by: David Gee ৷ Senior Consultant, Laurus Strategies
Many of us expend a fair amount of energy deciding how best to tell a story that will attract and inspire donors to our organization. Frequently, especially during these crucial final weeks of the year, the quest involves deciding what program should be highlighted or what client story can be narrated in our appeal letters and on our social media platforms. This has proven to be a useful strategy and it’s an important way of communicating the difference our organization is making in the world. In fact, the client story lead has become somewhat of a go-to-technique for donor communications. It is a simple, direct and impactful way of crafting an effective appeal.
However, while explaining to our potential supporters what WE do, we sometimes forget to employ another highly successful donor communications strategy – even though it is at the heart of the marketing mindset. Instead of securing a donation, what if our goal was to enlist people in the cause–to literally become a part of something? The secret that successful marketers have been leveraging since forever is to invite the potential donor/customer to see themselves in the appeal and inspire them to WANT to join in the movement.
While the following anecdote does not involve the power of a testimonial per se, the experience has resonated with me for over a dozen years and I think/hope it helps to make the point.
When my son was four or five years old he was watching cartoons in the living room while I was in the kitchen. Suddenly, he ran into the room and declared that we MUST go to Chucky Cheese. Fighting back the urge to cringe, I simply asked him why. “Because, Dad… it’s a great place to be a kid!” He couldn’t tell me what Chucky Cheese was all about, he just knew that kids there had a great time and he wanted to be a part of it.
So, the next time you are trying to decide how to craft your appeal, ask one or more of your current donors to share THEIR story, to give a personal testimonial about how much they get out of the relationship with your organization. In addition to recognizing and empowering an internal ambassador, you’ll be giving your target audience a chance to “see themselves” in your appeal.
David Gee is a non-profit professional with a particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined the Laurus Strategies team as a Senior Consultant after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development for over seven years. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David currently serves on the Donors Forum’s Resource Development Committee and the Cara Program’s Major Gift Committee.