Let Your People Do the Talking (Do It Differently: Part 1)

Our first post in the new Do-It-Differently series, featuring fresh ideas from the field. Thanks to Renee Thompson, director of philanthropy, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

Nonprofit StorytellingTested Turnaround! Introducing a new fundraising spokesperson—one of our clients (an individual who’s benefited from our donors’ support).

Keeping It All about Our Donors, Not Our Organization
Traditionally, our ED produced all year-end content, reviewing the past year’s work and impact. That’s how most organizations do it, after all.

But last year, we decided to ask one of our clients to share her story of what donors have done for her family, along with her thanks and a request for more support to help folks like her. We wanted supporters to see for themselves the impact of their donations.

Meet Julie, Our Spokesperson (and Beneficiary)
Julie is one of our food bank’s beneficiaries and the voice behind our 2014 year-end appeal for major donors—those who gave $1,000-plus over the course of a year.

Julie is a successful businesswoman and mother in our community—just like so many of our major donors. She reached out to us after her life toppled to the point of needing emergency food, something she never expected to happen. We helped her feed her family when she had nowhere else to turn.

Her story is particularly powerful for major donors because it shows a different face of hunger—someone who went from living in the wealthiest area in our community to standing in a food line, and now working again and giving back, all thanks to the help of our donors. Best of all, Julie wanted to help.

Craft Your Beneficiary-Based Campaign

  • We began by inviting Julie to a face-to-face interview where she verbally “wrote” a letter to our major donors—her peers, in effect—about her experience with us.
  • We built that conversation into a two-page campaign letter based mainly on Julie’s own words and then powered it up with color photos, a first-time addition for our outreach to this group of donors.
  • Since Julie wanted to maintain her privacy, we used photos of her hands holding fresh produce, carrying it in overstuffed bags, and placing bags of food into her car; these were be included as a series of stills at the bottom of each page of the letter. Specific images like this reinforced the reality of Julie’s experience for our donors in a way that’s hard to forget.

Thankfully, Julie recently started a new job and was eager to give back to the community by volunteering at the same food distribution site where she stood in line just 15 months ago. We featured this good news as a follow-up in our gift acknowledgment thank-you letter. In fact, Julie was so grateful for our donors’ help that she wanted to add personal notes to these letters.

Ask Your People—Beneficiaries, Donors and more—to Share their Stories
Your people’s stories are likely to motivate your donors (major and “regular”) to add to their support and/or get further involved in our mission in other ways. Give it a try!

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Originally published on the Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Guest Blogger on November 17, 2015 in All-Org Marketing Team | 2 comments
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  • GREAT advice for nonprofits who are looking to change up how they communicate with donors. The use of peers in that communication can be a really powerful motivator. Going to have to explore this idea with my own board! Thank you for sharing!

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Luke, let us know where you get with this technique!

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