by Ann Green
Are you still sending all your donors the same appeal and thank you letters? In these letters, you never thank a donor for their past support or acknowledge they’re a monthly donor.
If that’s not bad enough, many of these letters use vague and impersonal language and even worse, jargon.
Since the pandemic started, some nonprofits have done better and have created more nuanced, personal communication. Let’s keep this up and all do better. Your donors deserve that.
Steer clear of anything generic and create something more personal. Here’s what you can do.
Segment your donors
Your donors aren’t the same, so they shouldn’t all get the same letter. Segment your donors into different groups as much as you can. At the very least, create different letters for new donors, repeat donors, and monthly donors. You can also personalize letters to lapsed donors, event attendees, volunteers, etc.
I emphasize segmenting your donors a lot in my posts because it’s so important. Donors like it if you recognize their past giving or anything that shows them this is more than a generic, one-size-fits-all message.
And while we’re on the subject of personalization, please stop sending Dear Friend letters, as well. You’re not being a good friend if you don’t even use your donors’ names.
I know this will take more time, but it’s worth the investment. So is a good database to help you with this. Your donors will feel appreciated and are more likely to give again, possibly at a higher level.
Use language your donors understand
If you use vague, generic language and jargon, you’re going to instantly bore and/or confuse your donors. Most of your donors don’t have a medical or social services background. They don’t use terms like food insecurity, at-risk populations, and underserved communities, and neither should you.
Connect with your donors by using language they’ll understand. Instead of talking about food insecurity, give an example of a family choosing between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.
What do you mean by at-risk or underserved? Are high school students less likely to graduate on time? Do residents of a certain community not have good health care nearby? Is housing too expensive? Get specific, but at the same time, keep it simple. Also, terms like at-risk and underserved undermine your clients/community. Remember, these are human beings you’re talking about.
A great way to steer clear of generic language and jargon is to tell stories. Most people respond better to a human-interest story than a bunch of boring statistics.
Make time for improvement
You may be between fundraising campaigns right now and have a little more time (maybe). If so, work on segmenting the donors in your database, if you haven’t already done that. Segmenting your donors isn’t a one-time deal. Make changes as needed. For example, some of your single-gift donors may have upgraded to monthly. If you can do this after every campaign, you should have fairly up-to-date information on your donors.
In addition, dust off those templates and freshen up your appeal letters and thank you letters. We’re living in an ever-changing world and you need to acknowledge current situations in your communication. Create letter templates for different donor groups and replace your vague, generic language with something clear, conversational, and specific.
You can also use this time to add new stories to your story bank or start putting one together, if you don’t already have one
Have someone outside your organization, a friend or family member, look at your messages. Something that’s clear to you may mean nothing to others.
Steer clear of your generic communication with something that shows your donors how much you appreciate them by recognizing who they are and giving them engaging content they can relate to.