Please please please, do not get stuck in the classic nonprofit trap of thinking, “We want to raise more money but we have to sound like us.”
First, let’s take just a moment to acknowledge the strategic absurdity of expecting to raise meaningfully more money this year but “say the same things we always say in the way we always say them.”
What I want to focus on is this: I know of no nonprofit with a thriving fundraising operation that “sounds like” they sounded when they started. Instead, they experimented with and tailored their message over time, in order to raise more and do the most good.
“Sound like us” or “sound like me” are good values, but should not be the primary values.
An organization’s primary value for their fundraising communications should be something like, “we will continuously evolve our fundraising messaging so we can fund more and more of our mission work.”
(I’m assuming we’re telling the truth, etcetera etcetera.)
What’s more, an organization should “sound” different when communicating with different audiences. You should sound different when talking to an experienced professional at a Foundation partner than you sound in an email asking non-donors to make their first gift.
The primary goal for an organization’s fundraising communications should not be to “sound like us.” The primary goal should be to evolve and improve “what you sound like” over time in order to raise the most money and keep as many donors as possible each year.
There’s a surprising parallel between fundraising and selling technology products.
I found it in Geoffrey Moore’s famous book from 1991, Crossing The Chasm.
The graphic above is a direct “translation” from a graphic featured in the book. Except in this case I’ve made it about fundraising, not about selling tech products.
One of the main theses of the book is that the messaging used to attract “early adopters” will not work well when trying to attract what’s called the “early majority.” And technology companies miss this all the time because the company itself is filled with experts and early-adopters.
Doesn’t that “rhyme” with how the messaging nonprofits use in the early years does not work well when trying to achieve their next level of growth? And how nonprofits miss this because the nonprofit itself is filled with experts?
I know the graphic above takes some thinking about, but I’ve never seen a clearer picture that illustrates how the donors at your organization’s next stage of growth are different than your current donors – and therefore will likely require different messaging and tactics to be acquired.
Of course, this isn’t true for all organizations. But in my experience it’s true for a) smaller organizations who aren’t growing as fast as they’d like, and b) organizations whose growth has plateaued for many years.
If you think your organization is having a hard time crossing the chasm, keep reading this blog and check out Work Less, Raise More. The copywriting practices and communications strategies we help you with are exactly the types of things that help organizations cross the chasm.
And if you’d like Better Fundraising’s help crossing your chasm, take two minutes to fill out this form! We’d love to chat.
Remember: your organization is perfectly designed to raise what you’ve raised this year. If you’re looking for breakthrough growth, you’re probably going to have to start doing something different. And recognizing that is the first step.