When I wake up in the morning, I already have emails asking me for donations.
If I just get on Facebook, I’ll encounter GoFundMe campaigns, Kickstarters, nonprofits, and crisis updates from around the world. Before I can put on my shoes, I’ll have been solicited repeatedly.
Nonprofits have new platforms to communicate with their donors, and writing is central to the process. This is good news for nonprofits and writers. Unfortunately, since social media and email are saturated with demands for money and attention, just posting the piece isn’t enough. You can shine a light on your campaign and needs, but any professional writer who wants to shine a light on their campaign is essentially standing in a room full already flashing lights. How can you stand out without being obnoxious?
Know Your Donors
This is a crucial starting place, because it will dictate the rest of your decisions. Spend some time building relationships with people who are passionate about your cause. What is it about your project that appeals to people? What do they want to see their help accomplish? As you go through your routines keep track of how people respond to your outreach. Different people have different reasons for altruism.
Communication Over Content
When you have an email list of people who care about your goals, build your mailers around them. For dedicated supporters, consistent communication is more important than content. Tammy Riggs is an administrator and writer for Por Su Amor, a nonprofit in Peru.
Email works well when people know who you are, she said.
People who want to give see the email and are reminded, but they don’t always read the full content, she said. Make sure the most important information is the most readable, and as seen in these examples, keep letters skimmable and visually interesting.
Don’t Overdo it!
Here’s a sobering thought: Facebook likes may have a negative correlation to charitable giving. When people feel like they have done their part, they move on. It’s good if people know who you are and care, but popularity is not the same as income, especially if you’re doing good that’s not controversial.
Send your emails on a timeframe that works for your donors. When inboxes get clogged, people miss things or get frustrated and unsubscribe. Regardless of the medium, don’t create a crisis for a hard fundraising push unless there is an actual crisis—you’ll vaccinate your donors against your cries for help. Your donors believe in your cause, or they wouldn’t see a reason to give.
Give Back to Your Donors
Ideally, the donor gives to the charity because they believe in the goals of the charity. They want to see good things happen.
Sometimes all you can give them is journalism, said Tammy Riggs. If you describe the reality of the situation you are addressing and how their gift helped, you don’t have to create recurrent false crises.
Donations increase when you can connect them to a concrete benefit, Tammy noted. Check out Charity:Water’s Projects page for a visual, fact-based example of nonprofit web design.
Every Dollar Really Counts
In the 2016 election, it was startling to people in both parties that the Bernie Sanders campaign could fare so well on small donations. But it’s simple math. Small gifts do add up, and these days there’s a growing focus on small donation, effective philanthropy. Be sure to communicate to your donors that any gift is helpful. Show appreciation to everyone.
Know Your Voice
It’s important to know who you are. Don’t follow trends that change basic elements of your voice. Maintain a consistent voice across your platforms. Be willing to learn from your experiences, but when you find your voice, stick to it.