As we move into Spring in the northern hemisphere, and Fall in the southern regions, I have a few tips to “spring” on you and some best practices for you to “fall” into! [NOTE: Did you know modern medicine changes somewhere around half its “best practices” every few years?  We should be thinking about, re-evaluating and changing ours more frequently. People don’t change, but times do. And everything happening outside your nonprofit’s doors impacts how people think, feel and behave.]

5 Things to Consider This Month

1. “Write” your next fundraising appeal using your voice technology.

Instead of sweating over every word, and endlessly re-editing, try speaking into your smart phone or computer speaker as you would to a friend you’re trying to inspire. Tell them what need the organization meets, why it would be absolutely horrible if your organization couldn’t meet this need, and what you want them do to help create positive change. Ask them to DO it, very specifically! “Would you consider giving $100? You can use check, credit card or even Venmo or PayPal” is a lot more likely to get action than “I hope you’ll consider supporting us.” [NOTE: This is not a suggestion you text your appeal, though there’s a place for text appeals within a fully-fleshed out, multi-channel fundraising plan. Here I only suggest you use your voice to loosen up your writing process and make your appeal sound more natural, less formal or stilted.]

2. Use emotion verbs to show, not just tell.

Here’s a chart developed by the editors at the Agitator-DonorVoice. It’s a way to show people how someone is feeling so they have a visceral resonance that reaches them on a deep emotional level. “She was sad” is boring. Next time you’re crafting an appeal or newsletter story, go back over it once you think you’re done and see if you can substitue some of these emotional verbs for the boring adjectives.

Emotion Words Table

3. Collect client, volunteer and donor testimonials through interviews.

Testimonials are a wonderful way to demonstrate your viability using the persuasion principle of “social proof.” People believe what others say about you more than they believe you. Don’t simply ask for written testimony, work solely from thank you notes you may source from program staff, or even rely on Yelp reviews.  When people talk they simply come across as more heartfelt. Strive for authenticity by recording folks and transcribing what they say.  Then publish that to sprinkle throughout your marketing messages (e.g., website home page; donation and thank you landing pages; e-newsletter; blog; donor reports; annual report), volunteer recruitment appeals, thank you letters and fundraising appeals. For more on why the spoken word is more emotional, see here.

4. Stop guessing.

If you want to know what donors think, ask them! Surveys are good. Sitting down 1:1 with a donor is even better (and, yes, you can do this over Zoom).

If you want to know which email subject line works best, test it! The same holds true with the red donate button vs. the blue one.  Or just about any variable you can think of.

If you want to segment your mailing list by donor identities, pay attention to donor behaviors online and offline. What pages on your website do they open? What articles in your e-news do they click on? What social media posts do they share? What do they talk about most when you’re with them?  This will help you get a handle on the part of their identity that matters most to them. Is it that they’re an attorney? Or a grandmother? Or a gardener, artist, pickle ball enthusiast or pet lover?

You get the idea, right? Never make assumptions. Never simply take the word of your opinion giver (be they a board member, your CEO or an outside consultant).

5. Send an upgrade appeal to monthly donors.

Consider asking for an upgrade from those sustainers who joined more than six months ago. As monthly donor guru Erica Waasdorp states: “Everything has become more expensive, especially food and gas, so donors will understand why you’re asking for a small upgrade, especially if you’ve been stewarding them well. If you’ve provided updates on how their gifts have made a difference, they’ll understand how a dollar, or a few dollars, can make a difference. It’s a small deed once again, but they all add up!” The other benefits of doing this is you may get updated credit card information. You also might transfer some folks over to EFT (electronic fund transfer), which research shows boosts long-term retention. Seriously think about adding this to your planned strategies in the months ahead.

BOTTOM LINE: Keep doing things that work while simultaneously trying new things to see if they work better.

Here is a BONUS!!!

This is exclusively for enrolled Clairification School students — you! — and is my way of thanking you for being a part of the Clairification community.

This bonus is designed to help you engage your board as leaders and philanthropy facilitators. I hope you enjoy!

Board Committment Form Template