Stewarding Our Donors – Communication by Another Name!

19/03/2012 at 10:08 Leave a comment


Penelope Burk has released some preliminary information from the fourth annual Cygnus Donor Survey. The last survey question is always a doozy – What could unleash your philanthropy at a whole new level?

And wouldn’t we all like the answer to THAT one! Penelope’s overall response is,

“You will not be able to change donors’ views by asking them to think differently.
You will, however, be able to shift donors’ opinions over time by interacting with them differently.”

Italics are mine.

This made me think about the Heath Brothers’ book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Their research and the book make a very good case that change has two components – the rational brain and emotional mind. I enjoyed hearing Dan Heath talking about the book and their findings. It struck me that the research they did can positively impact how we interact with donors – and change how they engage with us and us with them.

Cygnus Research supports this. When the survey asked what would unleash their giving, donor responses were about their emotional mind – not the rational brain. Italics and bold are mine:

  • If my giving made me feel like I was making a difference. ….I would give more if I had that feeling back again that you get from giving.
  • Telling me more GOOD NEWS and making me feel like my gifts are having an impact. I don’t need to be told how bad it is out there – I already know. I want an empowering, less depressing tone in messaging that is asking me for money.Helping me believe there is something I can do….. I cannot change this (issues), but maybe I can help those who work to mitigate these hideous shames on humanity.
  • A change in focus of fundraising appeals. I like the “Look what we could do if…..” approach….What is most interesting to me is something that will have a significant “ripple effect”.
  • Fundraising appeals that do a better job of showing donors that they are connected to the people who need our help. This would make me more likely to contribute to their well-being, for the common good.
  • Having the need for funds translated into personal stories
  • Knowing that the money I give is making a real difference in people’s lives (not just a drop in the ocean of need).
  • Knowing someone personally who is involved in a not-for-profit……. both my heart and my wallet are more likely to open.
  • Knowing that my giving produces results.
  • Combining volunteer work, giving and travel. … seeing the issues a not-for-profit faces myself would inspire me to give more.

How we share our story and communicate with donors has to be about them – not about their gift – THEM. They helped children learn how to read. They made an impact on climate change. They are a part of your team to end river pollution. Donor-centered communication is key to our success in building support for our mission and work. The Heath Brothers said change is hard – but it takes the emotional AND rational to make it possible. Cygnus research proves the point.

Entry filed under: Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising, Nonprofit Research. Tags: , , , , , .

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