Who’s talking to whom when you’re raising funds?

The voice of direct-response fundraising should always be one person talking to one other person.

Forget the reality that you’re creating a mass-produced message to a large audience. That’s what you see. You’re aware of the large number of people you’re addressing.

What the donor should see is something more intimate. Not an organization talking. It’s an individual speaking for the organization. And not a crowd receiving the message. Just one person.

This is important, because if your fundraising sounds like an impersonal organization addressing a crowd, you’re going to leave your donor feeling cold, detached, and less clearly connected to the issue. That kind of communication is almost like those horrible situations where crowds witness a crime or accident and don’t do anything to help. The crowd dynamic releases each of them from responsibility. That’s not how you want donors feeling while they consider whether to send you a gift.

Be very careful that “you” is always singular. Don’t slip and say things like “some of you” that place the reader in a crowd.


Comments

8 responses to “Who’s talking to whom when you’re raising funds?”

  1. I was just talking with the Executive Director of Front Steps, a homeless organization in Austin, today, and telling her about this.
    One of the best ways to do a mailing so that you don’t fall into the trap of impersonal organization addressing a crowd, is to do it in batches of 150 letters each, once a week. And put a specific spin on each letter. Maybe tailor one letter to business donors, one letter to communitarians, one to religious donors. See how many you can personalize by hand.
    Ideally, you have a database set up so that you can mark which donors responded to which kind of appeal.
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

  2. I was just talking with the Executive Director of Front Steps, a homeless organization in Austin, today, and telling her about this.
    One of the best ways to do a mailing so that you don’t fall into the trap of impersonal organization addressing a crowd, is to do it in batches of 150 letters each, once a week. And put a specific spin on each letter. Maybe tailor one letter to business donors, one letter to communitarians, one to religious donors. See how many you can personalize by hand.
    Ideally, you have a database set up so that you can mark which donors responded to which kind of appeal.
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

  3. Great suggestion, Jeff! I think that we often forget that there is a human on the other side of every solicitation – regardless of the fundraising vehicle.
    I think this is a good reminder for corporate and fundraising relatinships, too. There are still individuals making the decisions!
    Thank you for this needed reminder.

  4. Great suggestion, Jeff! I think that we often forget that there is a human on the other side of every solicitation – regardless of the fundraising vehicle.
    I think this is a good reminder for corporate and fundraising relatinships, too. There are still individuals making the decisions!
    Thank you for this needed reminder.

  5. I think we often forget there’s a human on the other side because we haven’t been out there enough, interacting face-to-face and getting to know our donors. We get caught up in front of our computers and don’t get out the door.
    If we meet with donors more often we will always have in mind their individual personalities and communications needs.

  6. I think we often forget there’s a human on the other side because we haven’t been out there enough, interacting face-to-face and getting to know our donors. We get caught up in front of our computers and don’t get out the door.
    If we meet with donors more often we will always have in mind their individual personalities and communications needs.

  7. You bring up an excellent point, Brian. In fact, some of the best advice I ever received was to picture one specific donor that I knew, and write the solicitation letter (or whatever it is) as if I was writing only to them. It really makes a difference. Of course, that means you have to know at least some of your donors.

  8. You bring up an excellent point, Brian. In fact, some of the best advice I ever received was to picture one specific donor that I knew, and write the solicitation letter (or whatever it is) as if I was writing only to them. It really makes a difference. Of course, that means you have to know at least some of your donors.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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