5 ways to WOW today’s donors

The donor fundraising landscape is changing. A few years ago it was enough to have decent fundraising/admin ratios and an adequate “thank you” strategy. Today’s donors want more*. And when donors want more, ministries and nonprofits had better figure out how they can offer what they can.

I spotted these changes as I began to examine the growth of “causes” in North America and Europe. The shift is driven by a mix of sociological, generational and technological factors. (I’m still thinking my way through the technological influences.)

Without worrying about the “whys,” here are 5 ways you can WOW today’s donors today.

1. Today’s donors want to know they make a difference. This one is easy. Your receipting and acknowledgment process is the baseline. As we’ve discussed before, donors are not wowed or impressed by basics. There are too many sharp organizations out there who are doing far more than the basics. Sticking with the basics will begin your decline. To draw donors closer to the heart of your work (remember, it’s about them) you have to show videos, quotes, photos, endorsements, etc. from the very people a donor has impacted. Dial down the “thank you” language and dial up the “here’s-the-difference-you-made” language. Of course, I’m not saying to stop saying “thank you” but you can only say “thank you” so many different ways. You have to shift to “here’s the difference you’re making.”

Wow donors by focusing on the difference their gift made!

2. Today’s donors want to “see.” I’m using “see” very intentionally. Don’t think traditional written word (that’s important but it’s in the basics category). It’s a visual world and technology allows you to use a breathtaking range of visuals. You can show donors the problem you’re asking them to solve. They can see the plight of people you serve. They can see the results of their gifts. Infographics should replace columns of numbers. Here’s a marvelous video that functions as a “video infographic.” You can marry traditional written word and visuals. QR Codes and special URLs give donors a way to see what’s happening (the need) and the difference they made. Pinterest and Instagram will be huge for you when you figure out what strategy works for your group. And as a reminder, it’s a mobile world. Remember the donors you want to wow aren’t necessarily viewing your visuals on a 60” flat screen. It is likely that most will be on some kind of mobile device — either (or both!) a smart phone or tablet.

Wow donors with visuals!

3. Today’s donors want to share what they’re doing. It cracks me up when “experts” poo-poo Facebook and social media because they can’t plot a direct ROI for those. You’ll hear people who are supposed to be “in the know” saying that Facebook “friends” don’t mean anything in the development/fundraising world. Oh boy do I think they’re missing the boat. Sharing, forwarding, liking digital content about your cause is a terrific gateway to involving a donor. Sharing about your cause is a way to get a donor to take an action. Sure, you might prefer a large gift, but remember this isn’t about you. Let donors “share” digitally. Help them see the difference that makes (“Thanks to you, more people heard about this important cause!”). Help them understand that spreading the word is a powerful way they can help.

Wow donors with opportunities to share their influence!

4. Today’s donors want the opportunity to give more than money. Sadly, many nonprofits and ministries think about volunteers as a necessary evil. Sure it can be a real pain to figure out how to use all the people who want to help, but once they’ve given you some time (or hard work) they are closer to your work. You are treating volunteers as donors right? If people jump on your bandwagon through the gift of time, they have raised their hands and are ready to know more of how they can help. My vote? If you have more volunteers than opportunities to serve, you should create ways for them to help. I know that seems a little sketchy, but if you can create ways for them to serve, and I’m not talking about busy work here, but if you can create a real opportunity to serve, then you’ve created a new donor acquisition channel.

Wow donors with opportunities to give time!

5. Today’s donors want to be known. Donors want you to know who they are. Remember that many of your donors and prospective donors are immersed in the world of sophisticated CRM (customer relationship management). When they rent a car at Avis, they’re known. When they go to their coffee shop, they’re known. Do you “know” your donors? Treat donors as strangers at your peril. If your donors volunteer, then mention that in your next direct mail appeal. If your donors are faithful social media supporters, communicate that you know and value their time and influence.

Wow donors by knowing them!

That’s my list. What about you? What do you think? Do you think these will WOW donors? I love hearing what you think.

*Be careful that when you read “today’s donors” you don’t think about age or generations. These factors are about donors today, without regard for age. Older donors want these 5 things, too. You really cannot afford to ignore them.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: zharif)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

3 thoughts on “5 ways to WOW today’s donors”

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