More than Marketing

I’ve been reading a lot lately about conversion rates, optimizing copy, branding, conversion copy, auto responder marketing and a multitude of other marketing concepts. I have to say, I’m fascinated by the relationship of fundraising to marketing, particularly how to convey with clarity that the work we do deserves philanthropic support.

For a fun look at some pretty bad non-profit marketing pieces, see Stupid Nonprofit Ads from Future Fundraising Now. Jeff Brooks, the creative at TrueSense Marketing, dissects each of these ads, pithily pointing out fuzzy and/or esoteric language, misplaced visual metaphors, and sloppy donor analysis. Fortunately, he also suggests fabulous ways to clearly connect with the intended audience.

The MGs (Marketing Gurus) that KNOW their stuff, talk a lot about understanding the customer, feeling their “pain points”, and focusing marketing copy on how the product will deliver the customer from that pain. In other words, marketing is all about the customer and his/her needs and not about the product.

So let’s substitute “motivation” for “pain” when speaking with our donors, and find ways to satisfy a donor’s motivation to do good in the world.

Many companies create avatars to represent individual customers in order to speak more directly to them. It’s a practice that would be very useful in developing fundraising case statements and proposals that would speak to a donor’s deeply held motivation.

To start, segment your market then create an avatar that represents ONE person in that market segment. For instance:

  • Segment-Nursing Alumni: An alum who got a nursing degree at age 42(15 years ago)
  • Segment-Entrepreneurs: A retired entrepreneur who at the peak of her success turned to the college to train her employees
  • Segment-Community: A couple who sent their children to the college from summer camps through an AA degree
  • Segment-College staff: A college administrative assistant who gives $50 every year to the Foundation (for 27 years)

Write a detailed bio of the nursing alum described above  – and then assume that alum’s identity. Anticipate the answers to the questions below based on what you “know” about the alum as if you WERE that alum:

  •  What led me to Beyond Everything Simply Terrific Community College (BEST CC)?
  • What was the best part about being at BEST CC? What was the worst?
  • What did I do besides go to class at BEST CC? Did I avail myself of academic services at BEST CC? Student engagement activities?
  • What was going on in my life outside of my academic world at BEST CC? How did I juggle my two lives (personal/academic)? What did BEST CC do to help or hinder that juggling?
  • What kinds of relationships did I develop with my professors? Are they maintained? If not, why not?
  • What’s going on in my life now? Work? Family? Recreation? Further education? Retirement?
  • Does anyone at BEST CC care about what I’m doing right now? If so, what do I think about that? If not, what do I think about THAT?

When you’ve answered those questions, can you discern the motivation for your donor to give to a program, service, scholarship, lab, or academic center?

In the end, of course, you may not writing a case for support  or a proposal to just one donor (actually, you MAY be). But when you really dive into your donors’ motivations, you can speak directly to their deepest feelings and beliefs of how they manifest their humanity through philanthropy.

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