Creative engagement and the real life example that worked
Engagement with your audience is such an important piece of what nonprofits should be doing. Whether it’s at the level of discovery, cultivation, or stewardship, organizations need to find ways to interact with people and not just talk at them. Even when you’re attempting to reach a large audience, such as through direct mail, you need to get creative and find ways to make communication a two-way street.
I did this recently with a cultivation mailing that was sent to more than 12,000 households. The desired outcome was to identify possible new donors and cultivate current donors of both large and small gifts. A mass mailing made sense in order to cast a large net, but I knew it needed to be more than just informational. We also needed a call to action that was deeper than just “donate now” and would encourage people to respond.
This particular organization is Catholic and the nuns who founded it have a long history in the community. I decided that the tradition and familiarity rooted in that was perfect for discovery and cultivation. With it being so close to the end of the year and the annual appeal being planned, I knew that we could do a mailing that was more about connection and less about donations; at least on the surface.
The truth is that everything we do is about creating a relationship that will eventually lead to a donation. Sometimes, however, our best bet is to not immediately ask for money and take the time to fully develop a relationship that will result in a bigger gift. I talk more about that in my blog, “To Ask or Not to Ask, That is the Question.”
With engagement as the objective, I wrote a letter to the community reminding them of all the wonderful things the Sisters had done over the years and how they continue to invest time and money here. The letter came from the Board chair and asked people to stop and remember why this organization was important to them and then write a letter to the Sisters to say thank you. We didn’t ask them to send money or come to an event or even send us their contact information. We simply asked them to send a thank you letter to the Sisters.
The response surprised me. The hand written letters full of stories of the Sisters caring for family and friends, the memories people shared of how the Sisters made them feel, and the genuine gratitude people had for what the organization stood for and contributed to the community was inspiring.
It was a feel good moment for the organization and opened a line of communication with people who had a clear interest. It was the best possible lead you could have for donor prospecting. It was an excellent cultivation tool for those who had given a gift and needed to be reminded where that money was spent. And it was above all else, an engagement tool that started many conversations in the community.
Engagement and interaction with potential donors is how you create relationships that bring in major gifts. Determining where the connecting point is for people is how you get engaged donors. Stop and consider what your objective is and then start a conversation with your donors.
Looking for ways to engage with your donors or discover new donors? Find out how I can help your organization get connected to the people who will help you most. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how I can help your organization meet its goals.