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The First Rule of Fundraising That Marketers Never Remember

Published by Jeff Giddens

Several mornings a week, I go to a coffee shop about a mile from my house. I’ll pull in, walk up to the counter, and order a drink. I give them some money and they’ll hand me my drink. This routine is a very human one. We talk, exchange pleasantries; they receive money and I receive coffee. There’s a value exchange.

Now, I don’t really know these people. I frequent the place where they work, and they work at a place that I frequent. We have conversations, our interactions are very pleasant, and it keeps me coming back.

What would it look like to bring that experience to email marketing and fundraising? With some of the efficiencies that email marketing affords us, we often forget about the importance of real, human interaction. In our emails, we treat people differently, speak with a different voice, and often forget that there is a real person on the other end.

If we want to see success in our emails and in our fundraising as a whole, we’ve got to get back to the fundamental understanding that people give to people.

An Email From My Sister, a Real Person

Let’s look first at a real email from a real person and identify what makes it feel genuine:

People Give to People - Example 1

This is an email that my sister, Leanne, sent me a couple of months ago. She says that “Owen is super pumped to save some lives and earn cool prizes by participating in this event.” She continues, “Here is his personal fundraising page.” She pasted a really long URL, and then said “Thank you and love you!”

Leanne and I have a very personal relationship. She doesn’t have to use flowery introductions or over-embellished phrases. We can communicate like this because we have developed this relationship over a very long time.

An Email from an Organization’s Marketing Machine

I gave to my nephew’s personal fundraising page, and I never heard anything back; I never got a thank-you email or even a receipt. Three months later, I received two emails in a week’s time from this organization.

People Give to People - Example 2

The first email I received said, “I’ve had five open-heart surgeries, what’s your superpower?” Then you see the preview text: “Kids with heart-health issues.” That is followed by two arrows pointing to a URL. It’s sort of confusing.

Then the second email says, “Last chance to make your gift,” with the same little preview text. Curious, I opened one of the emails.

People Give to People - Example 3

Immediately, I see a picture of a little girl named Kiley. It says “Meet Kiley.” She’s adorable. She’s had heart surgeries, which is tragic. Just above a big donation button, we read that she loves to play soccer with her twin sister.

This email is my first interaction with this organization. Remember, I didn’t hear from them after I donated, and it’s now been 3 months since then. You’ll notice, number one, how markedly difference this is from the email that my sister sent me.

Additionally, many elements of that personal, human experience I described at the coffee shop are missing: they don’t greet me; there’s no use of my name; there’s no context as to why they even have my email address in the first place.

Scrolling down I read, “What’s your super power?” It says, “Kylie’s shirt says it all, doesn’t it?”

People Give to People - Example 4

There are a couple of things happening here. First, there are a lot of different sizes of font. My eyes are drawn to the June 5th deadline. Secondly, I’m still not sure what it means about having a super power. In fact, it actually never explains it. It merely asks me to make a gift by June 5th to end the school year strong.

Thinking back to the email that my sister sent me, I was given a whole lot of context. She said, “My nephew is doing this.” Great! Now I have a personal relationship to what’s happening. She said, “If you would consider donating — anything appreciated.” It’s very simple, easy to understand, direct, and incredibly personal.

I think this reflects something about our typical approach as marketers and fundraisers. We tend to just start firing things off in mass into a crowd that more than likely isn’t expecting it, let alone wanting it. I’m going to propose that we take a different approach.

Creating One-to-One Connections with Donors

In the age of mass marketing, we’ve forgotten what digital fundraising allows us to do. The greatest benefit of the technology we have at our disposal is not just to send a lot more email to a lot more people. Mass marketing technology actually lets us make our marketing and communication look more like a personal conversation.

With the ever-increasing ability to create dynamic content and personalized messages, we should strive to approach digital fundraising from a one-to-one standpoint. Initiate real conversations with people. Multiply those conversations across your donor base. Create real one-to-one relationships. Doing these things will transform your fundraising by turning your marketing machine into real human connections.

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About the author:

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Jeff Giddens

Jeff was the 1994 Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.