Make a Resolution to Be Donor-Centered

New Year’s resolutions are a mixed bag.  Most people make them with good intentions and then revert back to their old habits after a few weeks.
One resolution nonprofit organizations need to make (and keep) is to be donor-centered.  The term donor-centered is pretty self-explanatory.  You want to focus on your donors’ needs and interests and take into account that not all donors are the same.
Is your organization donor-centered?  Here are a few areas to look at.
Fundraising Appeals
You’d think fundraising appeals would be donor-centered, but many are not.  Some focus too much on the organization – saying how great they are. Your organization may be great, but let your donors figure that out. Your donors are the ones who are great and they want to hear how they can help you make a difference for the people/community you serve.
Donor-centered fundraising appeals are segmented to the appropriate audience.  Thank past donors or reference your relationship to a potential donor.  Maybe they are event attendees, volunteers, or friends of board members.
Many fundraising appeals are vague, impersonal, and filled with jargon.  Don’t say we are helping disenfranchised members of the community.  A donor-centered appeal would say something like – With your support, we can help low-income families find affordable housing.
Thank you letters
Even If organizations do invest time in creating a donor-centered appeal, they often fall short with their thank you letters.  Many come across as transactional and resemble a receipt. Yes, you need to acknowledge that the donation is tax deductible, etc, but most donors are more concerned about how their gift made a difference.
Marketing consultant Kivi Leroux Miller stresses catering more to your donors’ inner angels rather than their inner bookkeepers.  A donor-centered thank you letter (or better yet,a handwritten note), might read – You’re fabulous.  Thanks to your generous donation of $50, we can provide groceries for a family of four at the Southside Community Food Bank.
A donor-centered thank you letter recognizes each donor.  Is this the first time someone has donated?  If someone donated before, did she increase her gift?   Acknowledge this in your letter/note.
Newsletters are a great way to stay engaged with your donors throughout the year, but they, too, are often not donor-centered.
Some newsletters come across as self-promotional and are focused more on the wonderful things the organization is doing, as opposed to how their donors are helping them make a difference.
I recently received a newsletter in which one of the articles looked as if the organization took a press release and stuck it in their newsletter.  It was written in the third person and included quotes from the executive director and program directors.
A donor-centered newsletter article should be written in the second person, as should most of your communications.  Write to the donor and use the word you more often than we. Instead of including quotes from directors, let your donors hear from the people you serve.
Let’s say your organization just opened a community health center.  You could write –  Thanks to your support, residents in the Northdale neighborhood no longer have to travel five miles to get a check up“I’m so happy that I don’t have to take two busses to go to the doctor anymore”, said Mary, a long-time neighborhood resident.
Make a resolution to be donor-centered and stick with it throughout the year.  Be sure every message you send to your donors will make them feel special. 
Read on for more information.

Photo by LC Nottasson via Flickr

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