Nonprofit donor communications guru Tom Ahern spends a great deal of his time writing, reviewing, editing and teaching about written communications. His suggestions and guidelines are outstanding, to say the least.

One of Tom’s most important guidelines and my personal favorite is what he affectionately refers to as the “You Test.”

The “You Test” is based upon the basic premise of reviewing the pronouns used and seeing how many of them are about the donor (or prospective donor) rather than yourself or your organization (you’s vs. we’s and us’s). Tom’s rule for the “You Test” is that there should be at least twice as many you’s as there are we’s in any document, email or newsletter.

The use of those pronouns allows the emphasis to be placed in the proper place. The message and the feeling conveyed by doing this is that the donor is the center of all that is happening. Their funding is what truly drives the mission of any organization because without those donor dollars the entire engine of most charities grinds to a halt.

Why only use the You Test on written communications?

After a speech a few months ago where this key concept of the “You Test” was presented, several of the attendees raised their hands to ask me why this would not also be the case in phone calls and face to face meetings. During the question and answer period they shared just how different the donor and prospect meetings/calls unfolded when the focus remained steadfast on the person they were talking to.

This made total sense to me and everyone else in attendance at that particular session of the fundraising conference. Keeping the attention on what the donor or prospective donor believes in and cares about makes it so much easier to illustrate what that care can translate to in the way of financial support. It allows those beliefs to literally spring to life in a very meaningful manner.

In addition, the conversations seem to flow and flow. I think back to the major gift conversations I have been on both sides of; the ones where the potential donor was the focus of the conversation always were much deeper. We often explored emotional reasons on why the mission of the nonprofit was important to them. Those emotional reasons, more times than not, lead to major gifts, which could make an impact on the project they loved.

Lesson learned

From that day, during the presentation where the above comments were made going forward, I have shared those strong beliefs regarding Tom’s “You Test” in every other speech and presentation I have been part of.

Try the test yourself. If there are two people from your organization meeting with a donor or prospective donor have one of you keep track to see if you truly did spend twice as much time talking about the person you are meeting with than yourself or your organization.

I bet you will like the results if you did!

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Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.