Recently someone posted a thoughtful message on Facebook, meant to provide a framework for social media messages:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
I gave this message a “thumbs up” response, I guess because so much of what people write seems to be not true, not kind, and/or not necessary!
All of this took on renewed importance this week, when I heard a couple of people describe their recent disappointment with a non-profit organization to which they had been exceedingly generous over many years. The situation they described was essentially this: the leadership has changed; the people in the development office have changed; communication has been spotty at best; and no one seems to “get it” or care.
This is a devastating situation for a fundraising operation, and in my experience it is far too common. New people come in to leadership positions and seek to boost their own credibility by discrediting the activities of prior leaders. The new regime wants to start over with new prospects, new strategies, and new techniques. There is nothing wrong with taking a fresh look at all of that, but it is devastating if the most loyal and generous donors are neglected and lost.
The questions I saw on Facebook can be helpful as you think about your communication strategies with prospects and donors:
Your communications must be TRUE: don’t buy into the narrative that nothing good every happened before the new leadership team arrived! Seek out those who gave in the past and listen carefully to what motivates them to give. Get a list of the top 10, top 25, top 50, and top 100 prior donors and reach out to every single one of them over time. Make a phone call, write a letter, and ask for a face to face meeting. Never ever fail to follow up!
Your communication must be KIND: don’t build yourself up by disparaging past leaders of the organization. People give to people, and the donor thought enough of the prior administration to make a gift while those people were in charge. Make sure you communicate to your past donors that, although the leadership has changed, the mission of your organization remains the same!
Your communication with prior donors is NECESSARY: do not pick and choose! Don’t listen to people who say “Oh you don’t to waste your time talking to that donor.” In rare instances, a past donor may have specified in your records that s/he no longer wishes to be contacted, and if so that request must be honored. But otherwise, attempt to reach all prior major donors. You will be rewarded with great stories, new insights, and continued major gifts!
by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions