How donors are different from you

The other day, my daughter (a college student) sent a short thank-you note to my godmother (a lady in her 70s).

Within minutes of receiving it, my godmother called me. She gushed and gushed at the wonder of it. She told me, among other things, that it “brought sunshine into my home.” (She talks that way.)

She had considerably more to say about the note than the note itself said.

When I get a note from somebody, I look at it, think to myself, Well, isn’t that nice, and move on to other things. Not that big a deal. I imagine you’re like me.

Which got me thinking about the differences between older people (which I’ll define as people over 70) and us (which I’ll define as people comfortably under 70).


  • They have more time on their hands than we do. They take time to savor small pleasures that we often rush past in our urgency to get everything done.
  • They deeply value relational connections, even distant ones that we tend to hurry past.
  • They really love getting stuff in the mail. For us, the mailbox is mainly a depressing wasteland of bills, bad-deal credit offers, and irrelevant catalogs. They still get real stuff from real people.

Most of our donors are these older people. That’s why direct-mail fundraising hasn’t just faded away like some people have thought it would.

It also tells us a few things we should know about getting fundraising to work that we might not figure out if we only look within our younger selves:


  • Make it personal
  • Connect with the donor
  • Remember that you’re cultivating a relationship, not making a business transaction.

Most important: Always have a mental picture of a specific older woman in mind when you create fundraising materials.


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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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About the blogger

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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