Last year we served 1,000 children in our community” versus “With your support, we were able to serve 1,000 children in our community over the past year.”  The latter empowers the donor, framing him or her as a hero solving a problem.

Donors want the shortest path from their gift to the problem they are trying to address, and our organizations are just the conduit. Talking too much about ourselves, just like in any conversation, can be a turnoff. Whether we admit it or not, we all naturally enjoy being on the receiving end of praise and appreciation.

So next time you’re writing an appeal letter, make a point to brand your donor the hero. Find ways you can interject a simple word—“you”. When donors feel like they are the ones curing disease, educating kids, sheltering the homeless, or creating new and exciting art, they will be more likely to invest in the important work we all do.

Shocking Statistic: In 2018, 39 percent of charities failed to personalize emails with a name, down from 79 percent who failed to do so in 2013 (Dunham+Company).