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Episode 37: Your Donors Want You to Hear This

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Fundraising. Is that word thrilling to hear, or does it give you anxiety?

For some people fundraising is their favorite part of being involved with a nonprofit, and for other people, it’s their number one cause of heartburn.

I don’t have to tell you, fundraising is a huge part of running a nonprofit, and when it’s going well, you feel on top of the world… When it’s going not so great, you might feel like you’re inching closer and closer to the edge of the cliff and hoping you’re not going to fall off.

Fundraising can be a trigger for anxiety because it’s never guaranteed. 

The future of your mission is in the hands of your donors, and the image that your nonprofit gives your donors can make – or break your organization.

Your relationship with your donors is so important – and here’s the great part – you have power over it! Not ALL the power, but you do have a lot of control – more than you think. 

You have control of when you contact them, over the message you give them, and over what they know about your nonprofit. You are the gatekeeper of information about your organization so what you share with them is important. 

What you put out on your nonprofit’s social media, in your email newsletters, in your blog posts, in all your channels of communication is crucial in building your relationships with your supporters. 

They aren’t coming to work with you every day, they are on the sidelines. They only know what you put out there.

Even if you are posting something on social media that is meant for the people you serve, guess what – your donors still see it. They are watching. And do you know what they expect? They expect you to only post things, and email things, and blog about things that all relate directly to your mission. 

If you are confusing them with things that don’t make sense about your mission like pointless things about your plate of avocado toast on your nonprofit’s Instagram page, or wishing everyone a happy National Play the Kazoo at Work Day on Facebook, you’re making it hard for them to be inspired to give to your organization. 

When your marketing message – and yes, a Facebook post counts as a piece of marketing material – doesn’t talk about services you offer or your nonprofit mission, you’re confusing your donors. As the marketing expert Donald Miller says, “If you confuse, you’ll lose.” 

When a donor gives to your organization, they are asking and delegating to you what they wish they could do themselves, but don’t have time to do. Because your donors are busy working at the job that allows them to give you money. They are entrusting you with the responsibility to help the cause that they care about. 

You’ve shown your donors that your nonprofit organization has a specific mission and you are striving to make a difference in your community. And that mission is something your donor cares enough about to give you their hard-earned money. They are trusting you to get it done. 

They want the problem that your nonprofit is working to solve to go away, or for you to make it better or improve the situation. Your donor believes your nonprofit can make a difference and since they don’t have time and can’t do it by themselves, they entrust the work to you. 

Their financial gift enables you to make a difference on their behalf.

If you are posting about your avocado toast on your nonprofit’s social media page, what kind of message is that sending to your donors? If you are posting about things that aren’t in line with your mission, or that are distracting and confusing, what are you telling your donors?

If you’re posting one day about how you serve the homeless, and the next day your post is wishing everyone a happy National Coffee Day, what kind of message is that sending to your donors? It’s cheery, but what if it’s the only post they saw from you that week? It’s fluff. It has no purpose. It does not relate to your mission at all. 

This is some tough love, but I’m telling you because I care about you and your nonprofit’s success. 

Being consistent in sharing your mission, your services, and showing up regularly are non-negotiable if you want to be successful with your marketing. 

What your donors might assume from posts that are not consistent with your mission is that you don’t know what you’re doing. You are telling them that you don’t have a plan and aren’t sure of what to post. You are telling them that you’re not taking this seriously. 

You can’t just show up on social media, you have to show up meaningfully, if you want results. 

It’s not just posting for the sake of posting, or emailing for the sake of emailing, or blogging for the sake of blogging. Your message has to be meaningful, and it has to be repeated.

Make your donors sure that they are doing the best thing with their money. 

Make them sure what your nonprofit organization does. When your donors start doubting, and another nonprofit comes around asking for support with a clearer message, your donors will be tempted if they aren’t sure about what you do. Don’t make it hard for your donors to support you!

I know, you get tired of repeating yourself. 

You feel like every email is the same, or every social media post is just a repeat of something you’ve already said. 

I’ve been there. I totally know how you feel. But here’s the thing – just because you’ve said it a hundred, or a thousand, or a few thousand times, doesn’t mean everyone’s HEARD it that many times. 

And if they’ve heard your consistent, focused marketing message a thousand times, then you are doing it right, and that person is probably one of your donors or supporters.

If you own a television, I know you’ve seen the Humane Society commercials with the dogs, or the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital commercial with all the children. You might think it’s the sadness and the emotion that those commercials show that are the reason why people give to those organizations – and yes that’s part of it – but the REAL reason is because those two organizations keep showing up in the same way, with the same focused message – and have you noticed? 

They each only have ONE COMMERCIAL EACH! 

Do you know how much money St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital raises every year with just ONE COMMERCIAL? Millions. Millions of dollars in contributions. Using the same commercial they have been using for years. Do you know why they are always at the top of the list of highest earning nonprofits? They are helping children, but also because they are good at talking about their mission – that’s marketing. They have a laser focused message, and they keep repeating it over and over and over.

So the next time you think you’ve said what you have to say about your nonprofit too many times and you’re tired of hearing the same ol’ message and you’ve repeated yourself for the last time – think of those shivering dogs and those sick children in each of those organization’s ONE COMMERCIAL - and repeat yourself again.

And here’s the best part about repeating yourself in your marketing – it saves you time. You don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. Once you have a clear and easy to understand marketing message, you can literally keep repeating it over and over. This is going to make posting on social media so much easier, I promise. 

Here are 3 things to do today to get focused on the message you want to give to your donors:

  1. Set aside time to think about four things: who you serve, how you serve them, why you serve them and what is the goal you’re working towards? Brainstorm and write down at least 12 ideas and words that come to mind as you think about those four things. Then cross off all but the strongest 3 or 4. Yes, make the list shorter and shorter - until there are only 3 or 4 words or phrases left that clearly - very clearly, so there’s no doubt, describe your mission – what you do, what your goal is.
  2. Look back. Look back at the past 3 months in your organization – what’s been working and what hasn’t? Think about this as it relates to your marketing and in your service to others and in your donor feedback. Use the things that have been working as ideas for content and what you are posting and talking about in your marketing.
  3. Boil it down. Ask everyone – your volunteers, employees, anyone you’ve served - what your organization does. Write down all of their words and pick out the strongest ones. Then, think of an easier way to say it. Keep whittling away until it describes your mission, what you do, who you serve and how you do it. Boil it down until it’s one or two short sentences. Make it easy to understand and be sure it tells exactly what your mission is and that it’s easy to say. 

Then use this as your main marketing message. 

And say it over and over again. Take it apart and use one phrase for one social media post or email or blog post at a time. You are always using the same words – your mission statement, but you’re breaking it down into little pieces for your donors to remember.  

That’s how they come to know, like and trust you. That’s what keeps donors invested in your nonprofit organization. 

They get to know you because you continue to give the same message on Facebook, Instagram, in emails and blog posts. 

Then they start liking what you do because you’ve made them aware of your nonprofit by showing up consistently and having the same message about what you do – they don’t have to guess.

And finally, they begin to trust you because you keep saying that you are on a mission and they know what that mission is – and of course you’re doing a great job fulfilling that mission!  

I want you to remember, keep your marketing message short, and keep using the same words over and over again. By using the same language, you are helping people remember.

If you have any questions – I’m right here for you! Ask away! Send me a message on Facebook or Instagram or send me an email through and I’ll happily write you back with an answer!

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