how to make your donors care about what you’re doing

It’s a busy, noisy, crowded, distracted, self-absorbed world. You may have wondered how to get and keep your donor’s attention.* Many ministries and nonprofits seem to have problems handling short donor attention spans.

Here in the US, we’re about 5 weeks from a rather important event in our world — the US elections. Election news and events dominate the news, the media and most forms of mass communication.

But even without the US elections, it’s tough staying top of mind with donors anywhere, anytime. Every ministry and every nonprofit has a lot of competition. I don’t like to think about the situation as organizations competing against each other.

It’s a fierce competition for attention. Competing to be worth your donor’s thoughts for a couple of minutes. Competing to get enough awareness so that a donor will help you.

Big or small, every NPO deals with this issue.

People are busy. They’re distracted. They’re drinking from a fire hose of information and marketing messages even in calmer times (whenever that mythical time might be).

So how do you keep your donor’s attention? How do you make sure that she cares about your work? How do you convince him to stick with you and help you do what you do?

Simple. Make the donor the hero of a big and little story.

The more your story, your brand, your fundraising, your development work is about you
. . . the more it will fail. The more you concentrate on your donor, the better your chances are of capturing their thoughts and imagination . . . and therefore their support.

Plus the story has to be big and little.

Tell BIG stories. Your donor longs to be a part of a greater cause. They all want to change the world. They want to be part of righting a great wrong. They want to help solve a heart-breaking problem. Set their eyes on the horizon!

But the story has to be little as well. In fact, the story has to have only one hero: the donor. She’s the one who’s feeding the child. He’s the one who’s rescuing the homeless. It really has to be about them. And here’s the cool part, this isn’t some marketing scheme or clever strategy. This is the way it’s supposed to be.

So what about you? How are you telling your donors that they are heroes? How are you letting them “star” in your grand story? How do you make them the hero of your story? I’d love to know what you think.

*I’m using “donor’s” not “donors’” on purpose, look at my first point in this post for an explanation.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: Randy Le’Moine Photography)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

2 thoughts on “how to make your donors care about what you’re doing”

  1. Wow I would LOVE to hear how other organizations are doing this. One idea we are doing is specifically showing the donor what their investment has done. They are the hero in saving lives.

  2. @Carol — thanks for jumping in. I think many are struggling with HOW to do this. I know one of the right answers is showing the donor what there investment has done. And I love the donor=hero concept.
    I think it’s all about specifics…which many orgs struggle to deliver.
    What does the Tribe think?
    st

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