[Podcast] 4 strategies and 1 fundamental truth for standing out among other nonprofits

Differentiation is the one the best ways to set your organization apart from the rest. But how do we go about doing that in our donor communications when there are so many worthy causes?

Last week, we interviewed fundraising expert Jeff Brooks about four great strategies for differentiation and he also shared one important fundamental truth.

Listen here for his answer: Jeff Brooks on Differentiation

Brooks’ fundamental truth: “Donors don’t give because you’re great. They give because they are great.”

It’s tempting to talk about your organization’s accomplishments and what you’ve done with donations to prove yourself worthy but that’s not what donors want to hear. Instead, they’d like to know what they’ve accomplished by giving a donation to you.

Here are Brooks’ four strategies that back up this fundamental truth:

Donors are the heroes of their own stories.

The donor is a part of the action when helping a beneficiary. You communicate with your reader, instead of trying to impress him/her, and use the word “you.” Skip your creative writing techniques and write simply and casually. 

Donors get prompt, detailed, and frequent information on the impact of their giving.

Otherwise, there is a disconnect. To report back to your donors, you can either communicate through receipts or newsletters. Receipts are quick and provide information about what the gift accomplished, express gratitude, include a note from someone the donor knows, depict pictures if possible, and welcome the new donor if this is the first gift.

Newsletters should focus on donors and the impacts of their giving. To strengthen your newsletter, tell wonderful stories, write amazing headlines, write and design for skimmability and readability, ask for donations, and value all levels of donations.

Your writing should be informal, dramatic and readable, focusing on well-told feature stories with emotion. Other reports can include special progress reports about ongoing projects, invitations to phone conferences or webinars about the work, and phone calls to thank donors. 

Donors have control over how you communicate with them.

Let them choose the channels they want to use and opt out of the ones they don’t want. Ask them what topics they want to hear about and how often they want to hear from you. Let them leave your list if they want to. Send them questionnaires via mail and/or email to find answers to your questions. 

Donors receive extremely focused images.

Don’t get caught up in the “creative” vs. “old-fashioned” argument. This argument rarely considers effectiveness, and designs can use both. Avoid fonts that are creative but hard to read (use serif fonts for text, sans-serif for online text), reverse type, type over tints and colored type. Focus, instead, on readability, simplicity (not flashiness), cultural appropriateness and flexibility to vary your communications.

Finally, watch the following indicators, instead of just listening to advice, to see if you’re connecting with donors and they’re staying with you longer: campaign results (strong response, average gift and net revenue), donor retention, and donor migration (upgrading, donors increase their giving amounts and downgrading, donors decrease their giving amounts.)

Hear more from Jeff Brooks’ in our podcast about how nonprofit brands can work against you.

Learn more about books on this topic and our summaries.

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