What makes us think a perfect stranger, who’s never given to our organization before, will choose to do so? It’s highly counter intuitive.
Let’s take a look at parallels in the retail marketing world.
There are three kinds of sales.
- Buying a refill, another unit of a service or product you’ve purchased before
- Switching to a new model/brand/style
- Buying something for the first time
Renewing your donation is like buying a refill or replacement product.. You know you like this charity. Targeted marketing works here, because the donor already trusts you. This is a ‘safe’ decision, and easy to make.
Giving to a different charity in the same category is like switching to a new brand when you’ve already given to a (hunger/AIDS/cancer) charity. It’s something you’ve already decided you value. You don’t have to be sold on the cause; just the service delivery model.
Making a first-time donation is like buying something for the first time, perhaps to the little arts organization in the neighborhood that you’d never heard of before last week. Mass marketing usually doesn’t work well to stimulate this purchase, because it’s hard to know who to target.
Getting first-time donations is tricky, because you need to create a new market.
Absent a significant external event, getting someone to make a first-time decision to give requires a strong, relevant case for support.
I suggest you begin by taking a look at your opportunity.
It’s always knocking; you just need to open the door! What do you do that aligns with what is in the news today? What will people likely consider relevant? What stories can you tell that will break people’s hearts, and restore their hope?
You’ve got to show a need people agree is an important issue, and one they’d like to see addressed.
Then you’ve got to show why your organization is the best one to solve the problem.
Then you’ve got to show this again. And again. And again. Often it takes seven impressions or more for folks who’ve never heard of you before to take notice.
Your “case” must be combined with strategic, consistent messaging.
You can’t just make promises to folks who don’t yet know you; you must show you deliver on them.
In the case of the ACLU, they found a way to demonstrate their relevance in the current zeitgeist by consistently, and frequently, using social media to increase their reach and exposure. Through online marketing they were able to present their ongoing work alongside their responses to crises quickly and effectively, without the burden of postage or printing. They not only attracted new donors; they reinforced the commitment of existing members.
This requires perseverance, because folks must be brought along a continuum (sometimes called a “marketing funnel“) to get them to the point where they feel comfortable making a philanthropic gift. You’re not just educating your prospective supporter; you’re earning their trust.
Offer up gifts of useful content. News they can use. Checklists. How-to videos. Recommended resources. Compelling stories that make them want to jump into the narrative. When you give people something, they’re predisposed to want to give back.
It’s smart to make it tribal.
When everybody is talking about something, others want to get in on it.
Using testimonials is a great way to not only attract a crowd, but to also demonstrate your trustworthiness. If you can show you’ve got a large community behind you, this short-cuts the decision-making process for prospective new supporters.
There is comfort, and safety, in numbers.
Are you a start-up nonprofit seeking to develop numbers?
- Demonstrate you have something to offer, and that you’re meeting a need that needs addressing.
- Show how you address that need differently, and more effectively, than anyone else.
- Be patient.
It’s not going to happen tomorrow, or the next time. It will happen because we show up. We settle in. We become part of the fabric of the community. Ideas spread within the community. When we consistently over deliver, then drip by drip, day by day, that’s how we change the world.