If you can remember this acronym, you’ll be able to persuade more donors to join you and stick with you. This is deceptively simple stuff.
And it really, truly works!
Give me a ‘D’ for DOUBTS!
Give me a ‘U’ for UNIQUENESS!
Give me an ‘E’ for EXPECTATIONS!
What’s that spell?
That spells what you must overcome to win over donors!
What’s that spell?
That spells what you owe your donors!
What’s that spell?
That spells what you must meet to show you’re worthy!
Ready to ‘D.U.E.’ it?
Let’s get started!
DOUBTS: Donors Have Them; You Must Overcome Them
If you’re a student of psychology, you know people are naturally risk averse. So when they’re asked to make a philanthropic gift, they tend to calculate the risk (consciously or unconsciously) in so doing. What might they stand to lose or gain?
It turns out researchers such as Paul Slovic and Daniel Kahneman have shown fear of loss weighs heavier than hope of gain. So you need to flip the equation on donors so they don’t think about what they might lose but what others (presumably someone or something they care about) might lose if they don’t give.
In the past I’ve discussed how to turn the fear of loss equation from a personal win/lose to a communal win/lose. This is important as it causes the donor to think from a perspective of generosity and the common good (If I don’t give, hundreds of children will have no water) rather than personal greed and fear of loss (If I give, I won’t be able to go out to dinner tonight). This will cause some folks to tip into the “yes, I’ll give” column. But… not everyone.
So it’s also important for you to understand how your donor calculates giving pros and cons as a personal win/lose proposition. Because people can’t help it. Human beings are wired this way. And the reasons they’ll consider range from the seemingly ridiculous or trivial to the more substantial. For example, “Will giving away this money:”
- Cause my inbox to be flooded with unwanted email?
- Make me a target for others wanting hand-outs?
- Mean I give up my daily latte?
- Negatively impact my lifestyle?
- Negatively impact my heirs’ lifestyle?
- Cause loss of opportunity to give to another more worthy cause?
- Result in a ‘black hole’ such that I don’t get the results for which my gift was made?
- Be a foolish squandering of my hard-earned income?
Because of ingrained fear of loss, well-intentioned donors on the verge of giving will hesitate. You want to short-circuit this natural donor thought process.
ACTION TIP TO OVERCOME DOUBTS: Do a meaningful favor. Work by the guru of influence, Robert Cialdini, suggests you can pre-suade people to say “yes” in advance of asking them. We know human beings often feel obligated to return favors, even if they are unasked for. This is the ultimate reason why great customer service has such a fantastic ROI, and the top reason customers become repeat customers. Psychologist Norbert Schwarz found in a 1987 study that it doesn’t take much to start the process of reciprocity; even the smallest of favors allow goodwill to be bought with customers, increasing loyalty and retention.
Offer meaningful gifts of content. Most nonprofits have tons of content sitting around, hidden, that would be really useful to their constituents. It doesn’t have to be expensive or tangible. It can simply be an article you’ve written with answers to frequently asked questions. Or a “how to” guide. Or the latest research. Or “top 10 tips” to keep your aging parents safe… go a little greener… get your kid to finish their homework… communicate your concerns to your legislator… etc. Share what you know and provide little “gifts” now, to promote longer and more lasting interactions later.
Tell stories. What do human beings love more than stories? Think about it. They’re the oldest form of human communication. People are wired to embrace stories. They’re predisposed to want to enter into them. To become a part of them. So think about how you can offer up some stories that feel like gifts.
Make someone on your staff responsible for donor service so you never miss an opportunity to make a good impression.
UNIQUENESS: Donors Want You to Have It; Showcase Your Distinct Benefits
There are thousands of charities competing for your donor’s attention; they need a concrete reason to choose you. Perhaps you do what you do more quickly than your competitors. More cost-effectively. More comprehensively. More collaboratively. Perhaps your claims of effectiveness are backed by research. Or client testimonials. Or perhaps you simply have lots more experience and expertise than others in your field. Whatever is unique about you, make sure you let folks know!
ACTION TIP TO SHOWCASE YOUR UNIQUENESS: Ask yourself: “What’s our unfair advantage?” Finding your own uniqueness creates clarity. It overcomes the objection that giving to you may cause loss of an opportunity to give to a better cause. Because you are the best!
What’s unique about your staff? Do they have special credentials? Have they been with you for a long period? Have they won awards? Are they representative of your constituency?
What’s unique about your volunteers?
What’s unique about your reach? Are you geographically proximate to the need? Are you national? International? Do you reach areas where others fear to tread?
What’s unique about your supporter base? Is it especially diverse? Is it broad-based? Is your donor retention rate particularly high? Do your clients support you? Does your board all give? What about your staff?
ACTION TIP TO SHOWCASE DONOR BENEFITS: Don’t just talk about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it – that’s ‘process’ and won’t light your donor’s fire. Focus more on the why your mission, and the donor’s support, is beneficial.
What tangible benefits will the donor receive (e.g., tax deduction; lifetime income; naming opportunity; tickets; membership in a special giving society)?
What intangible benefits will the donor receive (e.g., feeling of giving back; fulfilling a moral or religious obligation; leaving a legacy; becoming part of your tribe)?
What benefits will your charity realize (e.g., reliable source of annual income [monthly giving]; investment income [endowment campaign]; ability to forgo future rent payments and assure more manageable annual campaigns moving forward [capital campaign], etc.)?
EXPECTATIONS: Donors Have Them; You Must Meet Them
When donors give they expect something in return. It may not be something personal, but it’s something of value. All of fundraising is based on a value-for-value exchange. Your donor gives you something of value (money or time); you give back something of value (generally intangible).
Perhaps it’s an outcome you promised to create. Or a difference they want to make. Whatever you do, you must show you can be trusted to meet donor expectations.
ACTION TIP TO ESTABLISH TRUST: Upfront, you achieve trust through social proof. When others say you can be trusted, people will tend to take their word for it. The best way to use testimonials is to begin by making a list of all the common objections you receive. Then ask your current supporters to address these objections head-on with their testimonials. Check out this great article on collecting testimonials from Nancy Schwartz at Getting Attention, and this one from Caryn Stein at Network for Good.
Share donor testimonials on your website, in your e-newsletter or blog, in your annual report, on social media and in your appeals.
Share client testimonials in your fundraising appeals and donor communications
Share volunteer testimonials by forwarding reviews from Yelp, etc., and also featuring in your donor communications.
Share community leader testimonials in all publications where this makes sense, and ask other leaders to share your e-newsletters and/or blog posts.
ACTION TIP TO SUSTAIN TRUST: After-the-donation, you complete trust through prompt gratitude and ongoing reporting. Donors need to know you received their gift, it was appreciated and it was put to work as they intended. Beyond that, they need reassurance their investment was well-stewarded over time. Memories are short, and circumstances change. It’s a matter of “What have you done for me lately?” If you thank folks once, and then wait a whole year to communicate with them again, folks are not going to be ‘ready’ to repeat their giving without going through the whole cycle of hesitations.
Develop a year-round Donor Love & Loyalty plan so donors can continue to enjoy the impact of their giving.
Woo folks with appealing communications and you’ll find they become less risk averse about making you their philanthropic priority.
Make your donor the hero in multi-channel communications. Giving is not always its own reward; donors need ongoing appreciation and recognition to incent them to continue their behavior.
Ready to Give Donors Their Due?
This Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook can help! I invite you to join me for an easy, step-by-step, six-volume journey where you’ll learn how to make a great first impression — and then a terrific second, third and fourth impression — by thanking, praising and engaging with your donors in a manner that makes them want to stay loyal to you. (You can purchase the volumes individually if you prefer; there’s a great bargain by buying the ‘bundle,’ however).
You pretty much can’t lose, as you only need to positively incline one donor in your direction to make back your investment. Plus, I offer a 30-day, no-questions-asked, 100% money-back guarantee.