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My third “donor gift” is to…

Give your donors respect for their values and opinions

Your donors have views about raising families, unemployment, politics, the environment, social justice and the state of the world.

Acknowledge these views in your copy. By doing so, you show that you respect and understand their concerns about the world they live in.

It also makes you stand out from the bureaucratic corporate speak so often seen in fundraising appeal copy.

And get this – it’s the most important thing I’ll say in this post.

If you can show you have values and views in common with your donor…

Then you have a much greater chance of securing more frequent and higher gifts in future from them.

It means you have a great chance of becoming a meaningful part of your donors’ lives.

They won’t be just giving to you as a one-off or because you sent them a letter with a nice story. They’ll donate to you because the act of giving to your cause helps them to live out their values.

Think of the greenie who uses recycled bags and only buys food from local farmers. When she donates to a conservation charity, that act is an expression of her value for being environmentally-friendly.

So you need to use language that highlights values your donors can agree with… rather than internal organisational jargon.

Do this (values-based language bolded):

“When you look out of your window, what do you see? A concrete jungle or humans like you and me living in harmony with the environment? Unfortunately, I know it’s often the former…”

 “Because of your previous gifts, I know you care about helping homeless youth. It’s an outrage that young people today should be sleeping under bridges or huddled under trees in the park. I’m sure you’d agree that every child has a right to shelter… a place to call home… or at least be under a roof away from the wind and rain of recent weeks.

 “If you believe that no mum should die because no doctor or midwife was available … if you believe that no mum should have to walk 5 hours after birth to get help for a sick baby…”

“By now you may have heard the government has cut funding to disability services. Many of you have expressed anger and compassion about the resulting plight of those least able to stand up for themselves…”

Not this:

“We believe it is of the utmost importance that people who live a lifestyle of excess consumption must be educated about the negative impacts they have on environmental habitats.” 

 “The mandate of this organisation is to ensure that all displaced young persons under the age of 18 should be appropriately housed within the community.”

“Access to adequate maternal and child health personnel in incongruous locations is preferable to prevent mothers and post-natal infants from suffering common pregnancy and delivery complications.”

“As a result of recent governmental policy and budgetry changes, we are facing the possibility of service cutbacks to our clients with a wide range of disabilities.”


3 questions to ask

An exercise next time you sit down to develop or write a fundraising letter. Ask yourself these things:

1. What values do your donors hold that align with your cause?

If you’re an overseas aid agency, do your donors root for the underdog or believe in developing self-sufficiency? If they’re greenies, how green are they really – do they cycle to work or only want to be eco-friendly when it doesn’t inconvenience them?

2. What opinions do they have about the issues related to your cause?

If you help young people, do your donors believe the youth of today are spoilt brats or just under pressures unknown in the previous generation? If you work in the disability sector, do your donors think the government should be taking care of the problem?

3. In what context will they be reading your letter?

What’s happening in the world now? If you’re a health or medical charity, has a current affairs program exposed a scam in medical research? If you work in social welfare, has the government cut funding to social services? If you do overseas aid, has a major natural disaster become a media event?

All these things will shape their values and opinions of your cause.

The answers to these questions will affect the way you write your copy. If you do it well, you can weave in the values and opinions of your donors. That shows you care about what they care about.

You give them the gift of respecting their view of the world. Rather than yours.

Also see How to write for donor retention (Part 1 and Part 2)

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