This is a simple way to increase response rates and average gift – by a big margin.
Next time you are putting together a brief, forget the real purpose of your job. Whether you are working to end global poverty, protecting Canadian lakes, stamping out cruelty to children or even trying to end discrimination towards people living with mental health issues, simply put everything you know about your cause to the back of your mind and concentrate on this new one instead.
For the creation of this brief, you now work for the Society for Nice, Middle-Class Older People – SONMOP.
This fantastic charity has one purpose. To make nice, middle-class, older people feel good about themselves through sending them great communications through the post (I think the old-fashioned name for these devices is letters, though I understand there are now electronic versions too).
The charity that actually pays your wages is going to help you in your new job by providing the background information to show the donor just why they should feel good. It's a sort of joint approach, where both the charity and the donor wins – a little like a Comic Relief / Sainsburys type of deal.
You'll find raising funds for SONMOP much easier than any other job you've done as the donor's needs are placed at the centre of the brief.
So rather than taking organisational needs such as explaining a new policy, featuring a 'representative' balance of different projects, communicating a set of key brand values or even explaining a project in unnecessary detail our goal is now to give the donors what they want – or more accurately – what they need from a charity.
It's a liberating experience. One that takes you to the heart of effective fundraising.
I know from my own working life, that it is all to easy to become so excited about new plans, new brands or a great new USP that we can easily start to believe that our donors are as interested in these issues as we are.
Unfortunately they aren't. And by pandering to the desire to talk about ourselves, we fail the cause that we are trying to serve.
Instead we need to talk about the donor and what they have made possible.
An appeal that Bluefrog recently produced for The Prostate Cancer Charity was an example of this. Rather than simply show the donor why money was needed, the focus was firmly moved to telling the donor what they had helped achieve.
But it wasn't just left there. Extra effort was put in to show the donor that The Prostate Cancer Charity knew what they – as individuals – had done, speaking about them in the letter rather than just about ourselves. They showed them they valued them, were interested in them and let them know they saw them as partner, not just a source of income – it was like a super-charged report back
In return, donations sky rocketed.
And this is just one example of how this approach pays dividends.
So let's get back to those great people supported by SONMOP. Here are 5 tips on how you make this appeal as effective for them as possible.
1. Talk about the donor rather than yourselves.
If you make your donor feel special, they are likely to reciprocate. So show them how important they are. Not through sycophantic praise but by demonstrating that you are aware of what they have done for you. For example, they might not be the wealthiest person in the world, but they could be the most generous or longest standing donor in their hometown. If they are (which can be ascertained through some simple database analysis), then show them you know it and thank them for it.
This is just one idea. There are many other ways to put the focus on the donor.
2. Rather than make your pack easy to put together through the use of machine enclosable components, use real handwriting or post-it notes.
Authentic beats corporate style design every time. For more details on how this works see this blog post by the best fundraising copywriter in the world. And remember, it's not highlighting important information that counts. It is showing the donor that you care enough about them to treat them as an individual.
3. A donor is more interested in hearing about something they have a real interest in, rather than something a charity feels is important.
But don't fall into the trap of thinking a donor sorts your work into the same pigeon holes as you do.
For example, most donors don't really care if they are saving lives through provision of things like clean water, inoculations or increasing food supplies as long as you can help them visualise the difference they are making. A shopping list is a way of both suggesting a donation and making a gift more tangible. You'll know from your own testing that (within a set window) successful gift prompting is more dependent on emotional worth than financial value.
4. Don't think you know better than a donor does.
You'll never out guess a donor. Learn from what they tell you – through their actions and direct communications. Don't think that they are bored with a type of creative approach just because you are. You must always test new ideas, but base them on what your donors need rather than what would work for you.
5. Donors aren't all the same!
Just because some complain about being asked for money twice a year doesn't mean all donors are sitting at home seething because you have had the temerity to ask for another gift. You can ask your best donors for more money more often. It's an idea that Sean Triner calls pareto squared and it works.
If you don't think your best donors would be found amongst the supporters of SONMOP, you can always set up your own organisation with similar aims designed just for your supporters (but I'd have a very good look at those SONMOP supporters first).