Your Great Story Isn't Enough
The biggest beef I have with most of today's content marketing experts is this: In the end, they claim it’s all about a good story when it’s not. You can tell the most honest, interesting, moving story possible and never get the customer to pick up the phone, send an email, make an appointment with you, click to fill out a lead form... take an action. And that's just a waste of a good story!Jeff’s talking about the use of stories for sales in the commercial world, but I believe much of what he says also applies to us good people working in non-profits. Jeff doesn’t hate a good story, he just thinks it’s not enough – and I think he’s right. When you tell a story about your work, are you connecting it back to your donors with the most powerful offer/request for support possible? Are you moving their hearts and then making it easy for them to join in and help? If your story/offer doesn’t compel a donor to take action and make it easy for them to do so, if it doesn’t draw them closer to your work and make them proud to be associated with you, if it doesn’t motivate them to think, "I love this organization. I want to do more to help – and I will!" you have to ask yourself, "Can I do better?"
One essential you need to get right
Non-profit executive directors and development directors often ask me: "How can we use direct mail without being overwhelmed by complex strategies, production issues, postal regulations and other things I just don’t have the staff or time for?”
These leaders at small to medium size organizations get it. They recognize that…
(a) A significant portion of the U.S. population are charitable and willing to support causes they believe in.
(b) Even though social media is all the rage, the vast majority of donors use direct mail to make their donations. (Many love to research organizations like yours online, but they do their actual giving the old way – at least 90% of it anyway!)
So from summer on, I answer their question like this: “Make sure you send out a year-end appeal to all your donors.” Even if it’s a low-key request for help, getting something into the hands of your supporters in the thick of the charitable giving season is essential –In fact, most non-profits receive nearly half of all annual donations in the fourth quarter. But it won’t happen magically. Out of sight, out of mind. In the frenzy of the giving season, you’ve got to be on your donors’ radar screen – reminding them of the good works you’re doing and, most important, that you depend on them to make those good things happen. If you don’t tell them, how will they know?
When done properly, a mailing with a compelling offer and direct ask sent to the right audience, can produce truly stellar results. One organization we helped with only 4,000 donors generated income of more than $100,000 from a single year-end mailing!
Labor Day has come and gone – NOW is the time to get started! Remember, your donors aren’t just your donors. They “belong” to other organizations as well – organizations who will be reaching out to them this fall. . .
Will you get there first?If you want to save the work and worry of producing a year-end appeal, we are ready and happy to help! Just click here to see a sample of our year-end package format – we’ve made it simple and affordable for small and medium-sized organizations to get an effective year-end appeal into the mail. Minimum 3,000 pieces New River’s team of agency pros will create and mail your year-end appeal for just .88 cents per piece, including postage! To participate, please contact Margaux Parento by phone 954-535-0644 or email Margaux@NewRiverCommunications.com). I must hear from you by Wednesday, September 12th to participate!
Quit Social Media? Not so fast…
Social media motivating more donors under age 40
Social media shows no real improvement in motivating an online gift among donors 40 years old or older (10 percent in this survey versus 8 percent in 2010). However, social media giving continues to grow among donors under age 40, as a full 30 percent now say they have given online because of social media compared to 24 percent in 2010.My co-worker at New River Communications Christa Chappel just shared the perfect example of social media as a direct response channel: …Florida Yorkie Rescue continues to engage and involve people (donors or prospects) on Facebook and the owner Kit has said that if it weren’t for her doing that on Facebook she wouldn’t raise as much money. She doesn’t have funds nor time probably to participate in direct mail or do a major fundraising event but she posts about a situation (dog needing surgery), the goal amount to solve the problem, and all of a sudden within 48-72 hours she hits her goal. I am a donor and have given to almost every one of her cases… Bottom line, it’s a multi-, multi-, multi-channel world out there, and the prospect of quitting social media – even if we wanted to – isn’t really an option. The only question now is: what do we do with it? The answer isn’t the same for every nonprofit, but I believe nearly all can find ways to enrich their relationship with donors who use some form of social media – and isn’t that just about everyone these days? Now, off to tweet this to the masses…
Five Ways to Boost Your Fundraising Returns
Five Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid
Most charities these days, large or small, are operating on tighter budgets than ever before. So when you spend good money to get a letter in the mail to your donors, make sure you get it right. Here are five all too common mistakes to avoid if you want your fundraising letter to actually raise funds:
- Every letter tries to cover everything you do. Most charities have various programs as part of their overarching mission. When writing a letter to your donors, it is not necessary to detail ALL the ways that your charity helps others. Even in acquisition, you don’t have to discuss EVERY single program provided by your organization. Instead, choose one compelling program to focus on and tell a personal, in-depth story that makes an emotional connection with your donor.
- Avoiding the ask. Never stray away from asking for donations. Don’t worry, you’re not being pushy. Direct mail means being direct with your supporters. Tell your donors exactly what you want them to do – DONATE! Remember to ask early and ask often. Unless you actually ASK for their help, very few donors will offer.
- Overlook the reply device. A common mistake is to write the response device as an afterthought once the letter is completed. Even before writing your letter, be clear on where it will lead your donor – it should be directly to the reply device. A good response form not only asks for the donation, but also reinforces the reason to give.
- Fundraising by committee. With every additional person who reviews your appeal, the copy gets weaker. Not better. Copy that’s written by committee fails to be “real” or authentic. Your letter should sound like it was written by a human being to another human being. Overall, strive for an informal, warm, conversational tone because that’s what people respond to.
- Copy is NOT donor-centric. When writing your copy, keep in mind that it’s not all about you or your nonprofit. After all, your charity didn’t rescue the litter of kittens found in the dumpster…Your charity didn’t build that water well for a poor village in Guatemala. Your donors did all that – and more! The truth is, your supporters want to know what’s in it for them. What they get may be intangible, but when they give they get something just the same. Your letter needs to offer it to them.
What will your non-profit do with the public’s social media addiction?
Lessons from the Kony 2012 Campaign
- Viral video campaigns can be very successful at generating attention and support. While your effort might not generate this kind of “lightning in a bottle” success most nonprofits would be thrilled with 1/10th of a percent of the views this video created. Wouldn’t you be happy if a modest 100,000 new people heard about your organization’s good work?
- Some causes are harder to explain than others. Either because they are too complicated or too obscure. With all forms of fundraising, but especially when trying to recruit new people to the cause, you must humanize the problem. This video does a great job of first humanizing the cause by featuring the story of a young Ugandan Jacob Acaye whose brother was killed by LRA members.
- We also can learn a lot from the effective way this campaign simplified the cause. The issue of child soldiers is complicated. Like most causes it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a cut and dried solution. But this video uses the device of explaining the situation to a young child to make it simple and sets up the easily understood premise that if we can make the bad guy famous it will lead to his capture and solve the problem.
The Write Stuff
Lessons from a Fiasco
Go multi-channel, but don’t forget to do this…
It’s “multi-channel madness” out there these days, with every non-profit across the country thinking about how to connect with their donors!
Just count the many ways…Get them to like you on Facebook. Tweet ‘em on Twitter. Direct mail ‘em, email ‘em, call ‘em. Meet ‘em not where you want them to be, but where your analytics people tell you they are – online, offline, on the phone, on the moon… wherever they may be! All good advice, BUT… before you start blasting out your message by every communication channel known to humankind, do this: Slow down, take a deep breath and find a story worth telling. You’ll know it when you come across it, because it’ll speak to your heart and remind you why you got into this crazy non-profit business in the first place… It won’t likely be your PR person’s dream tale, a story that portrays your non-profit in all its glowing perfection (and leaves donors saying “that’s wonderful, but who needs me?”) It’s more likely a gritty story that grabs your donor by the hand and walks her right up to the scene of a need – and leaves her thinking: “This cannot be, I’ve got to do something!” … a story like this one we developed for an international relief organization: Every week, I’m receiving reports from our ministry partners in the field who, with minimal resources, are struggling to provide starving children with their daily bread. One of our team members, recently returned from Haiti with this heart-wrenching Mission Report: “The food program in Gonaives can only be stretched enough to feed 50 children a day. During one of those days, after most of the children had eaten, there was enough food for a few more. So I opened the door and I was surprised and pained by what I saw: a long line of children quietly waiting. As much as we tried to stretch the food there was only enough for a few more that day, and then I had to shut the door…” With tears in his eyes and his voice cracking, Andrew said that closing that door in the face of a starving child was the hardest thing he’d ever had to do in his life…
So, you see, your story isn’t “our organization is the greatest ever, won’t you lend a hand?” Rather it’s an opportunity to let your donors see, taste, hear – to feel in their marrow – a critical need that demands to be addressed. Of course, you’re implicitly telling your donor that your organization is ready and willing to meet that need, but that’s not your story. Your story is the door closing on starving children and your donor seeing herself there and thinking, “I’m going to help hold that door open so more little ones can pass through and eat.” So ask yourself: Beyond mission statements and vision statements, when you roll up your sleeves and really get down to work, what is your organization’s story and how will you tell it?