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Parable: A River of Giving

A friend once relayed an interesting anecdote about simple, effective messaging that just so happens to be a perfect teaching moment for those of us in the fundraising world.

It seems she was helping out an elderly couple who live down the hall of her apartment complex. The wife had a health problem that had just become acutely symptomatic. My friend was assisting by trying to find a hospital-type bed for the lady to use.

Clear Communication

In describing the want-ad that she ran on Craigslist, my friend said, “I didn’t really lay it on thick. I just said it was an older couple and the lady had a health condition and they needed the bed and they didn’t have a lot of money, and could anybody donate one?”

Talk about effective messaging. My friend quickly discovered that she didn’t really need to “lay it on thick,” because the solicitation, as written, attracted multiple responses within a day – literally five or six people responded, and all said they wanted to donate a hospital bed.

“One of the first people who called not only wanted to give the bed, they also promised that they would deliver it! That’s the one they went with,” she told me.

Taken by itself, it’s a nice story. But I want to point out that my friend isn’t a professional in the field of soliciting charitable donations. Neither did she enjoy the advantages of an institutional brand or a defined prospect base.

She did have:

  • a clear mission and
  • she described it clearly
  • to a receptive audience
  • through a proven Internet-based marketing vector (Craigslist).

And then she got more responses in one day than she could handle. Don’t you wish your nonprofit had that problem?

The moral of this story is: People care. People want to help. You can find them with effective messaging.

Our challenge as fundraisers is to reach those people and communicate our mission clearly. Effective planned giving marketing comes from the heart, keeps the message simple, uses a variety of touch points and mediums, and focuses on the benefits to the donor, not to the nonprofit (It sells the sizzle, not the steak).

The rest is plain sailing.

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