These days you’re likely communicating with constituents digitally more than ever before.
That’s terrific, but… I want you to remember one important thing, especially if you’re a small to medium-sized, local nonprofit.
Philanthropy, translated from the Greek, literally means ‘love of humanity.’
Whatever you do that gets in the way of your humanity?
Stop doing it!
I really mean it.
PEOPLE GIVE TO PEOPLE
Sure, sometimes the ‘cause’ alone is enough to drive donations. But generally this holds true only for first-time gifts, emergency response gifts, and gifts to national and international charities with large name recognition. Even in these cases, repeat gifts and major gifts are driven by human interaction.
When it comes to your current supporter base, they tend to want to engage with real human beings.
Want to know what’s not a real human being?
- noreply@ emails.
- info@ emails.
- director@ emails.
- development@ emails.
- fundraisng@ emails
- relations@ emails.
- volunteer@ emails.
- organization@ emails.
- hope@, love@, charity@ emails
- contact@ emails.
- rsvp@ emails.
I’ve seen all of these – and then some. Sheesh. How robotic and inhuman can you get?
People are distanced and isolated enough these days already!
Using distancing addresses, like sending emails from names of folks your constituents don’t know or don’t identify with, will absolutely depress your email opens and response rates.
As tempting as it is to use these anonymous or generic addresses to send group emails and automated responses, you’re doing your cause – and your constituents – a real disservice.
Why this hurts your organization
It makes you look cold and inhuman.
It makes you appear to care less about constituent feedback.
It makes you look too lazy to send from a real human.
It makes you appear to value convenience over all else.
It makes you look like you approach all your work in this distanced way.
Why this hurts your constituents
It doesn’t identify who the sender really is.
It doesn’t give them a way to respond and get questions answered.
It doesn’t give them a way to engage and provide feedback.
It doesn’t meet their human need for connection to another human being.
INHUMANITY IS A NONPROFIT NO-NO
The times we’re in, while they’ve disrupted business as usual, give you new opportunities.
Among them is the chance to look at some of the many ways you may have inadvertently been erring on the side of inhumanity.
I’ve talked about some of these many failures to connect in past articles:
- Failure to pick up the phone to call donors.
- Failure to meet donors face-to-face, even if it’s virtual right now; this helps you listen with your whole body
- Failure to promptly, personally and meaningfully thank donors.
- Failure to consider donor interests and preferences.
- Failure to survey donor feedback.
- Failure to reach out proactively through a strategic donor communications (aka wooing) plan.
- Failure to report to donors on outcomes of their philanthropy.
- Failure to engage in simple acts of kindness towards donors.
- Failure to write to one person, as you would to a friend; using personas can help.
- Failure to be transparent, honest and clear when asking for engagement of any kind.
- Failure to act on donor feedback; the whole point is to show donors you know them.
- Failure to respond promptly and with empathy
- Failure to listen and communicate accordingly
- Failure to commit to meeting donors’ needs, not just your own.
- Failure to tap into shared passions, yours and your donor’s.
- Failure to meet donor expectations, a requisite to trust and loyalty.
You may never have prioritized addressing any of these as particular problems. Especially if you were meeting fundraising goals. Or perhaps you had no goals at all.
But, guess what?
There are two tiny little problems with this somewhat aloof, transactional approach to donor communications and fundraising:
1. You leave people who’ve opened their hearts to you without a heart connection.
Donors deserve and yearn for this. When you merely transact business, no matter how efficiently, I argue you’re not doing your job as a philanthropy facilitator. You’re robbing donors of the meaning and purpose they seek. The best in the profession understand what I learned years ago from my mentor Hank Rosso, founder of The Fundraising School: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.” Don’t you want to find joy?
One of the simplest most donor-centered ways you can approach your work is simply to apply the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Stop being a transactionalist and become a donor experience transformist.
2. You leave money on the table.
In other words, you fail to generate philanthropy that could have been used to help make a greater impact – if you’d just dared to dream larger.
It’s not good enough. Not for those who rely on you to fulfill your mission. Not for those who support you.
ROBOTS ARE FOR STRANGERS
Whenever you transact business in a hands-off manner you do the opposite of building relationships and making friends.
And one of these ways, as simple and seemingly unimportant as it may appear at first blush, is sending communications from what I’ll term ‘yucky email addresses.’
I highlighted some of these above.
I receive them by the boatload.
I generally ignore them when I’m not connected to the organization.
But when I’m a current donor, I’m often frustrated that I can’t reply to the robot if I want to make a comment or ask a question.
You see, if I want to connect with the executive director… or development director… or events manager… or volunteer coordinator… I want it to be easy. I don’t have their email address handy. I don’t have the time to look it up. Sometimes I take the time; then can’t even find it! Arrgh…
Yucky, yucky, yucky. I want to love them, but I feel a sense of hatred they’re making this so difficult for me.
If anything about you and your cause seems yucky, everything else can become tainted with that yucky.
Sometimes people are simply looking for excuses not to engage. Or to disengage.
Everyone has an overstuffed email inbox at this point.
Don’t give people an excuse to hit “unsubscribe” when your email appears in their mailbox.
PERSONAL CONNECTION IS TRANSFORMING
Even in a time of social distancing, nonprofits have an extraordinary power to bring people together in support of a common endeavor. Are you availing yourself of this power?
Are you empowering supporters to connect with you on real, human terms?
People long to be part of a community… clan… tribe… club…. congregation… circle… society… family.
Whatever name you call your group of supporters, rest assured there’s no one named “noreply” who is recognized as a valued member.
Don’t fall down on the simple stuff.
It matters more than you think.
Image part of San Francisco’s “Art in the Void” project to beautify storefronts