What are you saying?

Last night I was watching Comedy Central before bedtime and caught an interview between Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.  It was obvious that Norquist made an appearance on The Colbert Report because he wants to “cultivate” new Millennial generation voters and educate them about his anti-tax message.

Unfortunately for poor Grover, his time was not well spent because when all was said and done the only thing he essentially accomplished was to 1) explain his anti-tax pledge and 2) demonstrate how much he hates taxes. He never got around to telling the young Millennial audience WHY an anti-tax position is important to their generation. I was left wondering what is the case for support?

This got me thinking about many recent conversations I’ve had with non-profit friends. We’ve focused too much on the “how to” communicate with prospects & donors as well as the “how often” to do it. Unfortunately, I think we’re missing the boat (like Grover did last night) by not talking about WHAT should we say to our prospects and donors.

In today’s day and age of non-profit competitiveness, it is not good enough to:

  • send out a gift acknowledgement letter that just says “thank you”
  • mail a quarterly newsletter to donors
  • e-blast informational emails
  • call donors with appreciation
  • host a recognition event
  • get the newspaper to print your press releases
  • set-up and use Facebook pages and Twitter accounts

This laundry list is important, but even more important is what your messaging will be once your secure and use these communication vehicles. Here are a few suggestions to help you fine tune your messaging:

  • Go back and re-read everything you’ve used in the last 3-months.
  • Assess the messaging with a critical eye. Ask yourself if there is a fine tuned message focused on what you do, why you do it, and where are you doing it, and why is it urgent and critical for the community. (If all you hear is “blah-blah-blah,” then you have some work to do.)
  • Pull together a focus group of donors and ask them what messages they hear and what do they want to hear.
  • Dust off your organization’s “case for support” document. Re-read, assess, test, and re-write based on what you hear from others.

Tom Ahern put it best in his most recent e-newsletter when he said: “Our job as donor communicators, I am now convinced by experience and research, is to bring JOY to the donor’s door.”

Has your donor communications brought joy to your donors? Have you asked them? Or are you just grabbing the megaphone and yelling as loudly as you can “we need more money”? Please go to the comment section of this blog and weigh-in on your organization’s communications best practices and how you know they are effective. Let’s learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
eanderson847@gmail.com
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