5 Steps to Messages that Close the Gap when Demand Exceeds Donations

Just-released survey results from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) show that almost 1/3 of nonprofits reported a slight increase in donations this year to date. But their budgets — as well as those of the 2/3 of organizations that have not seen giving growth — can’t handle the increased demand for services over the same period of time. As a result, most organizations face critical decisions about staff and service cuts going into 2011.

That’s a pressured place to be as you’re fine-tuning your fundraising and marketing agendas for 2011.  Especially since the main reason organizations cited for decreases in giving are (no surprise)…fewer individual donors and gifts of smaller value.

Here are five steps to stronger messages that will help close the gap when giving lags behind demand:

  1. Ask! Get in touch with donors in a few different giving levels, including those who didn’t give yet this year, to learn their current giving criteria. Those criteria should shape your messages if your organization meets them.
  2. Focus on what is working, even especially when times are tough. Not that you shouldn’t mention the budget gap, but maintain the focus on the positive–the impact of your organization’s work (and your donors’ gifts) on the lives of those you serve. I read so many appeals from organizations that focus on the budget gap and what they need to close it. That’s “all-about-me” marketing.
  3. Be clear, but not whiny, about what it takes to close the gap. It’s important for prospects and current supporters to know that you’re not going to be able to provide the same breadth and depth of services in 2011 without their help. Be clear about the gap and what it will take to close it. Keep your tone matter of fact.
  4. Emphasize what gifts at various levels will make possible. Focus on what gifts will deliver rather than what smaller or no gifts will force your organization to withhold. Put a story–with name and photo if possible–to each level of giving.
  5. Be appreciative of gifts and interest. Remember that connecting is the first step to acting. Be explicit in stating your appreciation of your current donors–as you ask them to give more to close the gap–and of your prospects’ interest, even if they don’t give right now. When they feel good about connecting with you, it’s far more likely they’ll give in the future.

What are your messaging strategies as you strive to close the budget gap? Please share your ideas and experiences with the Getting Attention community. Thank you.

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Nancy Schwartz on November 30, 2010 in Branding and Messages | 2 comments

  • Nancy,

    I’d like to reinforce the importance and value of what you shared with a few comments.

    POINT #2: From the “Heart of the Donor” study (highlights in my blog post … http://bit.ly/b4hEj3); they found people want to know 4 primary things before giving:

    – Is there evidence you do what you claim?
    – How do you do it?
    – What have you done so far?
    – How much do you spend on overhead?

    Of course they still need to know WHY you need a donation. And a compelling story of someone’s need is often a great lead. But back it up with this information if you really want them to give. And don’t assume that just because they’ve been supporting you for awhile you can ignore these 4 items.

    POINT #4: This info can really boost average gift size and overall response. I’ve seen it happen with copy I write for charities. It works because this SPECIFIC info helps donors clearly see HOW their gift will be used and how it can help.

    POINT #5: If the lead to an email or a direct mail letter isn’t a story, then opening with donor praise is another solid option. Jump right in with donor-centric copy and donor appreciation. Remind donors how everything is possible only because of them; without their help you can’t perform your mission.

    I suggest charities don’t just make sweeping general statements about this; rather say how “Joe (the beneficiary highlighted in the opening story) wouldn’t have received “x” without donors like you.” Focusing on individuals donors help is another way they build a stronger connection with your charity.

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Fantastic adds, Karen. Thank you.

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