Its Your Last Chance to Make a Good Impression 12.29.2016

With the last few days of 2016 trickling down, my inbox has been flooded with year-end appeals from various organizations reminding me of their importance in my life over the past year. In reading these different appeals, it is obvious that some organizations have taken the time to get to know me as a patron, while others simply hope that I will blindly donate. Their email to me is an ATM card and I am a cash machine.

You might guess which email will be the most effective in soliciting a gift from me, but let’s dig a little deeper and examine both approaches. For the purposes of this exercise I will take two examples from my inbox. We’ll call one organization the ABC organization and the other the XYZ organization.

ABC Organization – It is All About Them!

The ABC organization has a subject line that says “Name at ABC organization.” There is an assumption that I know this person and that I will open the email. They are right. I do know this person so I don’t feel like I am taking my digital life in my hands by opening the email. When I do though, I am immediately struck with the ABC organization’s sales pitch,

“Enrich. Inspire. Educate. Collaborate. Build a community…with your support!”

Buzzwords that get bantered around by a lot of organizations, but what is compelling about them? What are they trying to say?

Next, comes the “Dear Friend” generality that says they either lack the technology to personalize the email with my name or they are just lazy. Next comes more pitch about making a difference with a tax-deductible gift! This is followed by a big ORANGE “Donate” button. Beyond the button, I am bombarded with examples of every possible program, and more sales pitches, that might in some way connect with me. Scrolling down takes a lot of time on this email.

In short, this email isn’t about my relationship with the ABC organization at all. It is all about them. I should support them, their programs. There is simply nothing in this email that says that they have taken the time to understand my relationship to them. I could have connected with them in some way or I could be a donor already, the same email goes to everyone.

XYZ Organization – Nurturing a Relationship

The subject line from the XYZ organization begins with “Your Year with XYZ organization.” Immediately the organization is connecting me with them, not selling me or pitching me on something.

Instead of starting off with the ask, they start by thanking me for being a part of their organization. They take the time to remind me of my connection to the organization by letting me know how I’ve connected with them. They even remind me which program has been the most interesting to me. They’ve clearly done their homework here!

Next, instead of a blatant ask, they ask me a question, a did you know question? The question is clearly designed to get me to mentally engage with the organization. They are bringing value to conversation, giving me something to think about. They also position the answer just a little farther down the email so that I must scroll down to get to the answer. This technique of presenting a mystery is the central premise of the latest book by Robert Cialdini, Pre-suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade.

Only after I have the answer to the question does the organization ask me to give what I can. The XYZ organization clearly took time to understand me, my connection to them, and how best to position this relationship to cultivate my donation to them.

Which organization would you want to help?

Your Relationship is Your Asset

Organizations are constantly striving to build out our relationship networks. Yet, why do so many organizations simply throw away the relationships they are trying to build. In the findings of a recent study, 8 out of 10 newly acquired donors are lost because organizations don’t take the time to get to know them. Can your organization afford to lose 80% of your newly acquired donors?

One of the interesting trends in the last few years has been the migration of organizations to Customer Relationship Management systems. Many organizations have adopted these systems, poured their information into them and then failed to leverage that information to effectively manage the relationship. If you aren’t using a quality CRM then you are at least 10 years behind the rest of the world. If you have a CRM and can’t use it to learn about your patrons, then you either are using it incorrectly or the CRM has poor reporting capabilities. If it takes more than five minutes to run any custom report on your patrons, you have a big problem and need to fix it NOW!

Before you send those emails take time to build emails that will resonate with your patrons. You do not have to build a custom email for each patron, but you can group your patrons. Try running reports around specific programming areas in your organization, then build an email around those patrons that share that common interest. Segment your current patrons by giving level and build custom email campaigns to target them. For your highest-level patrons, you need to make the call if an email ask is even appropriate. Don’t just blindly send emails.

Finally, make any email you send about your patron first and not your elevator pitch. Default to the classic development 101 approach and start any conversation by saying thank you. You can never say thank you too much.

There’s still time left to get those end of year campaigns out there. Just remember to always start with your patron. They will thank you for it!