The Personal Touch

I recently received a mailing from a nonprofit organization highlighting its 2012 accomplishments.  As I read it, I was struck by the impersonal tone and that the organization wasn’t focusing on the people they serve.

I don’t mean to single out this organization, because I know others are guilty of the same thing. This organization does great work and to their credit they did try to engage with their donors, they thanked their donors, and they didn’t ask for another donation. 

That said I would have recommended something more personal. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you communicate with your donors. 

Not all donors are the same
The mailing seemed more appropriate for grant or corporate funders.  This organization specializes in cancer treatment and research. Some of the accomplishments they featured were advances in their research, grants received, and their national and local rankings.

The only donation I ever made to them was when I bought their holiday cards.  I was drawn to the organization and their work because I lost a beloved uncle to cancer last fall.

People donate to nonprofit organizations for a variety of reasons, but many give because they have a personal connection to the cause.  These donors are going to want to hear how you are helping people.

Be conversational
In this mailing, the organization referenced a new community cancer care clinic they opened at a local health center, located in what they referred to as a “medically underserved community.”  That’s a great accomplishment, but the word underserved sounds like jargon to me.  

I think you should be conversational with donors and not use jargon or clinical sounding words.  Imagine yourself talking to a friend and use everyday language. 

How are you making a difference?
The organization shared a list of accomplishments that focused much more on their success than the specific impact they had on the people they serve.

I would have liked a story about a person whose life benefited from this new clinic.  Perhaps they could have highlighted a patient who used to have to travel miles to get care and now it’s available a few blocks from her home.

The organization also emphasized its “compassionate care”.  What does that mean?  Maybe they could have included stories and testimonials demonstrating that.

Use engaging photos
All photos in this mailing were black and white and most of them were pictures of researchers.  I know you can’t always include photos of patients, but maybe feature some who had successful treatments, along with their stories. 

They did include a photo of kids hanging out with some baseball players.  More photos like this would have been better.

Finally, photos are usually more captivating when they are in color.

What are you sending out? 
Take some time to look at the messages and materials you are sending out.  Are they appropriate for each donor group?   Are you focused on thanking your donors and showing how you are making a difference for 
people you serve?

You’ll do a better job of engaging your donors if you can be personal.

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