I’ve selected five major themes – fundamental nonprofit fundraising strategies — to discuss with you this year in depth. Strategies that are so important to your success in 2016 – and beyond – that I want to be certain (1) you’ve got them on your priority list, (2) will begin to dedicate some serious resources towards them, and (3) will commit to practice them regularly, until they become almost second nature.
If you learn to “Dive the Five” you’ll be able to raise money for anyone, any place, any time. And I’ll be your Guide.
Some of these skills will seem familiar, but the way you employ them may need to be tweaked in order for you to survive and thrive in our digitally-revolutionized society. Other skills may be things you’ve thought about, or dabbled in, but haven’t really committed to with serious intent and dedicated resources.“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans.” – Peter Drucker
To refresh your memory here they are, in no particular order. I’ve highlighted the one I’m leading with today, because it’s an embracing concept that should truly be woven into the fabric of everything you do.
- Integrate donor-centered fundraising with a social content marketing strategy.
- Master donor retention.
- Master one-to-one major gift fundraising.
- Master online social fundraising.
- Shift to an organization-wide culture of philanthropy.
Here’s what matters in today’s connected world:
- Assure people find you;
- Assure that once they do they will give a fig;
- Define yourself in such a way that you stand out;
- Define yourself in such a way that you appear relevant;
- Define yourself with clarity, so you don’t confuse folks with inconsistent messaging, and
- Invite people to join you in your unfolding story.
You’ve got to make what you do, and the way that you do it, matter to people.
And this is why your nonprofit must excel at making your case for support in a manner that effectively does the job within the current zeitgeist. Which brings us to the first of our five fundamentals.
Integrate donor-centered fundraising with a social content marketing strategy.
Let’s begin with the first part of this two-part equation: “Integrate. Donor-centered. Fundraising.”
Every word is intentional and impactful.
- Integrate = bring together; no more siloes. Your donor only knows one organization.
- Donor-centered = focus on your constituents’ needs; not yours. Show you value you donors. Love them. Praise them. Give them useful content.
- Fundraising = something everyone does; we’re all in fundraising now.
Even though your organization may be divided by department or function, your communication with donors should be unified. Presenting a united front to the world is essential if you want your vision to be crystal clear and your mission compelling.
This requires shifting to an organization-wide donor-centered culture. Some call this a culture of philanthropy. This is so fundamental to your success that I’ll be discussing it frequently this year as another one of the top 5 skills you must master.
I often call this a gratitude culture; one in which everyone’s role (especially the donor’s) is appreciated. A culture where everyone understands you’re all working towards the same goals; not different ones.
This means it’s time to end siloed thinking. And siloed organizational structures. Especially when it comes to marketing and fundraising; they’re essentially the same thing.
Stop bombarding your constituents with inconsistent messaging dreamed up, independently, by different departments. Stop sending confusing, overlapping communications one week that make it appear the right hand has little idea what the left one is doing; then going for weeks or months at a time with almost no communication whatsoever.
ACTION TIP: You need to become a philanthropy team! Integration requires a centralized, coordinated plan. One that everyone buys into. And with every single message, your mission, vision, values and focus on your donor must always shine through. I used to meet monthly with the E.D., the Associate E.D. and my top development and marketing staff to talk about key priorities and messaging for the next several months. It was good to hear what they thought was important; then to talk about it through the lens of what donors might care about. We didn’t always agree, but we did begin to understand each others’ perspectives better.
Which brings us to…
Your donors don’t value your ego. So stop with “I,” “Our,” and “We.” It’s not about you.
Truly donor-centered fundraisers work hard to understand and take their donors’ point of view to heart. In every single encounter and communication.
Donors want to make an impact; they’re not focused on money. If all you do is talk about your fundraising goals and how much things cost, you’re going to miss the point of fundraising entirely.
ACTION TIP: As you start to get a better idea of who your donors are (e.g., using survey data; creating donor personas), your job is to help donors see themselves as actors in your story. And not just any actor; the hero. Think about telling stories that require saviors. Draw your donor into that story. Put the hero where they can act like a hero.
Which brings us to…
Another word for fundraising is “matchmaking.” Why do you do it? Matchmakers help people find their soul mates. They strive to connect folks based on shared values. They do everything in their power to build relationships that will be long lasting and mutually satisfying. It’s all about persuading others who share your values to join you in fulfilling your mission.
The notion that everyone in your organization is in the business of fundraising parallels Daniel Pink’s notion that “we’re all in sales now” (see To Sell is Human). Everyone is in the persuasion business on a daily basis, whether it be to influence your partner to take the garbage out or encourage your kid to learn to ride a bike.
ACTION TIP: Whenever you talk about fundraising with your board, volunteers and staff leaders, talk about it in light of the positives outcomes it will accomplish. Giving connects people to their highest ideals.Fundraising is persuading so that good things can happen. Fundraising must stop being seen as a “necessary evil.” It must be seen as a good thing – for everyone. Because it makes donors feel good, and it makes good things not just possible; probable.
Now to the second part of this equation: “Social. Content. Marketing.”
- Social = building lasting relationships.
- Content = what you have to offer folks that connects them to your mission.
- Marketing = how you deliver content.
By definition, social means “relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other.”
A social strategy is an engagement strategy. A two-way, not a one-way, street.
It doesn’t mean mindless, random posting to social channels. It’s got to have purpose. Your end goal? To change or enhance your target audience’s behavior. Which is why I’ve said Nonprofit Social Media without a Content Marketing Strategy Sucks.
ACTION TIP: Create and stick to a strategic social media routine designed to 1) build relationships with potential donors, and (2) secure desired action responses. We’ll talk much more this year about building your online social plan. For now, just be sure you make it a priority and allocate appropriate staff and monetary resources to do an effective job.
Which brings us to…
Again, all content is not created equal. Just any ol’ content will not be worth your while. That’s not a content marketing strategy. It’s just “stuff.” Stop with the stuff already. No one cares.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as
“the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. A content marketing strategy can leverage all story channels (print, online, in-person, mobile, social, etc.), be employed at any and all stages of the buying process, from attention-oriented strategies to retention and loyalty strategies, and include multiple buying groups.”
If you’re just bragging about how great you are, or what you believe, then you may be creating “top of mind awareness” among your target constituents. But it will do you little good. It’s an old-school approach to marketing.
The new-school approach is “friend of mind awareness.” You must engage enough with your potential supporters that you’re able to discern their needs and longings. You must get inside their heads. You must search for empathy.
Jay Baer of “Convince and Convert” and I agree that your future success depends on your ability to help people, not “sell” to them.
ACTION TIP: Ask yourself what is relevant and valuable to your audiences. Think in terms of what Jay Baer calls “youtility.” How useful is your content? I’m sure if you look around you’ll find all sorts of valuable, underused content. Stuff that your constituents could use. Maybe it’s “Tips to Babyproof Your Home” that you use in a workshop. Or a “Recommended Reading List” that you share with participants in one of your programs. Or even healthy recipes your staff shares with one another. Get creative!
Which brings us to…
My favorite definition of marketing comes from Seth Godin.
“Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer, believe. It’s about what we, the listener, believe.”
Think about this definition for a moment.
It’s the quintessence of consumer-centric (aka a “donor centric”) thought.
A retailer may think the sweater they’re selling is the warmest on the planet. Or the best value. But if the folks to whom they’re selling care primarily about the prestige of the brand, they won’t be persuaded to buy based on this pragmatic approach. The sweater seller is not standing in their buyer’s shoes.
Similarly, if you try to persuade your donor to give based on your comprehensive case management model (“much more than a band-aid”), when what they really care about is giving emergency food and shelter (“saving a life right now”), they won’t be moved by your reasonable appeal.
To be effective at marketing requires embracing the truth that different people are swayed by different sorts of arguments, based on different ways of viewing the world.
Despite the fact that you may believe, passionately, that your view is the better one, you’ve got to let go of it. Or else accept defeat.
To be effective at fundraising and nonprofit marketing requires you to put your moral convictions aside.
ACTION TIP: Step into your donors’ truths. Stop talking about why you believe what you’re saying to be true. Instead, take your donor’s point of view and make your arguments with empathy. Stand in their shoes. What’s in this for them? I recommend following Seth Godin’s advice, and asking these three essential questions before advancing any thesis:
- “What’s your story?”
- “Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?”
- “Is it true?”
Then add one more question: Will people care about this story enough to act?
That’s what integrated donor-centered fundraising and social content marketing is all about. Telling a true story in which people can envision themselves being the heroes that make change happen.
May clairity be with you.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts that will go into greater depth on this topic, as well as an overview of one of the next topics in this year-long series of “Dive the Five — 5 Fundraising Fundamentals to Guarantee Nonprofit Success.” If you’re not yet signed up as a subscriber, please do so below to assure you receive all the posts in this year-long virtual fundraising course I’m offering. You’ll get a free gift when you do!
Image via Stuart Miles, Freedigitalphotos.net