What many donor development experts call “relationship” fundraising or marketing isn’t complicated, says Doug Brendel of BBS & Associates. Donor relationships work just like friendship. How many traits of friendship mirror your communications with the people who support your church, nonprofit or ministry? According to Brendel, here’s 14 traits that need to be in place for your fundraising campaign to be successful:
The person signing the appeal needs to become, in the donor’s mind, a regular everyday person. Don’t just discuss “ministry business.” Talk to your donor about your family, or your car breaking down, or your dog dying, and you’ll have the donor’s interest — because you’re on common ground.
Don’t settle for “This is exciting!” type messages. Share the facts of the situation with which you want the donor to become involved. The fuzzier you are in communicating the facts about what will be accomplished with the money the donor sends you, the leerier the donor will be about sending you money.
Forget about perfect college-paper composition when you’re writing to your donors. Write from your heart. Use plain English.
True friends don’t shade the truth. Are we willing to lay it on the line? “We need $12,000 by March 15th.” Don’t hold out on someone and then expect them to act like a friend.
As you communicate with your donors, be yourself. Be the same person all the time. Don’t remake yourself just because you get bored.
The friendships that make a difference in my day-to-day life, the friends who influence me, are the ones who are present every day. Ministries are often nervous about “mailing too much,” but the opposite is a greater danger. Frequency of contact is crucial.
Your best friend improves your life. Your life is better in some way because of your relationship with that person. Don’t just communicate requests for help. Newsletters demonstrate the dividends of the donor’s investment. Thank-you letters and thank-you calls deepen the bond of friendship. Give your donors gifts — insights, ministry products, whatever — that will improve their lives. Become valuable to them. Then they’ll become valuable to you. (Not every donor communication can “pay for itself.”)
Provide information the donor can’t get anywhere else. Only you can tell the story of a family transformed by God’s love through your ministry, or how your heart broke as you witnessed some crying need, or how your heart soared as you saw that life restored. The more you share about your ministry’s uniqueness, the more connected your donors will tend to become to it.
Sure, talk about your organization, your need, your potential — but frame it in such a way that the donor is in the picture. The cause must involve her, especially in the opening line of every communication. Making this connection is the hardest and yet the most important work a ministry marketer can do.
Friends stay friends in part because they find each other interesting, intriguing. Boring appeals never raise money.
Friends listen. Ministries don’t tend to. Solicit feedback from your donors.
Tell me something about yourself, and it signals me that “we are alike” — which opens a channel between us. A ministry leader telling me something about himself personally engages me in a way nothing else can.
Vulnerability takes transparency one dangerous step further: now, instead of simply revealing myself to you, I will reveal to you things that you could dislike me for. “I have doubts.” “I have bad days.” “I get angry.” Because the risk you’ve taken is so evident, the bond between you and the donor is dramatically intensified.
People’s lives tend to be average, unexciting. In many, many people there is something crying out for passion — for something to feel intensely about. They want to believe that there is something worth being passionate about — and if you speak passionately to them, they are likelier to open that critical channel of communication. Speak with intensity to your donors.