It’s Not About You

It’s annual report time.  I know – yawn.  Annual reports can be a great way to engage with your donors, but they often put you to sleep. One problem is they tend to be too focused on the organization.

How are you making a difference?
I recently received a “Milestones 2013” report from a nonprofit.  It included a list of accomplishments that made them sound as if they were bragging about how great they are.

Don’t just list accomplishments.  Let your donors know how they are helping you make a difference.

Instead of only saying you expanded your tutoring program to serve middle school students, let your donors know why that’s important.  Tell a story about Kevin, a 7th grader who struggled with math, until he started meeting with Jeff, his volunteer tutor.

Instead of just saying you opened a mammography suite at a community health center “extending optimal care to members of underserved and minority communities,” give a specific example of what that means.  Will this make it easier for neighborhood women to receive mammograms?   The more personal and specific you can be, the more you will connect with your donors, and that’s what you want.

The same problems arise in newsletters. Your donors want to hear success stories and aren’t as interested in grants you received or if your executive director received an award.

You should certainly acknowledge your major grants, but show how that will make a difference.  Your $50,000 grant from the Do Good Foundation will allow you to expand your afterschool program to five more schools. Now these students will have a safe place to learn new skills and make new friends.

What do your donors want?
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of being donor-centered.  Think about what your donors want to hear.  One way to find out is to survey them. 

Collect information about your donors in your database.  You can also create donor personas or profiles.  


Speak your donors’ language
That means not using jargon, the passive voice, and words you have to look up in a dictionary. Just because something makes sense to you, doesn’t mean your donor will understand what you are trying to say. 

One way to help you be more personal when writing to donors is to pretend you are explaining something to a friend.  Do you use jargon and the passive voice when talking with your friends?  I hope not.  In most conversations, you are also probably not focusing too much on yourself.

Not all donors are the same
You might need to send different materials to different types of donors. The traditional multi-page annual report with the donor list etc is not relevant for most of your donors.
Instead send your smaller dollar donors an oversized postcard with photos, quotes, accomplishments, and thank you messages. Postcard Annual Report Your donors are busy and don’t have time to read a long report. This way you can capture their attention in an instant.

If you want to produce a slightly longer report, here’s a great example of a donor-centered “gratitude report” created by the Agents of Good. Annual Reports

Be donor centered

Keep focusing on what’s best for your donors. Remember, it’s about them, not you.

Photo by Naaman Saar Stavy via Flickr

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