Effective Messages for Donor Acquisition

How do you create the most effective messages to acquire donors?  Whether it is direct mail, an e-blast, or phonathon script, how do you construct the key phrases designed to encourage your prospects to become donors?

From my experience, many organizations use the “WUTLY” approach (We Used This Last Year).  They tweak a phrase here or there, maybe even rearrange whole sentences and add new paragraphs.  Maybe a whole new theme is created, but the point is they start with WUTLY.  Of course, no one can pinpoint the origin of last year’s message.  So, they end up with a chain of messages based on. . . well, they really don’t know what it is based on, other than double or triple WUTLY.

Here’s a thought:  Do some quick modeling of your database and create a rough profile of your annual giving donor.  Yes,there are companies, most notable Target Analytics, who do a very nice job with this.  But even if you haven’t set aside money in your budget this year to purchase a predictive modeling service, there remain questions you can answer quite easily in your shop.  In most instances, with only a little bit of effort you can find out the following five things about your donors:

  • The % of donors by gender;
  • The % of donors by age range;
  • The % of donors by geographic location;
  • The % of donors by affiliation (friend, alum, parent, etc.)
  • The breakdown of gift allocation for your donors (unrestricted, designated, or restricted);

Think about how your donor acquisition message can be shape just be running a few simple analytics.  You may find that most of your donors are 50-65 year old female alumni who live in your local community and like to give to student scholarships (I’m using an educational institution as an example, but you get the picture).  Based on this information, how much more effective can you now be in messaging potential donors?

Jeff Brooks, at Future Fundraising Now suggests that messaging for fundraising copy can take either a male or female voice.  He offers up phrase examples to utilize when communicating with one or the other audience.  It’s interesting copy.  When we know who gives to us now, we can use this information to create effective messages to prospects who have similar demographics.   We have an enhanced opportunity to message them effectively and, as a wonderful byproduct, we can save some time, effort, and money as well.


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