Create Clarity for Your Donors

Donors want a clear and compelling reason to fund your mission. You must be clear about what you want, why their help is needed, and why their gifts will be effective.

When executives and fundraisers are asked why their nonprofits exist they respond with a simple but unclear answer. You might hear something like, “We help the disadvantaged.” That is certainly a simple answer and easy to understand. However, it is so broad that it is meaningless. It is unclear if the disadvantaged are from one or many demographic groups. It is unclear if the disadvantaged have problems because of temporary economic change, a health issue, lack of education, criminal history, etc. It is unclear whether the nonprofit provides treatment for the problem, a cure, or preventive services. It is unclear why the nonprofit needs help or what help the nonprofit wants.

A better answer might be, “Homeless veterans need more than temporary shelter. Our donors enable us to provide the services that allow a veteran to thrive. By thrive we mean become sustainably self-sufficient.” The reason is now obvious to the listener. We know precisely who is being served. The prospective donor understands what donations can do. Also notice that the problem has been scaled down to a single veteran. It seems like a problem that can be solved. Problems need to be scaled down so that donors feel like there is hope and that their gifts can make a difference. The solution is something that is meaningful, measurable, and durable.

Donors also want to know what your business model looks like. When a donor understands your business model, they have confidence your nonprofit can fulfill the promises of your mission statement. Continuing the preceding example, the nonprofit might describe its business model this way, “We offer veterans temporary shelter. While in our shelter we assess their needs and provide them with services such as job training, counseling, mentoring, and wellness classes. After they are employed, we help them improve their financial literacy and develop long-term plans.”

Donors also want to hear about the evidence that proves your process works. They want the evidence to show that your results are consistent, reproducible, and scalable. As long as you are improving, the donors will be happy and supportive. Again using our example, imagine in the first year, only those with traumatic injuries were served and only one in every 100 found a job. If five years later the program serves those with traumatic injuries and PTSD and one in every ten finds a job, it shows that the process is reproducible and scalable and becoming more consistent. While there is much more to be done, there is good reason to believe that, with growing support, the nonprofit will have a significant impact.

Tell your donors about two or three ways they can help immediately, see results in the short term, and do something that is meaningful (from their perspective) with a durable effect on a client’s life. You want your donor to feel personally important to your clients.

When your donors understand their importance, you have created a relationship with a high level of sustainability. Now you have increased the sustainability of your funding stream and your nonprofit.

Next Step:

Talk about why your nonprofit exists in simple, clear terms that make the donor a key part of a client’s success

Describe client success in a way that assures the donors success is meaningful, measurable, and durable (a problem is truly being solved)

Make it easy for your donor to understand how your business model creates consistent, reproducible, and scalable results

Connect your donor to three or fewer things that are currently important to them and will provide results that are important to them (make the donor feel important to the client)

When you have a well refined answer, a clear definition of client success, and an understandable business model, you will find it easy to share them with every donor. It will take only minor changes to make what you have compelling for each donor.

Connecting a donor to something specific and meaningful to them takes time and effort. Your early cultivation activities must capture the information you need to spot the opportunity. Then you need to patiently wait for the right opportunity to arise. Even then you will need to customize the opportunity. For instance, you might find something that interests your donor but is beyond their capacity. The solution is to ask your donor to join a group of donors who together have the capacity to meet the need. Whether the group is real or just a concept will depend on many factors.

The sustainability of the donor-nonprofit relationship depends on periodic cultivation. Your nonprofit is evolving and your donors are evolving. Cultivation keeps the two synchronized.

Take It Further:

Treat your volunteers like donors

Remind your board that your presentation material is for individual donors and may differ in style and content from the marketing material which is for a broad, diverse audience


Comments are closed.