Information overload is an understatement right now. We’re bombarded by messages of all kinds from many different sources.
How can your nonprofit keep up with all this? You want to communicate with your donors, but you don’t want your messages to get lost in the shuffle. It won’t be easy, but here are a few ways to make your messages stand out.
What’s your intention?
What’s the purpose of your message? What do you want your reader to do? Maybe it’s to donate, volunteer, attend an event, or contact her legislators. Maybe you’re sharing an update.
Think from your reader’s perspective. What would she be interested in or what would make him take action?
Keep it simple and stick to one call to action.
Choose the right channels
Most likely you’ll use more than one channel to communicate. Pay attention to the channels your donors are using and focus your efforts there.
Email is often the primary way nonprofits communicate and there’s a reason for that. It’s fast, easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost everyone has an email address. You can quickly get a message out to a lot of people. Also, unlike social media, it’s something you can control. You don’t have to rely on a social media algorithm to hope your message ends up in your donor’s feed.
But email has its drawbacks. People can get hundreds of emails a day plus messages from other sources such as social media. It’s easy for your messages to get lost in this melee. I often don’t read all my email. I usually scan through the burgeoning list to see what looks interesting. That, of course, depends on if I even have time to look at my email.
Some email messages, such as a fundraising appeal or an event invitation, you’ll probably need to send more than once. Try not to send messages to people who have already responded.
You can also go multichannel. For example, include a link to your e-newsletter on your social media platforms.
While you’ll likely use electronic communication pretty regularly, don’t discount direct mail. Your donors are more likely to see these messages. We get far less postal mail than electronic communication. Also, a person can put a piece of mail aside and look at it later. Don’t count on that happening with any type of electronic communication.
Get noticed right away
A good subject line is the key to getting someone to open your email message. If he doesn’t bother to open it, all your work has gone to waste.
Give some thought to it. Instead of Donate to our Spring Appeal or May 2019 Newsletter, try Find out how you can help Michael learn to read or Thanks to you, Dara won’t go to bed hungry tonight.
For postal mail, consider an engaging envelope teaser or a colored envelope with a stamp. You don’t want your letter to look like junk mail.
Keep it short
Your next step is to get your donor to read your message. Keep her interested. With email, yours may be one of hundreds she’ll receive that day, along with whatever else is going on in her life.
Make your messages short, but engaging, and get to the point right away.
Keep this in mind when you send your e-newsletter or updates. You might want to consider a two-article newsletter twice a month instead of one with four articles (and it’s unlikely your donors will read all four articles) once a month.
Given the cost of direct mail, why send a six-page annual report when you can wow your donors in an instant with an infographic postcard?
Photos and other visuals can be a great way to stand out, especially on social media.
Make it easy to read and scan
Besides sending a short message, use short paragraphs and lots of white space, too. Your messages need to be easy to read (and scan) in an instant. Don’t use microscopic font either.
Be personal and conversational
Write directly to your reader using clear, conversational language – no jargon. Address your message to a person – Dear Janet and not Dear Friend.
Segment your lists so you can personalize your messages. For example, you’ll create different messages for current donors, potential donors, and monthly donors.
Don’t cast a wide net
It’s important that you send your message to the right audience and your audience isn’t everyone.
You’ll have more luck with a fundraising appeal when you send it to past donors or people who have a connection to your cause. The same is true for event invitations or recruiting volunteers.
You may want to reach out to as many people as possible, but that won’t guarantee you’ll get more donations or event attendees. Segmenting and engaging with the right audience will bring you better results.
Be a welcome visitor
If you communicate regularly and do it well, your donors should recognize you as a reputable source and are more likely to read your messages. If all you do is blast them with generic fundraising appeals, well good luck to you.
Make sure people know your email is coming from your organization. In the from field, put DoGood Nonprofit or Lisa Wilson, DoGood Nonprofit. If you just put a person’s name or firstname.lastname@example.org, people may not know who it’s from and ignore your message.
Only send email to people who have opted into your list. Otherwise, you’re spamming them. Some people will choose not to receive email from you, and that’s okay. The ones who do are interested in hearing from you. Give people the option to unsubscribe, too.
Even though people only get a few pieces of mail a day, most of it’s junk mail. You never want any of your letters, newsletters, or postcards to be perceived as junk mail.
It’ll take a little more work, but it’s possible to make your messages stand out so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.