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June 7, 2017

8 Tips to Connect Your Donors to the People They Help

connect donors to the people they help

Maybe you’ve heard of the “Sandwich Man” in Minnesota, who hands out sandwiches to the homeless each night. That amounts to an incredible 700,000 sandwiches per year! Suffice it to say, this guy’s driven.

Seventeen freezers in his apartment help him store supplies. He doesn’t sleep more than two hours most nights because there are too many people to help.

There’s no better way to experience the joy of giving than to help someone hand-to-hand, face-to-face. You put the work in, and you see the outcome.

The Sandwich Man’s motivation is as direct and pure as charitable giving can be. What keeps him engaged? Simple. He sees the faces of his hungry neighbors in the community — and he sees the difference he is making.

That should be our goal in direct marketing. Your prospects and donors may not see hungry faces in person, and they’re not packing sandwich bags themselves. But the closer we can come to them feeling that they are, the more fulfillment they'll get — and the better support you'll receive.

If you're fundraising for a food bank, and you could get every donor to the school where you operate a Kids Café, garnering donations would be a piece of cake. You would probably fully engage — and most certainly motivate — your donors after they see the tired, worried faces of the little ones who didn’t eat much over the weekend — and hear their “thank yous” for a simple sandwich and banana after school.

You may already be doing this for your major donors. You prepare a proposal designed precisely to pull at their heartstrings and propel them to give more. You carefully time your request for a meeting (at a program site, if possible), and you share an especially touching story about a problem that needs solved and how much it will cost to solve it. Once they give, you offer special recognition and stay in touch, updating them — with more stories — of the people they helped feed. They feel something like the Sandwich Man.

Now, let’s do the equivalent for $25 donors.

Don’t let fear of time and cost stop you. This CAN be done in direct marketing channels — at no more cost than you’re already spending!

Here are 8 tips to connect your direct-response donors to the people they help:

  1. Ask donors what motivates them to give, so you know what to say when asking for a gift. TrueSense Marketing conducted a research study on food bank donors, and prospects focused on exactly these questions. But these questions can also be answered using the remit process or online/offline surveys.
  2. Ask donors if they’d like to limit their appeals to certain times of the year. If they tell you, honor it! They’ll become some of the most loyal donors you have. And those that don’t tell you will also be more loyal because you cared enough to ask.
  3. Show donors the problem at hand with images and stories that demonstrate need (but not desperation). This presents a need realistically.
  4. Involve donors in the action. Use bounceback devices that connect the donor’s own words to a person who is helped. And use the words of a person who received help in your appeals.
  5. Always talk about what the donors can achieve — not what you have achieved because of the donors. Focus on the donor by using “you,” not “we,” in your appeals.
  6. Show donors the solution — but not in the appeal itself! Use acknowledgments and newsletters to tell those success stories. An authentic handwritten thank you from a child can be copied and included as an insert!
  7. Give donors special recognition such as certificates, partner cards, and giving society memberships.
  8. Use the phone and digital channel to do what paper alone can’t. An audio or video clip can “bring” the donor to the pantry or mobile delivery site. A stewardship call to update donors on the growth of a new program is a personal way to make them feel like the heroes they are.

Strategies should all be designed to shorten the space between donor and recipient. The best way to have donors who are as loyal and passionate as the Sandwich Man himself — is to remove what is sandwiched between them and those who they bless!

The Sandwich Man is named Allan Law, and you can read about him here.

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