Messaging Cheat Sheet inspired by the Cygnus Donor Survey


Demographics, fundraising, donors, messaging
Young and old may all give blood. But not for the same reasons!

Penelope Burke and the team at Cygnus Applied Research recently released the Cygnus Donor Survey: Where Philanthropy is Headed in 2012.  For fundraisers in the United States and Canada, this is a gold-mine. So much useful, practical, actionable info–it’s a must-read.

Some of the most interesting nuggets had to do with how to engage donors in different age brackets. In his most recent newsletter, Tom Ahern also addressed this issue. He reminded us that “To write persuasive copy, you need to see the person you’re writing to…in your head.” Tough to conjure up a mental image if you don’t factor in someone’s age.

The survey also revealed that two out of five donors could have given more last year but simply weren’t persuaded to do so.

Don’t leave money on table just because your messaging doesn’t factor in age and motivation.

Although far from comprehensive, here’s an extremely high-level “cheat sheet” for how to craft messaging to connect with three different (and admittedly very broad) age groups:

Under 35: Focus on your COMMUNITY and how they can help grow it. Make sure it’s easy to read on a mobile phone.

35-65: Focus on IMPACT. Real-life stories about what their dollars are doing with good stats to back it up. (Remember not to go right for the head, however. Heart then head. Heart then head. Repeat.)

65 on up: Focus on NEED. They’ve given enough to know the drill and they want to cut to the chase–what does your organization need. Make it clear and they are happy to oblige.

These aren’t mutually exclusive, mind you. Younger donors care about impact and older donors want to hear stories. You’ll be in good shape, however, if you focus on their main motivator first and foremost.

No more light knocking: Unexpected Inspiration from #12NTC

door, old door, wooden door
No one can hear you when you knock lightly!

“Stop knocking lightly on the door of change. We’ve got to knock it down! People are counting on you.” 

By day, Jeff Shuck runs Event 360. By night (or perhaps in the wee hours of the morning as he has 4 kids!), he blogs at Your Part Matters.

At the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, Jeff gave a session on using data to effectively segment your audiences. There was talk of regression and p-values and pivot tables. Not what many would consider “inspiring”, although highly useful.

That’s why his closing was so unexpected…and awesome.

After geeking out for 87 minutes, Jeff took the last 3 minutes to implore the audience to get serious about doing good. To do more. To do it louder. To get more people involved. To really give this making the world a better place stuff everything we’ve got.

I said a really loud “Amen!” and whooped a lot at the end. If it’d been remotely appropriate, I would’ve stood on my chair and cheered.

We’d spent the morning listening to Dan Roam, author of Blah, Blah, Blah, so we all had visual representation on our minds. But Jeff’s words gave us all a mental picture that we can use every day to gauge our effort, if not our impact:

Did we knock the door down today or simply lightly knock, hoping not to disturb anyone with our do-gooder ways?

Perhaps it’s not realistic that every day we’ll knock the door off its hinges. But just by asking the question, we’re way more likely to way more often, right?

Even if you’re not an Excel whiz or a data-head, check out his session for that last bit. It’s worth it.

For  more inspiration, check out the Do Gooder Video award winners, which were announced at the conference. (Get out the hankies!)


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?