Win Donor Hearts By Getting To Know Them First

Using the Art of Persuasion “To Become All Things To All People”

From Lolly Colombo, EVP Client Service 

Read Time: 8 minutes 

Back in the first century, Paul wrote a letter to the Christian believers in Corinth saying, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.“ (1 Corinthians 9:22) 

As a marketer, what I love about this passage is its application not only to life and our calling as believers to go and make disciples – but also to our craft as fundraisers for the cause of Christ. For Paul to become all things to his various audiences, he needed to get to know them first.  He needed to know something about them to present an appeal they would find… well… appealing enough to accept and be saved.  

In today’s speak, he used an offer strategy… becoming all things to all people.

Speak to Your Donors Individually 

New York Times Bestseller Dan Pink authored a book entitled To Sell is Human. He writes that “attuning yourself to others – exiting your own perspective and entering theirs – is essential to moving others.”  He goes on to say, “One smart, easy and effective way to get inside people’s heads is to climb into their chairs.”

Getting to know your donors is critical to presenting them with a fundraising offer.  As direct marketers having worked with Rescue Missions for decades (in one capacity or another), we know a lot about your general audience. But by way of behavioral segmentation, we win donor hearts by getting to know them individually and then speaking to them appropriately. 

Behavioral segmentation essentially groups donors within your target audience (inside your database) with similar response metrics to deliver a more tailored message, to increase engagement and to grow a stronger connection with your ministry. In segmenting donors, we look at: 

  • Conversion
  • Generosity (gift level and frequency) 
  • Loyalty metrics (recency and lifetime giving) 

With that information in hand, we then have the ability to serve up messaging and ask levels that will really resonate on a donor-by-donor basis.

Use the Art of Persuasion in Fundraising   

Why is treating donors individually so important? Winning hearts is, essentially, a question of persuasion. Flash back 300 years before Christ, when Aristotle called persuasion “the art of getting someone to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.” 

So we ARE asking. And so did Paul as he worked to persuade hearts for Christ. We’re all in the asking business. After all, to sell IS human. We’re always presenting a case for things we hope to bring about. It’s part of our DNA, our families, our jobs and our relationships to appeal to and convince people to do something they wouldn’t necessarily do on their own. 

The 2020 Giving USA Annual Report on Philanthropy reported that charitable giving reached a record high of $471.44 billion in the U.S. in 2020.  That’s a lot of persuasion!  And in 2020, the way those dollars came into charities is quite different from the way dollars came in prior to the pandemic. The crisis itself provided additional leverage on top of nonprofits’ brand equity and the compelling offers circulating to their respective audiences – making it more critical than ever to reach out to donors, not as a monolithic group, but as individuals. 

In 2016, research* published by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy revealed that what motivated donors was:

  • Believing in the mission of the organization (54%)
  • Believing that their gift can make a difference (44%)
  • Experiencing personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or fulfillment (39%)
  • Supporting the same causes annually (36%)
  • Giving back to the community (27%)
  • Adhering to religious beliefs (23%)
  • Tax benefits (18%)

But what ultimately motivates donors?  What helps persuade them to give?

Research and Find Out What Persuades Your Individual Donors 

In 2017, BDI conducted research to dive into the motivations that drive donations specifically to Gospel Rescue Missions. This is an evergreen topic. More and more, Rescue Missions are asking their marketing partners for messaging that better aligns with life-transformation services more than meals and shelter – because ultimately and increasingly, the Missions are all about the practical application of saving souls and life-change through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What we discovered was:

  • Donors (all ages, all levels of giving) and prospects surveyed are all on-board with transformation work. Mission donors believe in and desire transformational recovery services. It’s not that they don’t care about recovery; they care a lot! 
  • Nevertheless, prospects and donors with gifts under a $100 LSG (largest single gift) lean into the urgency of the need and respond best to offers for which their gift can make a measurable and immediate difference, i.e. food and shelter. The ROI is immediate and clear.
  • Meanwhile, multi-year donors, monthly donors, and other high frequency and high-value donors ($1,000+) more readily lean into life-change offers. It’s a question of value proposition and return on mission.  

Here is where we “become all things to all people,” that by all means we might win some. Once your prospect community and donors believe in the mission of the organization, they need to believe their gift can move the needle on human suffering – whether it’s a meal or a GED. The offer, therefore, must be framed in a way that persuades an individual donor that their gift is making a measurable impact. 

So to more effectively use the art of persuasion to engage donors, climb into their chair, speak to them about the issues that resonate most and provide them with a solution that aligns. The result will be satisfied, fulfilled and joyful ministry partners who are primed to enter a deeper, longer-term and ultimately, more individual relationship with your organization today, tomorrow and into the future.

*Source: 2016 U.S.® Trust Study of High-Net-Worth Philanthropy

More on fundraising! Click here to read more “Strategic Insights” on our website.  

  • Lolly Colombo, Exec VP Client Services

    Lolly Colombo, Exec VP Client Services

    Lolly has been in the trenches with compassion work on both the program side and the agency side for thirty years serving some of the world’s most beloved charities and faith-based organizations including The Salvation Army, Operation Blessing International, Food for the Hungry, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, CBN, In Touch Ministries, and others.

    With her extensive experience in direct response marketing, Spanish language outreach, and broadcast media ‒ she takes the lead both in introducing cutting-edge strategies for integrated, multi-channel fundraising and in assuring our clients an exceptional service experience.

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