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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Part 3 - Dr. Adrian Sargeant's 7 principles of donor loyalty
Tom Ahern

March, 2014

Charities that get straight A's in 7 things reap the rich rewards of contented donors.

Dr. Adrian Sargeant is a marketing professor specializing in charities. In his groundbreaking research, he uncovered 7 chief reasons why donors will sometimes stay with a charity for years. Previous issues of this newsletter talked about reasons #1-#3

Loyalty reason #4. You've connected

Say it loud. Say it proud. "You."

As in, "You are invited."

As in, "You are invited to join a wonderful family of people willing to help others, even strangers, overcome real problems."

As in, "It's not up to us. Sure, we have the expertise. But that's all just going to sit idle and go to waste without compassionate people like you. With your generosity, though? That's a big, fat different story. With your kind help? Well, then the miracles never end!"

BTW, the preceding paragraph is not a parody. It's how you should write to donors and prospects, if you hope to maximize response.

If, on the other hand, you're uncomfortable writing that way, get used to smaller portions. Paraphrasing the great Jeff Brooks: "Start corny. Stay corny."

Look: you've got all these "contact points": acknowledgements, thank you's, welcome kits, appeals, newsletters ... all these times when your organization is in direct contact with the donor.

These contacts are all HUGE opportunities. Each is a GOLDEN chance to make a GREAT impression. Each means you can HUG the donor. At each contact point, electricity should flow into the donor and light that person up.

Know what you're actually selling to donors

To quote renowned psychologist and Nazi death camp survivor Viktor Frankl, "Humans are driven by a will to establish meaning in their lives. They need purpose."

Charities can help supply that. That's the commodity you are selling: purpose.

You break your contract with your donors when you don't successfully convey to them how much difference their charity has made in the world.

This bad habit is why so many charities remain perennially underfunded, I suspect. Neglecting to properly praise donors is their besetting communications sin.

About your boilerplate

Permydia X. (named changed, protect the innocent), director of communications for philanthropy/alumni at a brand-name university, wrote me the most apropos email the other day, talking about exactly this problem:

...a reluctance to embrace donors without reserve. A.k.a., incompetence in donor relations.

"Can we get a petition going to eliminate the term 'acknowledgment letter' from the fundraising industry vocabulary?" Permydia asked.

Sign me up.

What's happened at Permydia's shop is "our fundraisers have passed the [acknowledgment] task on to administrative personnel who have never met the donor" -- or any donor, maybe -- "[and] don't know what the use of the funds will result in. [They] come to the communications staff every 12-18 months looking for 'boilerplate' paragraphs about our fundraising priorities...."

Boilerplate, hey? Sound familiar?

OK, let's return to Adrian Sargeant's 4th commandment: Thou Shalt Connect

And NOW let's take a basic IQ test. Please answer this question:

Is boilerplate likely to connect? [ ] Yes [ ] No

Permydia notes that people "freak out" about writing acknowledgment letters ... and therefore turn out soulless merde (if that was French, pardon mine).

"It seems to me that if you know the person, why they made the gift, and you can project a few ideas on what can be accomplished with the funds, you've got a dandy letter in the making," she wrote me.

She confessed, "I think people have a very hard time being sincere in writing - they try to make it sound like the gift will make worlds collide or something, which is not likely what the donor expected. They'd just like to see a problem fixed."

That last paragraph? Highly quotable. Highly notable. Thank you, Permydia.
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