When our nephew was younger, his favorite phrase seemed to be, "I'm bored". Is this what your donors are saying when they read your annual report or newsletter? They might be if the first thing they see is one of those dull letters from the Executive Director.
There's nothing inherently wrong with a letter from the ED, but they're usually not very interesting. They tend to brag about how great the organization is and are filled with jargon.
How can you ensure that you're giving your donors something they will want to read?
First impressions matter
I recommend starting annual reports, fundraising letters, and newsletters with an engaging story. If your lead story doesn't capture your readers' attention, they may not read anything else.
They may not read everything anyway, which is why you need to use the inverted pyramid and put the most important and engaging information first.
Short and sweet
What do you think your donor is more likely to read, a postcard annual report or a ten-page report, half of which is a list of donors?
Donors don't have the time or patience to slog through pages of long-winded-text. Most People Skim. Few Read Deep.
Don't use jargon
I write a lot about not using jargon because it deflates your writing. It's often meaningless.
Instead of saying we are making an impact in underserved communities, give a specific example. Thanks to you, we are helping people in the Northside neighborhood get better access to healthcare.
It's not about you
If your communications are focused on how great your organization is, you'll probably bore your donors pretty quickly.
But if it's focused on how great they are, they'll want to keep reading. That dreaded letter from the ED is often organization-focused. You want to focus on the people you serve. That's why you should be sharing stories and profiles. It's Not About You
Nonprofits need to make a commitment to do a good job of communicating with their donors.
I think one of the problems is that organizations keep using the same boilerplate content for so long that they become immune to it. Look at your messages and put yourself in your donors' shoes. Is this something that will interest them?
You want to create and use a consistent message platform. The 4 Cornerstones of Your Nonprofit Message Platform Review it once or twice a year to make sure it's still relevant.
You might want to find some people outside your organization to look over your materials to see if they are interesting and engaging. What may be interesting to you, may not be to others.
In addition, be careful of how many people look over and edit your materials. You often run into trouble here. The people in your fundraising and marketing departments should be trusted to know how to write fundraising letters, annual reports, newsletter articles etc. I recommend one writer and one editor.
Don't bore your donors
Take time to create materials your donors will want to read. Write thank you letters that are filled with appreciation and don't look like an ATM receipt. Don't drone on in the About Us section of your website.
You never want to hear your donors say, "I'm bored."
Photo by Mark Engelbrecht via Flickr