Over the years I’ve realized the importance of keeping things simple. For some of us, the pandemic forced us to keep things simple since we were limited in what we could do, especially outside the house. I found pleasure in simple things such as taking a walk, reading, and doing yoga, all of which I continue to make time for, if I can.
Keeping it simple doesn’t have to mean a bare-bones existence. There’s a Swedish term called lagom meaning everything in moderation or not too much, not too little. Or think of Goldilocks and choose what’s “just right.” This can apply to how much information we take in about the pandemic, the economy, politics, the war in Ukraine, etc. – enough to know what’s going on, but not too much so it’s overwhelming.
Keeping things simple is also important for your nonprofit organization. I feel like we are in a constant vortex of change. I know you’re continuing to navigate this uncertain climate.
That said, you need to continue to raise money and communicate fairly regularly with your donors, while not taking on too much. Donors are also navigating the changing situations, but they want to help if they can and they want to hear from you. What they don’t want is a lot of complex content.
Here are a few ways to simplify your donor communication without making it too difficult for you.
Keep it simple by planning ahead
If communicating regularly with your donors sounds overwhelming, plan ahead by using a communications calendar. You should be in touch every one to two weeks, if possible. Otherwise, aim for once a month. Fill your calendar with different ways to do that and update it as needed. A good rule of thumb is – ask, thank, update/engage, repeat. And as I mention below, you can keep it simple with shorter communication.
Keep it simple by sticking to one call to action
Your communication needs to be clear. Before you send an email message or letter, ask what is your intention? Is it to ask for a donation, say thank you, or send an update?
Stick to one call to action. Suppose you send a message that includes requests for a donation, volunteers, and for people to contact their legislators. It’s likely your donors won’t respond to all of your requests and may not respond to any of them. Send separate messages for each request.
In your fundraising appeals, don’t bury your ask. You can start with a story, followed by a clear, prominent ask. Recognize your reader. Thank previous donors and invite potential donors to be a part of your family of donors.
Your thank you letter or email should thank the donor. Simple, right? Make them feel good about giving to your organization. Welcome new donors and welcome back returning donors. You don’t need a lot of wordy text explaining what your organization does.
Keep your messages simple, yet sincere, and include a clear call to action.
Keep it simple with shorter, easy-to-read messages
Plain and simple, if your communication is too long, most people won’t read it.
Limit print communication, such as newsletters and annual reports, to four pages or less. Your email messages should be just a few paragraphs. On the other hand, you don’t want to be terse or say too little.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain
Be sure your communication is easy to read and scan. Use short paragraphs, especially for electronic communication, and include lots of white space. Don’t clutter up the page.
Keep it simple by using conversational language
I find it annoying when I read an appeal letter or newsletter article that sounds like a Ph.D. thesis. Write at a sixth to eighth-grade level. That’s what most major newspapers do. This is not dumbing down. You’re being smart by ensuring your donors will understand you. There are programs out there that can help you determine the reading level. Plus, you can raise more money if your messages are easy to read.
Keep out jargon and other confusing language. Instead of saying something like – We’re helping underserved communities who are experiencing food insecurity, say – Thanks to donors like you, we can serve more families at the Eastside Community Food Bank.
We’re seeing real people being affected by real problems. Don’t diminish this with jargon and other vague language.
Use the active voice and there’s no need to get fancy by using a lot of SAT vocabulary words. Again, you want your donors to understand you.
Keep it simple by creating a clutter-free website
Your website is still a place where people will go to get information. Make sure it’s clear, clutter-free, and easy to read and navigate. Don’t forget about short paragraphs and lots of white space.
One of the most important parts of your website is your donation page. It needs to be easy to use and collect enough information without overwhelming your donors. If it’s too cumbersome, they may give up and leave.
If it’s a branded page (e.g. not a third-party site like PayPal), make sure it’s consistent with your messaging and look. Don’t go too minimalistic, though. Include a short description of how a donor’s gift will help you make a difference, as well as an engaging photo.
Make it easier for your nonprofit and your donors by keeping things simple.
Photo via One Way Stock