Rachel Muir, CFRE helps us see through our donor’s eyes in this thought provoking webinar loaded with tips for better donor communication, cultivation and discovery.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Rachel. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off officially?

Rachel: Please.

Steven: All right. Cool. Well, good afternoon everyone, if you are on the East Coast, and good morning if you are somewhere on the West Coast or maybe in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “How to Think like a Donor in One Hour.” And my name is Steven Shattuck. And I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

And before we begin, just a couple of housekeeping items. I want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation. And I’ll be sending out the recording, as well as the slides, if you didn’t already get those, later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave early or perhaps you want to review the content or share it with a colleague, have no fear. You’ll get all those goodies from me later on this afternoon, I promise.

And as you’re listening today, please feel to chat in any questions or comments you have along the way. I’m going to keep my eye on those for the next hour or so. And we’re going to try to save as much time as we can for Q&A towards the top of the hour. So don’t be shy at all. Send in those questions and comments. Don’t sit on your hands, for sure. You can also do that on Twitter, if you’re a Twitter person. You can use the #Bloomerang. Send us a Tweet. I’ll be looking at those, as well, moderating questions there.

And if you have any trouble with the audio, we find that the audio quality by phone is much better than the audio quality through the computer speakers, since it relies on Wi-Fi and all that good stuff. So if you have any trouble, if you have trouble hearing us, try dialing in by phone, if you can, if you don’t mind doing that. There is a phone number that you can dial in the email from ReadyTalk that went out around 11:30 a.m. this morning.

And if this is your first webinar with us, I just want to say a special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars just about once week. We bring on a great speaker like Rachel to give a totally educational presentation. But in addition to that, Bloomerang offers donor management software. And if you are in the market for that or maybe thinking about switching or just want to learn more about us, you can visit our website and download a quick video demo and see the software in action. We’ve actually got a lot of cool new features that came out over the last couple weeks or so that we’re really excited about.

So check us out. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk to you further. But for now, I am really excited to introduce one of my favorites. She’s my sister from a different mister. She is Rachel Muir. Hey, Rachel, how is it going?

Rachel: Hey, Steven. What a great intro.

Steven: You’re awesome. You’re one of our favorites. I think this is maybe like your fifth webinar with us. The year is not complete in my mind in terms of our webinar schedule without Rachel. So it’s great for you to be here. How is it going? What’s new? Anything fun going on?

Rachel: It’s going fantastic. You know, I’m super excited about sharing this content with everybody today. This is new stuff. And you’re going to get some awesome inspiring studies and ideas.

Steven: I’m going to let you dive in, I just want to brag on you.

Rachel: Great.

Steven: Really quick, in case people don’t know Rachel, although I don’t know how they wouldn’t know you, if they go to fundraising conferences or listen to webinars, I don’t even know how to read your bio, Rachel. I had a couple people respond to my invitation saying that your bio made them feel really inadequate as human beings because you’ve accomplished so many ridiculous things.

You started your own nonprofit at the age of 26. And you grew it to $10 million in donations. You have been honored by AFP as an outstanding fundraising executive. You were a three-time finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. You have worked at fundraising agencies, fundraising tech companies. You’ve done it all. And you’re still real young. And you’re awesome. So I’m going to really pipe down and let you share all of your knowledge with us about how to think like a donor. So take it away, my friend.

Rachel: Thank you so much. I’m positively blushing. And I appreciate all the awesome praise. You’re too kind. We’re going to be talking today about how to think like a donor. And this is my website. I’ve got lots of goodies. I like to bring my own party favors. And I’ve got lots of goodies on the website that you’re going to see that I’m going to be talking about today. And I do webinars with friends like Steven and other folks. So I just kind of maintain a list. If you’re listening and you want to join, I’ll send you an invitation when I’ve got a webinar coming up.

I love helping people be better fundraisers. That’s what I get to do for a living. I do a lot of custom training and board retreats. I love speaking at fundraising conferences and learning at fundraising conferences. And I’ve got a shameless plug here. I’m partnering with Gail Perry to do an . . . And all of these amazing people that you see on this gorgeous slide, Shanon Doolittle, the Donor Guru Lynne Wester, Simon Scriver, Leah Eustace, Mark Rovner, all of these great folks, to do a seven-part course on end-of-year fundraising.

So if you don’t have a airtight plan for end-of-year and you want to boost your revenue, this is a gem. We have a special code just for attendees of this webinar. If you enter “EPIC,” you can get $50 off. The fun starts on Tuesday. And this is going to be a great seven-part series. It’s going to have how to use the phone to boost end-of-year revenue, your airtight plan for email. Leah’s going to be sharing 60 direct mail tips in 60 minutes. Lynne Wester’s going to be talking about Giving Tuesday [wins 00:05:27] in sales. Shannon’s going to doing a “Ask the Experts” clinic on email. And Lynne is going to be doing one on direct mail.

So lots of goodies, a shameless plug here. If you want some help with end-of-the-year, I hope you’ll think about joining Gail and I and our fabulous partners in crime. The fun starts next Tuesday with our class. So I hope to see you there.

This is what we’re going to talk about today. This is going to be a walk through neuroscience and the art of giving a great presentation and fundraising insights of how your donors think. So we’re going to talk about what it feels like to be a donor, the gap between what donors want and what they get, how to make your donor front-and-center in this story as a protagonist. I’ve sprinkled in a little bit of science around donor decision-making. But overall, this is a session all about how to communicate better, how to tell your story better, how to write an appeal better, how to communicate your successes and your wins and your outcomes to your donors better.

So you’re in for a treat. This is a lot of brand new content that I’m going to be sharing with you today. This is one thing. If you don’t have an organized way with business rules to love on your donors, I want to spotlight this. I’ve also got like a swipe file that summarizes the nine tips that I’m giving you to tell better stories that you can also download at rachelmuir.com/guides. So there’s lots of goodies up there for you. This is just one of them. And like I said, all of these tips that you’re going to see today are up there.

So I want to first start by acknowledging this is hard work. It’s hard to think like a donor. And it’s hard to really be great at this. If this were easy, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t know if you ever feel like this when you’re working on a big project.

I feel like this as a parent when I’m doing any school project with my kids. All the work while I’m crying, it’s definitely at the rear. We try to do a school project without tears. It’s not always easy. I don’t want this to be you on your end-of-year appeal. I don’t want this to be you on any appeal or any communication to your donor. And I guarantee, you’re going to get lot of great insights today.

But it’s hard to think like a donor. We’re dedicating 60 minutes to that. You’re definitely going to walk away with different formats. But I hope that you walk away with a different lens to look at this. And I want to give a shout out because I’m really drawing on the works of so many great thought leaders in this space in this presentation. I mentioned earlier that this is a walk through neuroscience and how to be a great presenter and how to get your ideas across. And some of the fundraising giants I’m going to be bragging today and sharing their insights are Jeff Brooks and Tom Ahern and my ladies Kivi Leroux Miller and the fabulous Tammy Zonker. I feature a great, great video that Tammy Zonker did that you can watch on YouTube for The Children’s Center where she is in Detroit, Michigan. So I just want to give a shout out to the great people in this space who make it fantastic and share their insights. And I’m excited to share this with you today.

This is important stuff because your donor’s evaluation of how successful you were is all determined not by actually the work that you did, but by how you communicate the work that you did. So this is really important stuff. It’s not what you did. It’s what the donor gets out of it. And you’re going to be learning a lot of tips and tools to help do that better.

I had the opportunity to go to BloomCon. And it was amazing. And I recommend it to everyone. And I played this great commercial when I was at BloomCon. You can look this up on YouTube. It’s called “Unsung Hero.” Thai Life Insurance Company makes the best ads ever. But it’s basically this is a short, hilarious video about . . . Well, I won’t say hilarious, short, heart-warming, tear-jerking video, about what it feels like to be a donor really. It’s an AFA Life Insurance. Watch this. This made the rounds on Facebook. You can see it on YouTube.

But this guy is basically just gives. He gives, even when people think he’s crazy for giving. And he gives. It’s like a practice for him. Like people have a faith and a religious practice or a yoga practice, he’s giving selflessly of himself. And sometimes his experience, I think, it’ll ring true for what many of your donors experience giving. It can sometimes feel like this, you know, like, “This is all it feels like. I’m asked. I’m asked.”

Here’s like another way of looking at that. Everything is give, give, give, give, give. Oh, thanks. [Inaudible 00:10:19]. And then it’s, “Give, give, give, give, give. Wow, we’re great to give again.” That can be what it feels like for your donor on the receiving end of your communications. And the truth is there’s this gap. There’s a big gap between what you want to tell your donor and what your donor wants to hear.

I mean, your donor wants to know what you did with their money and why they were smart to support you and that you remember what they care about and that you value them and that you think they’re special. But we want to communicate a lot of our accomplishments and why we’re different and why we’re great to our donors. And if we talk too much about how great we are, we leave out the problems that our donors can solve.

This is a good way for me to make sure everybody can hear. I want you to just type into the Q&A, chat in, what do you think your donor’s number one pet peeve is? Just type it in. What do you think donors’ from research number one pet peeve is? Meg said, “Too many appeals.” That’s a great guess. Allen said, “Not getting thanked. Not being thanked well.” Unclear expectations. No thanks. Not being thanked. Not being acknowledged. Very well said. Well said. Our levels of giving and their rewards. Boring information. “Untimely thank you’s,” says Serena.

They don’t see the progress. Exactly. That’s pretty much in a nutshell donors’ biggest pet peeves. And this is from some research that Derrick Sullivan did. It’s the Millennial Impact Report. This is true of all donors, millennials, Gen X, boomers, matures. Donor’s biggest pet peeve is that they don’t know that their gift made a difference. That’s what donor’s number one pet peeve is.

Now, I have one more quiz for you guys. What is the number one reason why donors stop giving? Type in what you think the number one reason is donors stop giving. No demonstration of gift impact. Too many asks. Feel forgotten. That’s a good one. The org sees me as an ATM. No relationship. Lose interest. These are all really great reasons, really great reasons. The number one reason donors give of why they stop giving is over-solicitation. But what’s interesting about that is how donors define over-solicitation. According to Penelope Burke’s research, donors define over-solicitation not by a number of appeals, which is how we might think they define over-solicitation, but by being asked to give again before they knew that their first gift had an impact.

So I’m guessing, and you can type it in . . . If you’ve been with me here, I’m guessing many of you on the call today have indeed taken a child or more than one child to Disneyland or Disneyworld. Am I right? You took a child to Disneyland. And, you know, I took my twins to Disneyland when they were in kindergarten. They’re going into fifth grade now. And the way that I had a really great time at Disneyland . . . I mean, yeah, it’s the happiest place on Earth. But let’s face it. You know, you might get hot. You might get sweaty. There might be some grumpy kids, kids having tantrums, mean parents. You know, all these things can give you a bad time.

I really went into the whole Disneyland experience of, “We’re going to survive this day. We’re going to do as much as we can, as much as the kids want to do. I’m going to give them whatever they want. I don’t care if they want to have ice cream for breakfast. Like we’re just going to give this a day. And we’re going to have a great day. And I’m not going to say no.” And we had a great time. That was my strategy for Disneyland. It really worked for me.

And I think this is a great strategy. I know what you want. And you know what you want. You want the donor to make a gift, right? But it isn’t about you. You want the gift. Your donor wants to feel something. Your donor wants to know that they made a difference. So we’re going to let go of what we want. And we’re going to focus on what our donors want.

Donors want to be the hero of their own story. You’re going to get a lot of tips today to help you do that. I love this quote from Tom Ahern. “The donor is the customer. They’re buying the experience of feeling good. Make them feel that, you get rewarded.” Here’s a great example of making them feel that. This is the book, “Before and After” example. “It’s only been blank. You know, it’s only been a week, a month, six months, eight weeks. And already you blank.”

This is like a made-up ad for nutritional supplements. You know, you made your gift to an NGO that’s doing world-wide care for kids. You can see how much healthier this kid looks and how it’s grown. “You made your gift just one week ago. And already you blank. Like insert your amazing accomplishment here.”

I love this example. We, as humans, want completion. We know that from neuroscience. We want completion. This closes the loop. It makes me feel like I’m a hero. And it makes me feel like, “Wow. In such a short time, I already did something great. My gift already did something great.” And that stewardship plan that I plugged, it’s up at rachelmuir.com/guides. I’ve got this in here. You know, send your donors an acknowledgment that says, “It’s only been this long and already you’ve blank.”

If your donors have been giving to you a long time, that’s a great thing to stress too because we forget as donors how long we’ve been giving to an organization and being reminded that, “Wow. This is an organization that’s really important to me. They’re one of my top charities. I didn’t know I’d been giving to them for that long.” You know, “You started giving to us five years ago.” That’s a sunk cost. And we want it to make a difference. And you can win here either way.

But I love this example. It’s simple. This is just a before and after example. This is one of your first examples. I’ve got nine more coming down the pike for you. Ultimately, emotion rules. Everything else drools. Your donors, whether they admit to it or not . . . They might really fight it. I’ve done fundraising trainings and custom trainings where I’ve had people, board members in the room with me, who say, “No. No. No. Our donors are venture capitalists. And they’re not giving based on emotion. They’re giving because this is a wise economic decision.”

Listen. Great fundraising is bursting with emotion. Emotion is to fundraising what air is to humans. You are not being sneaky to use emotion in your fundraising. In fact, it’s the only thing that really matters. We know that. We had the opportunity to partner with our friends at Bloomerang and sponsor some really great research from Adrian Sargeant that brought that point really home really, really well. Appeal to the heart, not to the head. You might start out with the head. But that’s where you want to be. I love that quote from Leah Eustace. She’s fantastic.

So I love this from Jeff Brooks too. I’m a cat lover. I love all animals, dogs too. “People give for emotional reasons. Give your cat cat food.” Give your donors emotional information.” It is not about you. It’s not about the organization. It’s about the donor. Your communications are a mirror. And they see themselves in that mirror. How are they showing up? How do they look? This isn’t about how great you are. It’s actually about how wonderful the donor is. If you talk too much about how great you are, you leave out all the problems that the donor can solve. If you talk too much about how great you are, they don’t have anything to do.

I love this quote from Steven Screen. “The donor is more interested in the good that she can do than the good that the organization has done.” What she can do is forward-looking. It involves her. It’s dependent on her to make this happen. What you’ve done is in the past. It’s backwards-looking. It’s in the rear view mirror.

This is a great example. And I love this book by Jeff Brooks, “How to Turn your Words into Money.” It’s a really great book. As a copywriter, he writes in a style that’s so easy to read. You’ll read it in a couple days. It’s fantastic. Put in on your fundraising shelf. When you see a homeless person sitting on a park bench or sleeping under a bridge, you wonder what you should do. That’s the kind of person you have. So that’s a really great example.

When I talk about how your donor sees themselves and your communication, it’s holding up a mirror. How are they going to look? This is an example of you’re not going to stand for this. That’s not the kind of person you are. We vote with our identity. And your communications are a reflection to the donor of who they are. I mean, you don’t buy a car because the dealership needs the money. Yes, the car gets you from point A to point B. But it also says something about you. And we’re voting with our identity when we give to charity.

Donors don’t give to you because you’re great. If you talk too much about how great you are, they’re going to wonder why you need them in the first place. They give because they’re great. And you help them realize how great they are. They feel that. And they see that. You’re helping them get there. You’re helping them realize that.

So I’m going to show you nine ways to tell your story. And I have just these nine tips up in the swipe file that I’ll show again later, at rachelmuir.com/guides. I just put up these nine tips so you have some ideas of different story formats that you can use. And I want to challenge you to think about these story formats for appeals. And also, think about these story formats for communicating your outcomes.

The origination of some of this content, I did a custom training. And I was helping organizations really think about their outcomes of, “How do I communicate my program outcome? How do I make numbers come to life?” And so I encourage you to think about this as much for an annual report, as much for an impact report, as you do for an appeal.

So these are some different formats. You already saw before and after. I’m going to show you some timeline/time lapse, video, testimonials, unexpected narrators, infographics. Infographics are a really great way for you to make something come alive. Give people a way to visualize something, whether it’s the number of kids that are going to go hungry tonight because they don’t have enough food would fill a bus that stretched all the way from Austin, Texas to New York, New York, you know. Like draw it and make it come alive. Behind the scenes, I’m going to give you some great tips there comparing and contrasting. And I want to challenge you to give your data a visual form. I’ve got some really great examples of that in here.

So we’re going to get started and go through this romp of different ways for you to tell your data story. This is like a compare and contrast example. So we all know this guy. He works out a lot, I mean 80 miles. He swims three hours twice a day. He’s spending six hours a day in the pool. He burns a lot of calories. He can eat 12,000 calories a day when he’s training.

Now, this guy over here isn’t doing a lot of training. This guy over here is watching four hours of TV a day. He’s eating 3,500 calories of high-fat foods and sugary sodas. This is just a way to make a point about childhood obesity. These are sort of compare and contrast. And you can really visualize that with these people . . . A lot of this is really based on neuroscience. We’re making it easy for our brains to make decisions.

Remember when New York City banned sugary sodas? And the mayor came out with sugar cubes lined up in front of all of these different sodas and drinks stacked up like pyramids. So you just kind of glance at the sugar cubes to know, “Oh, my God. That’s so unhealthy. I’m not going to drink that.”

You may remember this Tweet. This really resonated with me. “Meanwhile at today’s meeting on feline healthcare,” you see a lot of dogs making decisions about feline healthcare. So this makes a really, really powerful point. And it does it in a really funny way. But instantly, we can kind of look at this. And we can read the headline. And we know there’s a big gap here between the decision-makers around the table. You know, I just want to challenge you with different ways that you might be able to communicate your impact and communicate your story. And this is kind of a funny, playful way.

You want to make a statement they can remember. You want to think in terms of headlines. I mentioned Tammy Zonker. The Children’s Center has their own YouTube channel. You can see this video and many, many more. Tammy does an amazing job with introducing people to The Children’s Center. And there’s like some video tours that you can watch. Incredible. She’ll have you in tears. This is a really, really powerful story.

The Children’s Center is helping kids. We can read the headline and understand this girl’s a victim of molestation. And what their challenge in telling their story was, “Well, we have to protect the kid’s identity.” And I’m sure a lot of you guys on the phone might struggle with that too. We have to protect this child’s identity. We can’t release their name. We can’t have actual photos. I mean, you can just type in, if that’s your challenge. I’m sure a lot of people have that challenge.

So they did this all with silhouettes. And they told this story. And there are several stories that seem really, really powerful. It’s short. It’s extremely powerful. You can understand the power of it right there from the headline. That’s not a story that someone’s going to forget. And I liked it in the way that they told it where they were able to overcome those really common, frequent barriers that organizations have around protecting the identity of the clients that they serve.

This is a great organization. I am from Austin, Texas. I love to brag on an Austin organization. And here is the headline here. This is their impact report. “Fourteen and already a mother.” So wow. But then it goes on to say, “With your support,” and it talks about what the donor did. And here’s another one here at the bottom. “Dynamic duos. Brought to us by you,” giving the donor credit. And you guys can type in your questions. We have definitely reserved some time at the end to go over all of those questions. So please feel free to type them in.

This is a great example of a timeline. I like time lapse, too. Whether you’re building a teen center, you’re breaking ground, I think timelines and time lapse are really great opportunities. You’re making this easy for the donor to understand. You’re making it easy for the donor to embrace. You’re really using all of these things, emotion and storytelling, to make this easy and memorable. This is a great example of behind the scenes.

And the headline of this says, “Will the beautiful women of the world please stand up?” And this is a personal story about a sanitation worker working for Charity Water. And nowhere in his job description does it say that he is, you know, to make a woman feel beautiful today. And we know intuitively that if we didn’t have clean water and we couldn’t wash our face, we’re not going to feel great about how . . . And we’re not going to feel beautiful. And it makes sense that as soon as we had clean water and we could wash our face, that we could. And that’s exactly what happened for Helen, you know.

And I love this story from this worker because he says, “Hey, nowhere in my job description does it say, ‘Today I made someone feel beautiful.'” So you feel like you’re in the field with him in Uganda meeting Helen giving thanks, this beautiful smile on her face. And it’s beautiful. And you feel like you’re there in the field with him. It’s an unexpected story. It’s behind the scenes.

This is one of my all-time favorite books about giving presentations. I mentioned this part, just presentation skills. Grab this book, if you haven’t already. It’s called, “Talk like TED.” And it’s written by Carmine Gallo. He also wrote a book. I think it’s called like, “The Six Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.” Helen’s story is the virtual equivalent of taking your donors on a field trip. I’m a big fan of donor cultivation events. It sounds like a whole another webinar. And one of the things I [inaudible 00:27:12] at donor cultivation events is even if your donors don’t come, you can write a great story of what they would have seen, if they’d been there. You can make it sound even more amazing than it actually, you know, maybe was. You know, you can just add in so much rich detail and put in some really great storytelling.

And many of you, especially for those of you that are serving clients all over the world and have donors all over the world and serving clients in other countries, you might not ever get to take your donor to see the action in person. And if you’re serving wildlife, you may never get that chance to do that for your donor. So storytelling is your chance to actually take them there.

These are some ideas for some behind-the-scenes ideas like think about what are the big stories that play out every year in the lifecycle of your organization? What are some stories that keep playing out like chronicling a student’s improvement, someone’s rehabilitation, a teen mom as she enrolls in your new parent program, a day in the life? It could be a day in the life of your client. It could be a day in the life of your client’s child.

I had the opportunity last week to present at a bridge conference with Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. And their donors love the stories of the children of Habitat families. These are kids whose parent didn’t have homes and were homeless. And now these kids are going to Ivy League universities. These are amazing stories. And their donors love hearing the stories of the kids of the families. So, it could be your client. It could be your client’s child. It could be a parent. It could be a volunteer. A day in the life of your food bank. And you could tell that story from an unexpected narrator, someone that your donors aren’t expecting to hear from.

This is a great example from Jen Love. I’m a huge fan of Jen. She’s fantastic. She’s from Agents of Good. She did this amazing, amazing appeal for Ontario Nature. And she wrote it from the perspective of a hummingbird. How creative is that? This is Ruby, the hummingbird. And I love this. This is a shot of Ruby before she left Mexico. It’s her good side. And so this is an example of the copy, you know. And she’s like, “Hey, I bet you’ve never received a letter from a bird before. That’s okay. I’ve never written a letter before.”

This is all about Ruby’s story. I don’t have stats for you on the impact of this appeal. But I can tell you anecdotally one of the donors who loved this so much, he started writing Ruby back. Ruby started getting fan mail. Who doesn’t want fan mail when you touch your donors so much that they’re getting fan mail ?And I’m going to have a photo of the outer envelope of this appeal. But one thing I want to mention about it is they did not do any branding on the outside of the envelope.

And I really want to take a second to admire the restraint that it took Ontario Nature to not put any of their branding because that’s a bold move. I mean, you know, sometimes it’s hard to not put your logo up on a slide. They did not put their logo or any branding. They had Ruby’s footprint. They had bird footprints. And that created lot of novelty and curiosity among their donors. What is this I’m getting in the mail? And I’m going to open this up and see what’s inside.

So amazing job. I just love this. I love Jen. I love her work. I love bragging on her. And she got to just really unleash so much innovation and creativity in this. And I think this is a great example of a unique narrator and one that really engaged their donors. So the challenge that we have here is not to tell it, but to show it. How can you make this come alive, your story, your mission, how to make this come alive?

Oh, I see a great question from Corina. I’m going to answer these at the end. What are some tools to create infographics? There are some awesome free tools to create infographics. There are a ton of them out there. And I’m going to show you some more infographic tools. So that’s a great question.

Another Charity Water example, my last Charity Water example. I can’t help it. They have great photography. Emotion needs no translating. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so powerful. All I have to do is look at that disgusting, dirty water. And I don’t any baby drinking that. I don’t want my baby or any baby drinking that. So emotion is your donor’s love potion. And it needs absolutely no translation.

This is a really powerful way of communicating impact. This black cloud, this is from the WWF, World Wildlife Federation. This black cloud here represents the emissions for not driving in one day in Beijing that you would save. This is drive one day less and look how much carbon monoxide you’ll keep out of the air we breathe. That is really powerful. There’s even a little timeline here of watching it fill up.

Oh, Canva, yes. I love that tip on infographics. Canva has a great free tool. And there are many out there. I’m going to show you some more infographics in a minute. But this is a great example of just the impact one image can have on telling your story.

Here’s another one. I speak Italian. And I don’t see a lot of fundraising appeals in Italian. But I’m going to translate. This means for 1.1 million people, this is the sad reality. And this is fascinating. This is a campaign that was done around water. And one of the other appeals in this campaign, and I don’t have a photo of it, was on the outer envelope. It was letting people know, “Your water’s going to be cut off for these dates.” And they weren’t really cutting off people’s water. But it was another, “This is the sad reality for people that live in these other countries that don’t have access to clean water or reliable access to clean water.” So this is a really great campaign. And right away, you know that the straw, the toilet, no one wants to be doing that. No one wants to be drinking that.

I mentioned some great work by neuroscientists. “Thinking Fast and Slow” is a great, great read. It’s a big book. I like to joke I read the book so you don’t have to. It’s a really big book. He won the Nobel Prize in economics. And he’s a behavioral scientist. Humans are to thinking as cats are to swimming. We can do it when we have to, but we’d much prefer not to.” All of these tools that you’re seeing, images, headlines, these are all helping your donors make a decision and give an emotional context for understanding. You’re making it a lot easier for them to make that decision than reading data that’s going to put them to sleep.

Here’s a great example, portion sizes. You know, let’s kind of think about this infographic. How much are you really eating? You know, whatever it is that you have to communicate about your impact, about your numbers, how can you tell that with a photo? How can you tell that with a story? Is there an analogy that you can use? I mentioned the bus and kids not getting a chance to eat and the visualization of that. How can you make that come to life with visualization?

Be careful with statistics. I love this advice from Jerry Panas. “If you statistics are impressive use them, but only as a drunk might use a lamppost. Only for support, not for illumination.” I see a lot of reports that are just statistic after statistic. And I don’t have a context. Why should I care? It’s just numbers.

And there’s a phenomenon. For humans, it’s called psychic numbing. And what this means is that we tune out at any number greater than one. This is scientific fact. This is a limitation of how our brains work. As humans, we literally tune out on any number bigger than one. Focus on one person. Focus on one story. There are lots of stats that back this up. You know, doing an appeal about all of the challenges that millions of kids are facing in Africa is not going to perform as well as focusing on one child and their story.

So here’s kind of an infographic example of single mothers. Single mothers, 26% live in poverty. This makes it easy for me. If you just gave me numbers of how many single moms they are and how many are living in poverty, I would tune out. Numbers depress emotion. I can’t focus on the millions. I can focus on the mass.

There’s a famous quote by Mother Teresa. “If I focus on the masses, I will never act. If I focus on the one, I will.” You know, the Holocaust is overwhelming. It’s too much to take in. But we can understand it all through the lens of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” We read that book in school. My kids just read “Stolen Child,” which I think is going to really be like the book of their generation around the Holocaust. It’s incredible juvenile fiction. If you haven’t read it, it’s very, very powerful.

You have to fight the urge to tell the reader everything that you do. I know that’s hard. I love this book, “The One Thing.” I love everything about this book, the message. Of course, you get the main idea from the cover. Just focus on the one thing, the one story, the one program, not the 12 other things. This isn’t like the kitchen sink here. You’ve got to fight that urge to tell the reader everything you do. I know it’s hard. But you’ve got to fight it because it because they’re not going to remember it.

I love this quote from Tom Ahern. We got to see Tom in Dallas at AFPDFW’s conference. And he said, “I pay attention to what interests me. And what interests me most is me. Ask anyone.” This is true of your donors. And I mentioned this early. But without a problem to solve, your donors don’t have anything to do. So to recap, your donors don’t need training. They need a problem. It needs to be solvable. And they need to be the ones to solve it. They need to be the hero. They need to come in on their white horse. They need to be the hero of the story.

So remember this movie “Footloose” and that theme song, “Holding out for a Hero,” by Bonnie Tyler? You’ve got to uncover the conflict. And you’ve got to make the donor the protagonist. So these are some examples of [inaudible 00:37:48]. I’m going to show you like three different examples. This is an example from Food for the Poor. The donor has a role to play in this story front and center. Their lives depend on you. She needs your protection. The donor is front and center in this story.

I’m going to show you a couple makeovers, a couple thank you makeovers. This is a thank you makeover, very forgettable. They’re cramming in, okay, “Each year we serve nearly 25,000 patients. Your support helps us with this and this and this and this.” Okay. That’s a lot. I mean, this is a lot. And this is not a memorable thank you that I’m going to cherish. It’s pretty forgettable. And it’s kind of crammed into thank everybody like a kitchen sink kind of thank you.

So here’s a makeover. Your $100 donation will give us a cancer patient or gave if this is a thank you . . . Your $100 donation gave a cancer patient’s mom a home away from home tonight. Simple, clear. It gave this. It did this. I’m going to show you an example from an organization. I did a webinar for Kivi Leroux Miller on Epic Thanks [SP]. And I did some live makeovers. And this organization let me give them a makeover.

So this isn’t that terrible of a thank you note, you know, thanking people, kind of doing the kitchen sink thing. “We’re putting your gift to use doing this and this and this and this.” Okay, lots of things there. “We couldn’t do it without you.” So that’s the before. So I got the opportunity to give them a little makeover. And I went to their website. And their website at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America was loaded with these great stories. So I just picked one.

And this was my makeover. “Dear Candice, it’s a story of a patient of a child with fatal food allergies can relate to. One day everything was fine. The next day after trying a food sample in the grocery store with her mom, seven-year-old Alanna lay limp in her mother’s arms covered in a rash. Thanks to you today, Alanna is happy, healthy and thriving.”

So I just told this story, one of the great stories on their site of a kid and how this gift helped this kid and many like her. So you likely have some great content already. And you can just tweak it. This is a great example. You can look this up, tinyurl.com/KLMTHANKS. This is a great example of a live thank you shot from a smartphone. This organization is Mobile Loaves and Fishes. They’re here in Austin, Texas. I love their founder, Alan Graham. He’s an amazing human being. And Alan does a great job just going out into the field, shooting stuff with his phone, tweeting it out, sending it out.

So it’s a homeless ministry. And they’re giving food and clothing and blankets and toiletries to our brothers and sisters. And he is out here in the field. And he’s like, “Hey, guys. We’ve got some more blankets. What do you say?” And they’re just saying, “Thank you. Thank you for this gift.” And he sends it out. I mean, just amazing. There’s lot of great tools that you can use. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can shoot this and send it to your donors. You don’t have to have this be professionally produced in a studio.

So I wanted to give you guys a lot of tips. I put all of these up right there at rachelmuir.com. I actually made like a swipe file of these nine different formats for telling stories and to help you think like a donor and tell your donors stories that they can remember, the ones that will inspire them to take action to give to your organization, to give again to your organization.

I’m going to give you guys some time. I’ve got a few questions. I’m going to hop over and answer these great questions. You can still type them in. I want to give one more plug for this great end-of-year thing that we’re doing that we’re kicking off next week. So if you want a little love and a little help, I’ve got a special coupon just for you guys. It’s literally just for you guys.

But we’d love to have you join Gail and I. We’ve got some great guests. And we’re going to be digging in deep, how to use the phone to boost your end-of-year results, step by step by step on email, step by step by step on direct mail, step by step on Giving Tuesday, and lots of Ask the Experts Clinic with the fabulous Shanon Doolittle and the fabulous Leah Eustace in between. So I hope you’ll join us. It starts next Tuesday.

I’ve got this goodie up on guides. I’ve also got that swipe file, as well, that you can get. And I see some great questions in here. I mentioned Careen [SP] earlier. And you guys, feel free to type them in. Careen asks, “What are the tools to use to create infographics?” Canva is great. There are several. Google “free infographics.” I’m forgetting the names of some of the infographic tools I’ve used in the past. But there are some really great inexpensive and affordable and free tools out there that you can use to make infographics. And it’s a great, simple way for you to tell your story and communicate something powerfully to your donors that’s going to make it memorable for them.

Ellen asks, “Is sending a video thank you in place of a hard copy acknowledgment or does it depend on how a donation’s made?” What a great question. And I’m really glad to have my stewardship plan up while answering this question. Listen. I’m going to be honest with you. People rely too much on the gift amount as a determinant of rolling out the red carpet and thanking and acknowledging and appreciating their donors. It’s really, really terrible.

So here in this slide that you see up of the stewardship plan, it has different activities. And I’m ambitious, okay? I threw everything over here, like everything that you could do. If you did all these things, your donors would be in heaven. If you do many of these things, you’ll be doing a better job than many organizations.

So what I want to call out about it is I’ve got new donors, second-gift, third gift. Roll out the red carpet on your new donors. We all know that donors are under-giving dramatically with their first gift. But we know that we are holding back and not giving our donors more care and attention that let’s say make a big gift. I shared a stewardship plan recently. And literally the donor had to make like a $50,000 gift in order to actually just be thanked. All the beanies were totally transactional.

Your donor didn’t giving so they can be in your annual report. Your donor isn’t giving so that they can have their logo on your website. Your donor is giving to make a difference. And they want to make a difference. How are you communicating to your donor how they’re making a difference? And how quickly are you communicating it? And how meaningfully?

So I would say think about stewardship and think about business tools. With something like a video thank you, you can gain so much scale and efficiency setting that up in like an email series. You can set up a whole stewardship thank you series. And like you can have a welcome series where you’re telling the story of the impact of the donor’s gift and using videos. The more you plan and the more you have these things ready whether you’re automating it, using videos . . . sorry, automating it using like tools in your CRM or your CMS, your email program, or you’re just having a volunteer make a lot of thank you cards and having them paste in great photos and you’ve got them ready to go, I mean . . . And I’m going to give you that advice especially now end-of-year. Be ready.

You’re working hard to get all these year-end-gifts. Make sure you’re ready to thank those year-end-gifts. Make sure you’ve got time on the back end to acknowledge those gifts. So I would say think strategically about how you can get scale and efficiency, Ellen, on your thank you’s to your donors so that you can thank them as meaningfully as possible. I would challenge you to thank them meaningfully. And I would challenge you to start finding out more about them, not in the thank you, but in a series of get-to-know-you where you are able to send them a short visual survey a few weeks later and find out of all the great programs and services that you provide, what do they care about the most?

Melinda asked me, “Show the slide with the list of nine ways to tell your story headings again.” Yes. And I’ll pull that over. And let me just show you. While I’m getting that, Melinda, that’s where you can download it. And she wants the list of all slides. There you go. Right there.

Beatrice asked, “What type of collateral material are appropriate for donor visits?” Yes, less is more. Yeah. I think collateral for donor visits, stories. Come prepared with the stories of the lives that you’re changing and the impact that you’re trying to have and that you want to have. Maybe you’ve got some photos. Maybe you’ve got some videos. It doesn’t have to be professionally produced. But maybe you do have some stuff that’s professionally produced.

Your donors don’t want you to spend like hundreds of dollars on a coffee table book that you’re going to leave with them for an appeal. Of course, if you’re doing a capital campaign, if you’re doing other campaigns, you might have . . . I mean, in the examples, Tammy Zonker has some really great printed pieces for her campaign. That campaign is this one right here. She’s got some really nice printed pieces for that. So you might have some pieces like that. But you can also share it. It doesn’t have to be super fancy. It can just be the stories. It can be photos and maybe some videos that you’ve shot in the field, as well. So those are like a few different options for you.

And let’s see here. Kelly asks, “I’m soon launching a new woman’s ministry. I do need donations, but don’t have all of those great stories yet to tell that you’re referring to. How can I approach soliciting donations this early?” So when you’re new and you don’t have the stories of who you’ve helped so far, what do you have? You have the need. You have your client’s needs. And you have the impact that you want to make. And you’re really selling new donors on that vision of, “This is the challenge. And here is how we want to make a difference. And these are the people that are coming to us. And these are the people that we want to serve. And I can’t wait to tell you how your gift is going to impact their lives.” That would be my short advice.

Cindy asks a great question. “When you run into a board . . . ” Hmm, run into a board. I’ve run into a few of those. One of the guys that’s up there is on a board. It’s called Make Over my Board. So if anyone here has the appetite for making over their board, I’ve got some goodies, including how to facilitate graceful exits of enhancing attrition, meaning showing board members who need to go the door in grateful, graceful ways. So since Cindy asked, “When you run into a board that’s really hesitant to do something bold, how do you persuade them?” Yeah. And that’s a great question. And that’s a really big challenge, you know.

Think about ALS, right? Think about the ice bucket challenge. If a board member or a staff member said in a board meeting, “Hey, I’ve got this wild and crazy idea. Wouldn’t it be fun if we poured buckets of ice water, huge, huge buckets of freezing cold ice water on our heads for the cause and people videotaped it and they shared it,” you know, I’m guessing that idea would have died right there on the table.

But because someone outside of the organization had the big, bold idea, they just kind of ran with it and supported it and threw up some FAQs and rolled with the punches on that one. It’s an important question that you bring up about how do we support innovation? How do we encourage innovation in our organization? And I think it’s one that you’re talking about a very real challenge. Many organizations struggle with this. You can test your asset here. You can test your idea and how do people react to it? And do they respond really well?

One thing to keep in mind, and I always encourage people to think about this, I mean, you have board members who give. And that’s fantastic. You have preferences for how you like to be treated and what you like in terms of fundraising. Some of you on the call might not like direct mail. It doesn’t mean your donors don’t like direct mail. And you can never force your own fundraising preferences onto other people. Those are your preferences. They’re not your donors’ preferences.

And the beauty about fundraising is that it’s part art and it’s part science. And you can always test everything that you do. So I would show them examples of bold ideas that have worked. I would show them examples of maybe support that you have for your bold idea. And I would test it. If you haven’t already tested it and it’s not a subset of your donors or a larger subset, test it. I don’t know exactly what the idea is. But I hope that helps. And I wish you luck.

So let’s see here. Sarah said, “We’re attempting to increase our memberships, local [inaudible 00:51:48], based on this webinar. And I am starting to think that we should ditch the membership and just move to solicitations and awesome thank you’s. Thoughts.” You know, membership, that’s like a whole another webinar I feel like, I mean, because memberships, it’s kind of a transactional gift. And there are people who have memberships who will give philanthropically. There are people who will have a membership at The Children’s Museum and give philanthropically to The Children’s Museum. There are people who will have tickets to the athletics event and give to the scholarship fund for the athletes.

But you know your donor base. And you can also test. I mean, I think the interesting thing about memberships is that it’s kind of up to what kind of a culture, what kind of a transactional culture do your members have with your organization? And how might you be able to change that or influence that with a philanthropic act? I hope that helps.

Oh, this is a great question from Christine Miller. “Do you have templates or guides on how to create a donor satisfaction survey?” I don’t have that in the slide. But if you want to email me, my email’s right there. You can email me. You can also go to this website, sofii.org. There is a donor satisfaction survey. There’s a few donor satisfaction surveys. I’m a big fan of donor satisfaction surveys. I think they’re great.

I encourage you in surveys to be visual and make it really easy for your donors to take your survey. And take the time to be really thoughtful, about the questions. Be super thoughtful about the questions that you ask your donors. Never ask your donors something that you already know. Always in a survey have an open-ended, “Is there anything else you would like us to know,” to cover something that your donor might want to tell you?

Never make a donor have to fill out all of the answers in the survey in order to vote. I hate that when surveys make me fill out everything, especially if it’s like an employee’s survey and they ask you some questions that are going to identify who you are. And you just wanted to be a secret critic. So that’s a little bit of advice. But you can go to sofii.org and search for donor satisfaction surveys. I’m a big fan of those.

“I have a question. How do you find excellent contributing board members in all ways?” You know, I think one of the most important ways that you do that is you do a really good job talking about service to your perspective board members and screening them. And you talk with them about what service means and what the expectations are of service. And you have role models. If they pass the test and you think they’re going to be a great asset, you pair them with a board buddy who’s a rock star on your board who’s doing a really great job on your board.

If you don’t have those things, I’ve got that guide on my website, the “Make Over my Board.” It has questions to ask when you’re recruiting board members. I think the place where everything goes wrong with board members is that expectations aren’t set. And we downplay the expectations of service. And we need to be up-front and positive about how donors can make a difference. And we also really need to give donors so many different ways that they can support fundraising. We need to give them like 50 different ways they can support fundraising and hope that they will sign up for like seven of them.

Fundraising isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s not just circulating a list of, “Okay. So here are all the wealthy people we want to go to in our community. Write your name down next to everyone you know.” That’s going to terrify a lot of your board members. And they’re not up for that. So it’s not one-size-fits-all. Your board members are different people. Some people are introverted. Some people are extroverted. And you want to find the right opportunities that work for them. So think about it like a menu, like an ala carte menu at a restaurant with lots of different options.

Lots of awesome questions. Patricia asks, “How often should a donor newsletter go out? Monthly, quarterly?” So she’s talking about updates to her donors. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all question. I can tell you that I see different successes with different organizations. I’ve seen organizations do this monthly. I’ve seen organizations that had more success with it quarterly.

I’d say that in general, look at your open rates is a definitely great place to start. Open up the hood and look at your open rates. You could survey your donors on, “How are we doing on communicating? Too much, not enough, just right?” You can ask your donors that question. If you’re going to take the time to ask them, you need to be able, ready and prepared to take the time to make good on the feedback that they gave you.

In general, I would say we have to communicate a lot more to be heard than we think. And that’s kind of true for everybody. But I would also tell you, this is something worth researching. And there was a study that [inaudible 00:57:26] did a couple years ago. And that was one of the questions that they asked, not specifically monthly or quarterly.

One of the questions was the gap between how nonprofits felt they were communicating and they thought they weren’t communicating enough. I don’t think this was a huge sample survey. It was definitely under like 2,000. It might have been in the hundreds. But the donors that responded to this particular survey felt like the nonprofits were doing fine. And they were communicating just enough. So you could always ask your donors. And you could look at your results. And you could look at your open rates.

We’ve got a couple more minutes. I’m going to try to get to a few more. And you’re also welcome to email me. And I’ll do my best to answer your question. How are you tracking your donor’s cultivation steps in [inaudible 00:58:15]? What a great question. This is like a great tie-in to Bloomerang and Bloomerang’s awesome software. So you can set up business rules for stewardship plans. And you can have those in your CRM so that you know. And you can have ticklers for okay, this person made a gift. Now they need to get this piece of communication. And depending on the tools that you’re using, you can use an awesome system to track them. And I’ll leave that open, if Steven wants to jump in and add anything on that fantastic question. He’s probably muted.

Steven: Yeah. I appreciate the shout out, Rachel, for sure.

Rachel: These are so many great questions. Do you have example surveys to use to gauge donor interest? Yes. That’s a whole another webinar. We could do a whole webinar on donor surveys. And it’s worth thinking about how can I survey my donors? If you have lots of different programs your organization does and you don’t know what programs your donors care about, think about how can you build that into a highly visualized donor survey so you can find out? When it comes to giving, where do your donors most want to have an impact? That’s a great question to ask your donors in a survey. And that’s important information for you because you’re going to communicate with your donors and send them appeals based on those programs and not the other programs that they don’t care about. So great questions.

We are on the hour. So should I pass the baton to you, my friend, Steven?

Steven: Yeah.

Rachel: Awesome.

Steven: I think so. I would love to sit here for the next eight hours and listen to more of this because there are some really good questions. But I appreciate you willing to take questions offline, as well. So thanks, Rachel. This was really great. I was taking some notes myself. And I want to thank all of you for taking an hour of your day, as well. Do check out all of Rachel’s goodies. She’s going to send you some things. I’m going to send the recording, as well as the slides. Check out that class that she’s doing next week too. That is a crazy lineup. I don’t even know how all seven of you got together. That’s ridiculous. That’s like a dream team right there.

Please do that. I don’t even know what the price of that is. But it’s probably worth it, no matter what it is. So check that our for sure. And we’ve got some other goodies on our website, as well. And we’ve got our own webinar series is rolling right along. We’re going to have a special Wednesday edition next week. I’m out of town on Thursday. So we bumped it up one day. And Lori Jacobwith is going to join us and talk about how she can help kind of turn your donor’s passion for your cause into the actions that you want to happen, so donations, maybe even turn them into volunteers, fundraisers for you. That’s something we’re going to talk about, as well. This is going to be a great session.

So six days from now. Check it out. We’ve got other webinars that you can register for, pretty much one per week through the rest of the year. And we’ll try to be as awesome as this one was today. So Rachel, thanks again for hanging out. I know you’re super busy with work, school, family, all that good stuff. So it’s awesome for you to be here, be a stalwart for our series, as well.

Rachel: I love it. Thank you for having me. I love doing webinars with you guys. I look forward to coming back.

Steven: Yeah. We’ll have you back, for sure. So we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email from me. I’ll send you all the goodies. And hopefully, we’ll see you next week. If not, have a great weekend. And we will talk to you again soon.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.