Halloween is creeping up on us, so I’ve got some really scary stuff for you!
Don’t get too spooked. There are also a few treats.
In fact, you’ll get eight delicious goodies — in the form of “to-do’s.”
But first… the bad news.
No bones about it, you’re frightening folks away if you’re committing any of these 8 boo-boo’s!
8 Ways You’re Scaring Would-Be Supporters Away
- Your website isn’t donor-friendly.
- Your mailings aren’t easy to read and understand – quickly.
- Your thank you’s aren’t prompt, personal, or impactful.
- Your communication style is ego-centric.
- Your offer fails to consider what’s in this for your donors – how they might benefit.
- Your major donor qualification and cultivation process lacks a thoughtful plan.
- Your ongoing communication is sporadic — donors don’t receive regular updates on the impact of their philanthropy.
- Your focus is on money, not impact.
Fear not! I’ll tackle each of these mistakes one by one today, so you can fill up your sack with nothing but treats for your supporters.
1. Scary Nonprofit Websites
Per Nonprofit Hub and Firespring, 82% of donors will check out your website before donating.
TO-DO: Review your website, determine the weaknesses, and develop a plan to address them – hopefully before year-end fundraising season kicks into high gear. Assure your website has the following Top Ten:
- Contact information should they have questions or wish to make a donation offline. Also ensure all staff know how to handle donor inquiries.
- Details about your nonprofit’s mission and vision that make you stand out from other nonprofits in your field. Clarify what the donor’s gift will be used for. Ideally use visuals such as video and/or close-up photos that tell a story.
- Updated news so you look relevant, not stale. Include at least three new pieces of information weekly to make your website appear constantly evolving (even though nothing else may change). Calendars, stories and blog updates can be useful for this purpose.
- User-friendly navigation so visitors can easily find what they’re looking for, without having to click more than three times.
- Mobile-friendly navigation, since approximately half of website visitors will open your communications on their tablet or phone.
- A readily visible donation button that’s big, bold and above ‘the scroll.’ Ideally it should contrast with your corporate colors so it stands out.
- A branded donation landing page that echoes your home page,ties into the appeal from which the visitor found you, and makes it clear what single action you want folks to take. Ideally leave all the menu navigation links at the top or bottom off this page. You don’t want to distract your visitor by giving them the option of taking any other action than making a gift.
- Social media links and a simple newsletter sign up that make it easy for supporters to see your content moving forward, and share with their networks.
- Visuals to illustrate your work, as attention spans are short and a picture is worth a thousand words.
- Endorsements and third party reviews, as testimonials serve as “social proof” and help folks believe they can trust you.
2. Scary Fundraising Appeals
Too much stuff is too much stuff!
TO-DO: Review and edit your appeal letter so it’s reader-friendly and donor-centric. Watch for these common Top Ten ‘boo-boo’s:’
- Is your letter 11-point type so you can squash all your text into one page?
- Have you added in a brochure or other insert pieces — which has been shown to depress response?
- Did you talk about so many different programs it all became one big blurry blob for your reader?
- Did you ask for multiple actions (e.g., donate, volunteer, sign this petition, attend our event) so your donor is unable to ascertain your priority?
- Does your appeal lack compelling visuals that show the problem and solution at a glance?
- Did you leave out highlights (e.g., subheads, italics, boldface and underline), thereby failing to make your case for people who skim (everyone)?
- Did you fail to indent paragraphs, making it difficult for your readers to enter into your copy?
- Did you fail to ask for a specific purpose, so your donor can visualize the impact of their giving?
- Did you fail to ask for a specific amount?
- Did you include a P.S. that reiterates the most important elements of your offer, understanding this is often the first or second thing people read?
If plodding through your appeals is a gruesome process that makes your would-be supporters want to tear out their hair, you will spook them and drive them away.
3. Scary Acknowledgment Programs
A sorry donor acknowledgment program will essentially poison your donors, causing them to wither away.
TO-DO: Put a comprehensive donor acknowledgment program in writing.
- Assure the thank you is prompt (immediate for online gifts; within 48 hours for direct mailed gifts).
- Assure the thank you is personal (uses their name and reflects back to them the purpose of the gift and other things you know about them).
- Assure the thank you is powerfully indicative of impact so the donor is reassured their money is being used as they intended.
A prompt, personal, impactful thank you is better than Halloween candy to your donor! It sets the stage for a sweet, beautiful and enduring relationship.
4. Scary Communications and Relationship Building
Donors don’t care so much about your needs, but about theirs.
TO-DO: Review and edit your communications and content management calendar (e.g., newsletter, blog, annual report, thank you letters) so they’re all about the donor’s needs and preferences.
Beware of becoming the “headless horseman,” with a head so big you lose sight of what your donor cares about. Check your ego at the door when it comes to your emails, newsletter, blog and social media posts, and all other communications you send throughout the year. If you want to turn your donors’ faces into smiling jack-o-lanterns be sure to make it about them. Tell them “YOU can do this” or “YOU make this possible;” not we or our organization does this. Show them how to be the person they most want to become, by telling them a story –ONE STORY – that gives them the opportunity to be the hero who bestows the happy ending.
5. Scary Relationship Building
TO-DO: Think about the gifts of content you can offer your donors, and develop an engagement-oriented content marketing plan to deliver them.
Think from your donor’s perspective. What’s in this for them? Everyone likes a bit of candy now and again. If you don’t think about the gifts you can give, and how your donor might benefit from building a relationship with you, then your attempts at building relationships may drive them a bit batty rather than put them under your spell. If you want to sustain giving over the long term, you’ve got to devote yourself to two things: impact (how can you show it?) and gratitude (you can’t say thank you too often or too well).
6. Scary Major Donor Cultivation Programs
TO-DO: Develop a plan to “qualify” major donor prospects before removing them from their familiar annual giving pipeline.
What’s the best way to connect major donor prospects to you emotionally? Hint: It’s not jumping out from behind the bushes to scare the beejeezus out of them! Yet too often that’s exactly what we do with major donor prospects. In Once a Major Donor Always a Major Donor, Leslie Allen writes for Front Range Source about what it means to take your major donor prospect out of the regular annual giving pipeline – and all the familiar ways they have to connect with you – and unceremoniously toss them into a different pipeline with different rules. Your donors don’t know about your plans to make them a major donor. They aren’t notified when you re-categorize them. They might be up for it, but not unless you approach the transition with great care and take steps to qualify those who really want to connect with you in a more in-depth manner.
7. Scary Stewardship Programs
The whole point of acquiring new gifts is renewing them.
TO-DO: Commit to putting a donor stewardship program in writing. You don’t want your hard-won donors to fade away like ghosts.
Most first-time gifts are not repeated. You’ll lose, on average, 77% of these folks. Unless you do something proactive to turn the tide. And it costs you more to acquire them than they give you. That’s why you have to think in terms of lifetime value.
Are you committing the mistake of having a stewardship “program” that’s not really planned? If you do things “catch as catch can” that’s how your donors will feel. That’s not what you want. You want them to feel they can count on you. They want consistency. Dependability. Proof of impact. You can’t build trust if your “strategy” appears to be all smoke and mirrors (i.e., you promised the sun, moon and stars would result from your donor’s gift, but you never actually showed them you delivered on this promise)!
8. Scary Topic: Money
Donors don’t decide to give based on money; they give based on impact.
TO-DO: Reframe how you think about fundraising. Talk about the distinction between philanthropy (coming from a place of love) and fundraising (yucky stuff having to do with begging, arm twisting and sales) at a board/staff meeting and/or retreat, and build a plan to make your communications all about impact, awe, empathy, altruism and gratitude.
We think money is creepy. So much so, that talking about it is still one of the biggest social taboos in our society. And when it comes to asking for money? We’re scared out of our wits! In The Heart of Effective Major Donor Development: It’s Not Money I discuss how to reframe the ask as being about something else. Which, of course, it is.
Donors give to create happy endings. Keep this in mind not only when you’re approaching major donors with a face-to-face appeal. Take a look at your written appeal. Is it just about money? Is your appeal generic, with the only specific being how much money you want? (e.g., “We do this, this and this… we’re the biggest and best… give us $100 so we can keep being awesome.”). There’s nothing wrong about being specific about the amount of your request; in fact, you should be specific. And the amount of your ask must be tied directly to what that sum will accomplish.
There’s a right and wrong way to approach everything. With donors, there’s a scary and a soothing way. There’s a scattered and a together way. If you’re all over the place, your donor doesn’t know what to expect. So they shy away from you. And then you don’t get what you’re hoping for or expecting.
If you want the best results, you need a plan that avoids the aforementioned mistakes.
Think of the difference in results between these two trick-and-treaters:
Shows up with a costume, a smile and a strategic plan of attack that takes them through the “good” neighborhoods.
Randomly visits a house here and there, and just scares people.
The first approach is thoughtful. People will readily recognize the asker’s intent, and happily give them the goodies they seek.
The second approach is a bit unnerving. When the would-be giver opens the door, they aren’t sure of this person’s intentions. Are they there to rob them? To egg their house? Don’t make donors wish they hadn’t opened the door to you!
Plan ahead and go specifically for what you want and need. Otherwise, you may get some lollipops and chewing gum. But I know that’s not what you really want.
BOOst Your Odds &Take the Pain out of Asking for Major Gifts!
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- Get Ready for Major Gifts Strategy Workbook
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- 50 Ways to Move Your Donor – Cultivation Solution Kit to Get to Yes with Finesse
- Anatomy of a Major Gifts Ask – Passion, Prepare, Practice, Pitch, Pay Attention, Persist
Most of the money – 80 – 90% — is in major individual gifts. If you’re doing everything else right, but still really aren’t touching major gifts with a 10-foot pole, then you’re working hard, not smart. Please… let me help!