If you’re anything like me, you absolutely loathe getting the request to include a picture in your newsletter that shows a donor and a staff member holding a gigantic check and grinning ear to ear.
While I haven’t completely left behind those types of pictures yet, I have been able to curb some of the desire to include them by showing alternative ways to appreciate our donors. Donor communications expert Tom Ahern says that donors want three things: to feel appreciated, to feel included, and to feel in the know.
And moving away from giant checks, and instead, focusing on storytelling is just the way to meet our donors’ needs.
I’ve taken two different routes in appreciating donors and recognizing them in our bi-monthly newsletters. The first angle involves focusing on a patient story. By interviewing a patient about her experience at the hospital, I was able to tie the story back to the mission of our organization – donors want to see the impact that their gifts have on the lives of the people we serve.
In the story about this patient, I also wove in a gift that made a specific program possible that she relied on during her time at the hospital. By subtly highlighting the gift, it allowed the donor to be recognized publically, but kept the main focus on the difference the gift has made in the life of a patient.
And with a patient story, you usually get more appealing and eye-catching photos. In this case, I was able to use a photo of the young patient at an event hosted by the donor – getting more bang for the buck. This story made the donor look good, recognized his gift and highlighted how the gift is advancing our efforts in a specific area of treatment. (See the example article here.)
The second angle in highlighting donors’ contributions focuses on the donors themselves. In the second example, I interviewed the donors to get their story – why did they make the gift? Something I learned early on while doing this is that asking the simple question of “Why do you give?” often yields the most inspiring sound bites and stories.
In this case, the couple had an experience of their own that they didn’t want anyone else to go through, so they decided to make a gift to the hospital. In addition to talking about why the couple gives to our cause, I included a patient story – a woman who was able to use the facility that the couple funded. Again, showing the impact of the gift not only appreciates the donors’ gift, but also connects the gift back to the mission and how we are using the funds we receive to make the lives of people in our community better. (See the example article here.)
By weaving in real-life examples of gifts in action and recognizing donors and their motivations for giving connects readers to the mission and hopefully inspires them to give, too. When a donor tells their story of why they give, it often resonates with others and motivates them to give themselves.
It’s been said that people give because of who they are, not because of what your organization is. And these types of stories inspire readers to reflect on who they are and whether they want to support your cause. If they can relate to the donor or the patient in these stories, they will be more likely to give.
Moving away from using giant checks as recognition allows the organization to say, “Look what YOU, our donors are doing!” instead of “Look how much money we got today!”
This is a guest post contributed by Heather Dauphiny. You can read more of Heather’s non-profit insights over on her Tumblr – It’s A Nonprofit Thing