Make your donors feel comfortable

December 8 2008 - Mark Phillips

I’ve always made time to visit Leland Maschmeyer‘s blogs and was interested in a recent posting that referred to a comment made by Pierre Martineau, director of marketing for The Chicago Tribune in the 1950’s. He believed “the most important function of advertising isn’t to boast of prices or quality. It is to help shoppers sort themselves into the social group where they feel the most comfortable.”

I think, as fundraisers, we can learn something from this.

Great appeals, though they need a great central story, need to place the donor at the centre of the work. By talking about the donor, what they have done, what they can do and, perhaps most importantly, who they are, we apply Kay Sprinkel Grace‘s concept of “show me you know me.”

It is one of the reasons that materials developed for the traditional 60+ donor will rarely work for a 22 year old, face to face recruit. When we send traditional communications out, all we do is show the younger donor that they have very little in common with the organisation they are sending their gifts to. I’d guess that this doesn’t make them feel very comfortable. If it did, I’m sure lapse rates would be lower.

To stem attrition amongst these younger supporters (as amongst all types of donor) we need an approach that works for them emotionally and practically. We need to show them that we know who they are and what difference they are making in a way that is both relevant and valuable. We do this by talking about them as much as we talk about our work.

I sometimes refer to a Gary Larson cartoon when I’m presenting to highlight this point. People don’t have a huge amount in common with dogs, but then again, maybe there are a few similarities worth noting…

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