When “Make the donor the hero” is shaky fundraising

by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing. He blogs at The Clued-in Copywriter.

It’s popular in fundraising to tell donors they’re heroes. As if that alone is a fundraising proposition. In reality, it’s often not a solution but a problem in itself.

The problem is that “you’re a hero” is not a relevant donor benefit. Can you imagine a fundraiser talking with a donor in person and saying with a straight face, “You’ll be a hero when you give”? Would any rational donor accept it? It just isn’t believable.

There’s lots of research about why donors give. If you look through the responses from donors about why they give to a specific cause — say, rescue missions — you’ll see a wide range of reasons. Everything from “I wanted to do something good” to “People need help” and more. Nobody says, “I wanted the charity to tell me I’m a hero.”

For inexperienced fundraisers, adding hero references to an appeal becomes an easy substitute for doing the direct-response things that will actually work in fundraising. Things like:

  • Coming up with strong offers that will motivate donors
  • Presenting donor benefits that are believable and tap into donors’ deeper aspirations
  • Putting forward valid reasons to give

The fact is, “donor as hero” is often misinterpreted to mean that all we need to do is slap “Hero Campaign” on an appeal, or show a photo of a typical donor wearing a superman cape, or simply write in the copy “You’re a hero!” and then the fundraising is donor centric.

Those things alone won’t do much to engage and persuade donors.

That’s because “Donor as hero” is a reminder to us fundraisers. It’s not intended to be taken literally or to be used in a literal sense. It doesn’t mean that we put a “Be a hero” label on an appeal or blatantly tell donors they’re heroes, and leave it at that.

We need to make them feel like heroes. Not tell them they’re heroes.

We have to show them their heroism with things like:

  • Engaging stories that put the donor at the center of the narrative.
  • Reasons to give that are believable and relevant to donors.
  • Statements of donor benefit that speak to donors’ values and deeper motivations.
  • Creating urgency with deadlines, descriptions of what happens when donors don’t give, and other approaches.
  • Filling appeals with human emotion instead of statistics, facts, and similarly dry information.

This means going deeper to understand donors’ real motivations, connecting with them on the level of shared values, and showing how they can create real, lasting change. That’s what builds donor relationships.


Comments

8 responses to “When “Make the donor the hero” is shaky fundraising”

  1. OMG. Thank you for this.

  2. OMG. Thank you for this.

  3. Sara Jane Lowry Avatar
    Sara Jane Lowry

    Yes! Thank you, I have seen too many of these campaigns.

  4. Sara Jane Lowry Avatar
    Sara Jane Lowry

    Yes! Thank you, I have seen too many of these campaigns.

  5. James Callahan Avatar
    James Callahan

    First rule of a marketing plan – don’t talk about the marketing plan…

  6. James Callahan Avatar
    James Callahan

    First rule of a marketing plan – don’t talk about the marketing plan…

  7. True “donor as hero” creative means positioning donors as having direct impact on the missions that move their hearts, and positioning organizations as the conduit for them to have that impact. (Not positioning the donor as a funder of the organization’s programs.) To do that, we must listen to donors, and communicate, ask, thank and affirm them in the way(s) they prefer.

  8. True “donor as hero” creative means positioning donors as having direct impact on the missions that move their hearts, and positioning organizations as the conduit for them to have that impact. (Not positioning the donor as a funder of the organization’s programs.) To do that, we must listen to donors, and communicate, ask, thank and affirm them in the way(s) they prefer.

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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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