Communications should pull donors to you

October 22 2008 - Mark Phillips

Some communications push and some pull. What do yours do?

Push and pull are terms we coined at Bluefrog for describing different types of approaches to talking to donors.

A pull communication is one that the donor enjoys receiving and engaging with. it generates a good feeling about the relationship and pulls the donor and charity closer together.

A push communication is one that a donor is uninterested in or ignores. It is not relevant to them or, even worse, bores or upsets them. It leaves the donor with a negative feeling about the charity and pushes them apart.

It’s sad, but there aren’t too many donors who are interested in policy statements, re-brands and internal governance. As part of some recent research, we asked donors – who had supported well-established organisations for years – what they thought the charities they gave to actually did.

The results were astounding. People tended to define an organisation in a very simple way – by the beneficiary. Some donors who had received half a forest of communications over the decades thought of the charities they supported in terms of the work they did a generation previously. Those donors that had a deeper understanding tended to have some professional or personal interest. For the majority though, charities were very simply, what the donor wanted them to be and they didn’t really want to hear otherwise.

When I’m putting communications together, I try to think about what will pull the reader towards me rather than what information I want to push to them. The chances are they’ll ignore push communications so I try and concentrate on the things they want to hear. And hopefully they’ll be so engaged they will want to find out about my policies off their own bat.

I’ve chosen a couple of examples of push and pull videos from charities that are on youtube. Both charities do great work and are deadly serious about what they want to achieve. One is based on a story that is over 30 years old but has generated almost 16 million hits in three months. The other is right up to date. It is urgent, passionate and describes a life or death issue but has only generated about 70 viewings (though, to be fair, its been up less than a week).

Update: the original Christian the Lion was removed from YouTube. It finished with a link to the Born Free Foundation. Unfortunately this replacement video doesn’t have that link but I’m sure you’ll be able to imagine how the original would have worked.