One of the hardest things missionaries and other non-profit groups face is communication and fundraising … in essence, their marketing. It’s a unique challenge.
After all, there’s no product to “sell” or “service” to provide that directly benefits the donor (other than maybe a tax deduction). That begs the biggest question of all for fundraisers …
“Why do people donate?”
These are observations I’ve made on why people donate … and some pointers on how you can utilize that knowledge.
1. People give to feel good about themselves.
We all know the saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Thankfully, there are people in this world that live by these words. If some of them happen to be your donors, the least you can do is to maximize the impact of their gift and make them feel GREAT (not just good) about what they’ve done.
A very simple way to do this (with no increase to costs) is to use specific details when thanking donors. What’s better:
“Hi. Thanks for your gift! You were one of thousands to help us build schools in Africa!”
“Mike, thank you for your recent gift of $500.00. Because of you, we were able to give Kelsey (pictured here) and her two younger brothers the gift of education. They will start school this September in Matola, Mozambique and are the first in their family to go to school anywhere! You helped pay for their crayons and uniforms, and you can’t imagine how excited they are to have chocolate pudding on the lunch menu. You are a hero, and we want everyone to know it so we’ve provided this link for your Facebook page so everyone can see what you helped us accomplish.
We look forward to keeping you posted on how Kelsey and the school continue to fare. On behalf of Kelsey, her brothers, and the other 29 children joining us on our first day … OBRIGADO!”
(Obrigado is “thank you” in Portuguese.)
The first scenario is impersonal, void of details, and therefore lacks impact. The second scenario paints a picture, gives names, and subtly implies there will be further communication regarding the school … but it’s all done softly, with genuine warmth and personality.
(And yes, if you struggle with this kind of stuff, just copy and paste what I wrote above and put in your own details.)
2. People give to solve a problem they find personally important.
The most common question I’ve been asked by fundraising clients is, “Mike, how do we expand our donor base? Our current one is too small, or not giving like they used to.”
The root issue? The fundraiser isn’t clear enough about the (one) problem they exist to solve. That makes communication uncoordinated, really hurting fundraising efforts. If you try to reach everybody, you reach no one.
Communicate the problem you exist to solve. That eases the process of finding people that care about solving that problem. For some of the orgs I’ve worked with, the best bet was to target local donors through awareness campaigns because they had physical locales (think soup kitchens, or dog shelters). For others, they had to do research to find what events (if any) were being held for their cause and try to make connections there. Still others had to leverage online-only campaigns.
“What if I’m an individual fundraiser? I’m not some big NPO!”
Whether you’re a multi-million dollar NPO or a solo missionary to the most remote island in the world, you need to hone the craft of storytelling. People — universally — respond to stories. We all know people respond to pain, injustice, emergencies, need, and one-time tragedies or natural disasters. But they continue giving because they care about that cause. This presents a special challenge for solo missionaries.
The all-too-familiar solo missionary support scenario.
People give to missionaries for different reasons than large, “let’s end world hunger” NPO’s … but if the missionary fails to think and act forward, they end up in a very tough spot. I’ll use myself in this example, with a few comments thrown in.
- Mike and his wife Iris are leaving everything to be missionaries in Matola.
- Mike and Iris’ friends and family support, and they end up fully funded for year one. Awesome!
- Mike and Iris drop off the face of earth. No one hears from them … ever. When they send out a thank you note or request for donations once every six months, their message sounds like the impersonal, detail-starved scenario mentioned earlier.
- Supporters stop giving because they actually don’t really care about Matola … honestly they don’t even know where Matola is on planet Earth.
- The real reason Mike and Iris’ supporters gave in the first place is because they care about MIKE AND IRIS, not Matola. But since they were poor in keeping in touch, or failed to make their donors feel great about giving, donors no longer feel a part of their lives. Giving decreases.
- Asking for more funds now just feels spammy, and Mike and Iris don’t know what to do.
“Ugh, that’s me. How can I fix this?”
Honestly, this scenario really stinks. Most of the missionaries aren’t lounging around or misappropriating funds. A lot of them don’t even have a decent internet connection, let alone a halfway decent computer. To ask them to learn “marketing” or “storytelling” on top of their current ministry duties is just crazy. Who has the time?
That’s part of the reason I’m putting the Marketing For Missionaries course together … and donating over 50% of all proceeds to other missions organizations (51.1% to be exact).
- hours of video teaching on effective communication
- email templates
- support letter templates from letters I’ve written that have raise tens of thousands of dollars
- weekly group consulting and Q&A via webinar
- private Facebook forum
- how to setup a blog
- instructional videos for WordPress blogs
- and more
If this scenario describes you as a missionary, put some of what I’ve mentioned in this post to use. The skills you need to develop won’t come overnight, but that’s part of the reason I’m dedicating my work to helping you.
Question: I’d love to hear some of your struggles in communicating with your donors. Leave a comment below!