Marcy's Blog: You Are Not Your Donors

You are unique. We all are--and that’s a good thing. But when you’re writing your year-end appeal, your newsletter or or even a survey remember one thing:

you are not your donors.

Even if you give to the organization you work for, and if you don't, you should. 

Yes, you have been drawn to your work as a fundraiser or leader because you feel some resonance with the mission of your organization--hopefully that’s why you’re working in the nonprofit sector, and hopefully you can articulate why you work where you do (beyond the regular paycheck)--but we’re getting off track.

You are not your donors, and they are not your organization’s staff or board.

They don’t know everything that you know about what you do, and that’s ok. They don’t read every newsletter article or email you send out. They don't attend every event.

There are many different ways into your work, and your donors are going to connect with you in different ways, at different times. 

It’s up to you to map those routes, and meet your donors where they are. 

It’s up to you to be consistent and strategic in your outreach in your communications (have a plan!). 

It’s up to you to listen. 

It's up to you to give them what they need--not what you think they want.

Depending on how big your donor list is, this may mean segmented communications and strategies, but even for the most basic budgets, it means knowing who your donors are and what they want, and then delivering that consistently.

Your donors don’t spend as much time with your statistics, your clients, your land, your policies, your animals or your message as you do. And that’s ok, they don’t need to, and most of them probably don’t want to. That’s why you and your colleagues have jobs. 

I’m not saying you should dumb down what you write for your donors, or what you say to them. But you need to be realistic about the amount of time, effort and energy most of your donors have for your work, and you need to be efficient with those resources before you can think of asking for their money. This is respect on the most basic level.

Here’s what all donors want:

They want to give to a cause they care about: So you need to make it clear what their gift will do and make it easy to give.

They want to feel connected with others who share their values: So show them how they belong.

They want to be successful: So show them how they’ve made an impact.

How can you do this? Share a story from another donor, share a story of your work in the field, share a media clip about your work. Show the donor how she or he fits into that story, and show them that they have a clear place in your continued journey.

Save the jargon, acronyms and statistics for your colleagues, and use your time with your donors (be it in person, over the phone or by email) to delight and inspire.