Over the years I’ve realized the importance of keeping things simple. This past year we needed to keep things simple since we were limited in what we could do, especially outside the house. Instead of running back and forth from place to place, we stayed put, although we spent more time online.
Things are starting to open up, but there’s still a lot of stress and uncertainty. Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I’m not that excited about being anywhere that’s crowded. The pandemic allowed me to find pleasure in simple things such as taking a walk, reading a novel, and doing yoga, which I’m going to 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, politics, 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. You’ve gone through a lot this past year. You had to make changes in the way you do your work. Maybe you’re starting to provide in-person services again and some people are back in the office. All this change has made your work more complicated.
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. If you pack too much information into your message, it’s likely your donors won’t respond to any of your requests.
In your fundraising appeals, don’t bury your ask. You can start with a story, followed by a clear, polite 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 to 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.
Keep out the 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 Westside 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 and clutter-free, as well as 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 by Marco Verch