What you need to improve your donor communications

Donor communications

Strategic donor communications planning is a multi-step process. However, starting out in the right direction is paramount to the success of your larger goal. We begin our planning process by asking why we are creating this plan in the first place. Do we have a problem to resolve or an opportunity to build on?

For example, recent college graduates may believe that their alma mater does not need their donations because they have a large endowment. Therefore, the organization would want to communicate that the endowment is not an ATM. It is there for long-term financial stability, not immediate needs, so their annual gifts are still needed. This would be an example of a communication problem that needs to be addressed.

On the other hand, a generous donor may have made a gift that you can claim if you match it with the support of others. This is an opportunity to let your constituency know the value of their contributions can increase.

Let’s look at where to improve your donor communications based on the message you want to send:

Reinforcing your organization’s mission in donor communications

Digging a bit deeper, ask yourself “How does this challenge/opportunity relate to our mission? Is it detracting from (or enhancing) our mission? Is it a situation in which we can communicate more clearly about who we are and what we stand for?”

Nonprofits and higher education organizations are often driven by their missions and your donor communications should constantly reinforce that.

Positioning the organization’s mission to your donors

In a similar vein, does the situation illuminate how you are positioned in the minds of key audiences? Is the positioning positive or negative? Is the positioning where we want it to be? If not, how can your donor communications plan get us from where we are to where we want to be?

Never forget that just a positive perception may not necessarily be what you are looking for, and repositioning might be in order. For example, suppose the organization is viewed positively because of its work with the homeless. In that case, you may want to pivot your mission to reducing hunger, so the messaging in your donor communications effort may need to be updated to reflect that change.

Differentiation from the competition

Closely aligned with positioning is differentiation. Private companies know well that they must differentiate themselves from the competition, but nonprofits or educational institutions may not always consider that.

However, if a donor interested in the environment doesn’t know the difference between the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, how will they decide where to make a gift? Being clear about your unique contributions to the world does not imply boasting or negating others. It simply means bringing clarity to your communications process.

Awareness of your organization

It is necessary to know whether your audience is even aware of your organization or cause to fashion an effective communications strategy.

Why? Because a prospect will not make a gift to an entity they do not know exists. This may be a time to conduct a survey of key audiences to determine where they stand on the spectrum of awareness/knowledge/behavior.

Knowledge of what you do

Let’s assume that your key audiences know you exist, but that’s about all. If you are going to launch a capital campaign, people will want to know why. What do you need to do that can’t be supported by annual fundraising?

For an institution of higher education, it might be professorships or scholarships; for a research institution, it might be a new building. You will also want to let prospects know what you have accomplished already and why you can do an even better job with their assistance. 

Behavior of your donor base

If your constituency is aware of you and understands what you are doing to fulfill your mission, the most critical piece of the puzzle comes into focus: behavior. This is the most challenging element of the plan. It is easier for people to take in information than act on it.

When it comes to fundraising, the goal is to sustain existing behavior (giving or volunteering, for example) or to catalyze new behavior (making a gift or volunteering for the first time). An excellent job with awareness creation and knowledge transfer will go a long way toward supporting desired behavior, but it is not guaranteed.

Every organization is unique, yet most have common fundraising challenges. Learn more about how Raise from Gravyty and AI can transform your fundraising by allowing you to reach the right people at the right time through personalized, timely communications. Book your free consultation.