Claire Waiksnoris, Business Development Executive  ●  6/25/2019

You Can Ignite Donors’ Passion for Social Services.  Here’s How.



It’s never been more important to build bridges between social services and fundraising.  The relationship to one another is crucial, and oftentimes, strained.  You can ignite donors’ passions for social services.  Here’s how:


Why Do We Need to Connect Donors to Social Services?

If donors don’t know what services are offered, or the stories of those who have been helped by them, what are they giving to?

We commissioned a survey of 800 charitable donors in the United States.  Participants were required to be at least 35 years old and to have made a charitable contribution in the last year.  You can download your copy of the full donor research report here.

The objectives of the donor research were to:

  • Get to know your donors.
  • Understand where The Salvation Army stands compared to other similar nonprofits.
  • See how perceptions differ by age group, especially because of the pivotal shift in the donor landscape.
  • Uncover donor preferences and perceptions that will allow The Salvation Army to increase donor loyalty, generate more gifts, and accomplish their mission.

Our key findings:

  1. The Salvation Army is America’s favorite charity!
  2. Donors believe The Salvation Army spends their money wisely!
  3. Food and shelter are key issues for donors.


Put Impactful Social Services Stories into Action

Now that we know what key issues motivate Salvation Army donors to give, how do we communicate them?

By writing a memorandum full of data and statistics?  Nope!

Tell engaging and honest stories!  Ever since a young age, our minds crave hearing stories.  Just think back to being a child at bedtime — “One more story, Mom!”

Stories inspire, create empathy, and motivate.  However, fundraising storytelling that’s authentic and moving isn’t easy to write.

 Here are three kinds of fundraising stories that actually work:

  1. Impact stories
    No donor sends contributions to simply support your programs or keep your organization going.  Donors send gifts because they believe you can use them to do something good.  But that belief can only be sustained for so long.  Donors need to read, see, and hear how well their gifts are being used, and what kind of difference they’ve made.
  2. Donor-as-the-hero stories
    Creating donor-focused story content is smart fundraising.  But too often, organizations only want to tell their own story.  When you do storytelling correctly, you tell donors it’s all about them!  As a result, donors deepen their own belief that they can make the world better than it is today.
  3. First-person stories
    Sometimes, the most powerful words come directly from someone helped, not from an organizational voice.  These storytelling testimonials can be undeniable proof to a donor of why her giving matters.  It’s an endorsement that’s completely unbiased, and therefore, one that rings true.

Want to learn more about great fundraising stories?  Check out our how-to guide.


Make the Most of Donor Visits

Donor visits are an invaluable way of demonstrating their dollars in action.  But it’s not quite as simple as taking them around the building.  Preparation is key!

Before their visit, determine the purpose of the tour.  Just an informational introduction?  Relationship building?  Setting up an ask for a specific program?  One goal should always be to affirm the donor’s decision to give.

In preparation of the donor’s visit:

  • Meet with the Corps Office or Program Director to provide giving history and pertinent donor info.
  • Make sure the Corps or program is ready for a visit.  Is the area clean?  Have participants been told to expect a visitor?  Does a waiver need to be signed?
  • Identify the donor’s key interests prior to their visit (specific programs to highlight, etc.).
  • Schedule the visit during a time when there is a lot of activity that will highlight the program in which they are most interested.
  • Double-check the location’s regular schedule, so you know what programming or activities are happening before planning your visit.  (For instance, every Tuesday at the Corps might be cleaning day, and not the best day to visit.)

During the visit:

  • The Corps Officer or Program Director should be available for the tour.
  • Be prepared with marketing materials that highlight opportunities for support.
  • If you know the donor has a special interest in a specific program (and if it’s appropriate), take them on the tour when that program is in operation.  (For instance, an after-school program or food distribution day.)
  • Have the most knowledgeable development person available (one who understands all the relationship factors).
  • If at all possible, have a testimonial from a client to share.  (These can be very powerful!)

Hopefully it goes without saying: Avoid scheduling visits on days when no programs are operating, or when the building is not clean!


How have you been successful in integrating social services and fundraising?  Let us know.  You might be featured on a future article in The Ringer.



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