What Going Back to Middle School Can Teach You About Donor Communication


You may be wondering how is middle school relevant to your donor communication when most of your donors are old enough to be parents or grandparents of middle school students? And who wants to go back to those awkward years, anyway?

But keeping middle school students in mind can help you improve your donor communication.  Here’s how.

Write at a sixth to eighth grade level

Most middle schools go from sixth to eighth grade and this is the level you want to aim for when you write. You’re not dumbing down, and it doesn’t mean using abbreviations like LOL and BFF.  It means using clear, everyday language your donors will understand, and that’s being smart.

I wouldn’t rely too much on Word Grammar check, but the Flesch-Kincaid readability statistics can be helpful. Test your document’s readability 

Besides determining a grade level and reading ease, it flags passive sentences, which weaken your writing. Instead of saying 5,000 meals were served at our community dinners, say we served 5,000 meals at our community dinners.

Remember to use (not utilize) language your donors will understand. Avoid throwing out terms like underserved and at-risk without giving specific examples of what they mean.  Instead of saying we work with at-risk youth, say we work with students who are in danger of not graduating from high school.

I’m bored

Middle school students have short attention spans. So do a lot of adults. Your donors are fielding messages from a bunch of different sources. Stand out with a clear, well-written message to the right audience. How You Can Break Through the Noise

What’s in for me

Speaking of attention, we all want people to notice us.  Middle school can be an awkward time as you try to fit in and make friends. Bragging about yourself all the time won’t help.

You’re not paying attention to your donors when you send messages that are all about you. What’s in it for them?  Make your donors feel good about donating to your organization and show them how they are helping you make a difference.

Be mobile friendly

Most kids get their first mobile phone when they’re in middle school and then they can’t put it down.  Your donors are also reading messages on their mobile devices, as well as tablets and computers.  It’s a good idea to survey your donors to find out what devices they use. Chances are it’s more than one.

Besides being multi-channel, be multi-device.  Make sure your donors can easily read your content and donate on any device. How to Find Out if You’re Mobile Ready or Not

Share photos and videos

Once young teens get their first phone, they’ll start sharing photos and uploading videos.  These can be a great, quick way to connect no matter how old you are.

Share your “nonprofit selfies” of engaging photos of the people you serve, your programs in action, or say thank you.  Do the same with videos, and keep them under two minutes.

The key to good communication is a clear message that will capture your donor’s attention right away.

Photo by Jose Kevo

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