Are you a number cruncher or a change-maker?

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Are you a number cruncher or a change-maker?

We may think our main job as fundraisers is to raise money.  It isn’t.  That is merely a by-product.  Our main job as fundraisers is to make people who support our charities feel they are part of something extraordinary.  And we do that through excellent donor care and compelling storytelling.   When I spoke recently at the Fundraising Ireland Conference I explained that despite the myriad of fundraising job titles we all sport, as fundraisers there is something we all are…….. storytellers.

Without stories, fundraisers are just number crunchers. With stories, we are change-makers. 

It is emotion that makes people take action, and it is connection that makes them want to stay around and be part of something extraordinary.

Storytelling has been around since the dawn of time.

From the earliest cave dwellers, storytelling connects people to their community and puts their world in context. 

In fundraising, storytelling connects your donor to your organisation and puts your ask in context.

It helps explain who you are without droning on with facts and figures; it helps explore why you exist without talking about yourselves; it helps demonstrate your impact without using remote and boring language.

Donor care – the art of making the people who support you feel a part of something extraordinary – is the most important function of fundraising. Yet, it is often seen as mere output of your organisation -a thank you letter or a strong appeal written in isolation. And yes, while donor care does encompass every physical output of your charity, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

How many of your charities have someone who answers the phone?  How many of those people have been out to a project / met with services / interacted with the people / projects you help in the last 3 months?   That is donor care. Do all your communications give the same message?  That is donor care.  Do you know where you are taking your donors with your communications over the year or three years? That is donor care.

It is more than a thank you. It is more than a website. It is more than a testimonial. Do you appreciate them? Share with them? Include them? Do you understand why they support you? Do you know what it takes for them to give to you?

Donor care is making people who support you feel part of something extraordinary.  And I’m going to say it again. It is the most important job of fundraising.

What is donor care?   Before you can deliver any of your outputs effectively, you have to build your donor care base.  So at the top (tip ) of your ice-berg you have all your outputs – everything from your direct mail appeals, your newsletters, your website, your customer care, your thank you’s.  But under the surface you have the foundations: your content, your map, your communications and your case for support.

Case for Support – this is the foundation of your donor care programme.

Why do people support you?  Do you know? Can you refine and define what every one of your fundraising initiatives is for and what impact the money raised will have?

If a donor rang today, can you summarise in a couple of sentences what the impact of their gift will be?

Why are you fundraising? What will be the difference in a year’s time if you succeed?

It may sound like the simplest thing, but being clear about what you are raising funds for can be a complex matter.  Developing a vibrant, concise and compelling Case for Support gives your fundraising plans and donor communications focus, direction and energy.  And makes it much easier to fundraise

 Donor Communications – this is the bedrock of your donor care programme

This is the language, the voices, the tone and the personality of your organisation.   Do you use place names that no-one has heard of?  Do you use technical language or ‘insider’ phrases that normal civilians don’t understand?  Every time you speak in a way that a donor doesn’t understand, you exclude the.  Every time you talk about yourself and not them, you exclude them. Every time you talk at them instead of to them, you exclude them.

Donor Calendar – this is the map of your donor care programme

We talk a lot in fundraising about taking our donor on a journey.  But how many of us know where we are taking them, and what are the landmarks along the way?

Your donor calendar is a plan that enables you create a clear pathway – a compelling storyline – that will bring them into the heart of your organisation… it allows you to plan your content and stories over a long period of time so that you are in charge of experience your donor has with you.

Content – – this is the fruit of your donor care programme.

Is gathering content – stories, impact, voices – built in to your everyday job?  Is there a culture within your organisation of sharing and sourcing relevant information that will engage your donors and demonstrate the impact of your work?   Content won’t come knocking on your door. As fundraisers we have to make it our business to know our business and ensure we have what we need to deliver effective stories and donor care materials.

Database – finally, it is important to use your database effectively so you are saying the right thing to the right people.  I talk about this is more details here.

Over the next few blogs I will explore each of these elements in detail, but in the meantime… a quick donor care summary!

To develop strong and compelling donor care:

  • Always focus on the Why before how
  • Always demonstrate impact
  • Always look outside in, not inside out (bring your donors into the organisation, not throw information out at them)
  • Always know the ask
  • Make sure you define your voice
  • Draw a map
  • Fill the tree with fruit
  • Use your data






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