When Building Donor Relationships, Talk is Cheap
A recent series of three posts on the Harvard Business Review blog by Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner and Anna Bird of Corporate Executive Board explored some of the myths surrounding consumer-buying decisions. The authors conclude that consumers, more than ever, want a simple buying process that gets them the things they want and need without hype or excessive interactions.
Nonprofits can learn a thing or two from their findings, especially about donor preferences for interactions.
But, first, a reality check.
Myth #1: Everyone Loves You
Despite what we desperately want to believe, most donors don’t want a relationship with your nonprofit. The gift comes in the mail because the donor is honoring the request of a friend or colleague, or maybe they want the deduction for their taxes. These donors don’t really care about your organization. They just gave you some money.
Of course, there are other donors who really do care about your nonprofit. The key is to know the difference between the two and to interact with them accordingly. Just don’t think that more is better, because it’s not.
Myth #2: Talking Builds the Relationship
It doesn’t. Instead of just communicating with donors, focus on having a strategic conversation around the shared values between your cause and them. For example, I’ve always admired the anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. I grew up on free lunch at school and support their goal to feed America’s kids (and love their cause marketing!). These common values cement the relationship. According to the Corporate Executive Board, of the consumers who said they had a brand relationship, 64% cited shared values as the primary reason.
The message for nonprofits is clear: talk is cheap. Shared values and messaging is what gets and keeps donors’ attention.
Myth #3: More Interactions Are Even Better
Over-sharing with supporters doesn’t work either. You’re just drowning the donor in a sea of talk that only leads to information overload. If I follow a new person on Twitter and they clog up my stream with too many tweets, I’ll ignore or unfollow him–even if some of his tweets are thoughtful and helpful. I’ve argued before that more tweets are better than not, but we still have to choose our interactions carefully and value our connection with the donor.
As a marketer it’s almost heresy to say it, but we have to remove frequency as a factor in donor communications. Freeman, Spenner and Bird suggest asking if the communication is “going to reduce the cognitive overload consumers feel as they shop my category? If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘not sure,’ go back to the drawing board.”