Aah. Attracting new donors to your cause. You can always use new donors. The question is, “How do you stand out in a crowd and draw people to your cause who will give to your nonprofit?”
Target Specific Donor Groups
When nonprofits talk about their efforts to gain visibility, most of them are thinking in terms of getting more media coverage, doing some advertising, or redesigning their website. While press releases, TV spots, radio interviews, flyers in stores, and logos on buses do raise a nonprofit’s visibility, it’s general visibility that they’re raising. And while that’s all well and good, and you do need some of it, those are not the most effective methods to raise strong support for your cause. Because you’re not trying to reach everyone. You’re trying to reach those people that have a penchant for what you do.
Who are your nonprofit’s target groups? Who are your most ardent supporters? What are their characteristics? What do they read? What groups are they part of? How do they communicate with one another? How do they spend their leisure time? What do they spend their money? What is important to them? What are their values?
These are the types of question you need to be asking your supporters. The answers to these questions will tell you where to find and how to communicate about what to people interested in supporting you. You need to know you supporters, inside and out. Start where you are with what you have. From there branch out. And grow your base. You’re don’t want to spend money looking for just anyone to support you. You are looking to expend resources so they generate the most support as possible. You need to target your efforts.
Create a Consistent Message
To reach specific groups with your nonprofit’s message, you need to tell them precisely what you do and how you do it. You need to communicate the values that permeate your organization. You must determine the words, phrases, and symbols that best communicate to the world the essence of your nonprofit.
Your agency’s logo may be the most familiar symbol of your essence. And you may think that you develop a logo based on what the decision makers like and dislike. Not true. In fact, branding is big business in the for-profit world and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it is based on careful research and objective data.
To create a logo that communicates the essence of an organization, a branding firm will ask a sample of your nonprofit’s internal and external constituencies for feedback. We talked about getting community feedback in What Does the Community Really Think of Your Nonprofit? Branding professionals know the questions to ask to get the best responses. And they have knowledge that we don’t. For example, they know that color evokes an emotional response. And that the colors that you use are an important part of how people experience you. For a quick and dirty look, Google your logo’s color meanings and see what emotions are elicited when people see your logo.
Same with fonts and pictures. What fonts you use communicate aspects of your agency’s personality. As do the type of pictures and photos you use in your communication materials. Every aspect of your communication materials tell people something about your organization. A branding organization can help you identify all those aspects. The goal is to come with one, unified image of your nonprofit that you can use to tell the world about you. So that everyone in the community who comes across you gets the same message.
If you have the connections and can get a branding firm to do some pro bono work on your behalf, great. You may also be able to garner a capacity building grant that will cover the project expenses. If you can’t get something donated or funded, shop around and find a consultant you can afford. The money is worth the investment. The long-term benefits of good branding leading to more community support far outweigh the short-term financial costs.
Spread Your Message Extensively
The key to getting your message picked up by the community is that it is simple and that it is repeated. Like everywhere, in every communication vehicle you use. For example, the logo on your letterhead. The wording in your staffs’ email signatures. Your website. Your social media posts. In your newsletter articles. In your press releases. During radio and TV interviews. When you make public speeches. In all your fundraising appeals, including grants, annual appeals, major gift materials, and capital campaign materials. In your marketing and promotional materials. Over and over again, repeat the same core message and use the same value propositions, fashioned to be directed to the different target audiences.
You want to make sure you drill the message down to the staff and volunteers inside the organization too. The biggest and least expensive communication channel for getting your message out to the community are your paid and unpaid staff. Employees spend most of their waking hours at work. Volunteers know your agency from personal experience. They talk to their families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Who in turn talk to their spouses, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
So, make sure your messaging is consistent in your strategic plan, marketing plan, communications plan, and case for support. Especially since these documents lay the basis for your external communications. Also make sure the language you use to describe your nonprofits is included in your staff and volunteer training manuals.
Wrapping It Up
Spread your message extensively. Repeat it often, both internally and externally. Just make sure your message is unified and consistent so there is no confusion as to who your nonprofit is and what it stands for. You want a strong community image. And to attract the most financial support at the least cost, target your message to specific groups. You want to expend your resources where they are most likely to bear fruit. By following these steps, you will excite your community, stand out in the crowd, increase community support for your nonprofit, and gain new donors.
Exciting your community is just one step to achieving better fundraising results. It is also important to identify your fundraising strengths and gaps, empower your board, and mobilize your staff.
To learn what your nonprofit can do to move ahead, schedule a complementary 30-minute strategy session with me. During our time together, we will clarify the fundraising issues your nonprofit is facing, explore possible solutions, and develop a plan of action.
When you make your appointment, you will be asked a few brief questions about your situation so that I am best prepared to help you. I look forward to our conversation!