Need More Funds? Match Your Message to Your Audience

Need More Funds? Match Your Message to Your Audience

July 28th, 2011

by Dan Schipp


Conventional wisdom tells us there are two ways to raise more money from individual donors:

  1. Get the donors you currently have to give more
  2. Get more donors to give

But, new research indicates you may need to adjust your messaging based upon which group of donors you are approaching.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas, the University of Chicago  and Sungkyunkwan University may provide insights on both counts.

The study evaluated responses to direct mail appeals and found that donors who identified closely with a cause were more motivated by a great need than they were by accomplishments. 

Conversely, they found that less connected donors were more likely to give and give more when they saw an organization had already made progress towards a goal, and were less motivated to give purely by a statement of need.

This research aligns with the standard wisdom in campaign fundraising. We encourage our clients to begin their campaigns with a silent phase during which they share their organizational needs and vision with their closest and most supportive donors. 

Once this early effort has reached a critical mass and a significant portion of their goal has been reached, an organization can use that success to spread the campaign’s message more broadly in the public phase of the campaign.

Beyond this affirmation of conventional campaign wisdom, this study also presents a blueprint for engaging new donors or upgrading your current donors outside of larger campaigns.  

If you are looking to expand your donor base, you should be keenly aware of milestones in your organization’s work, either fundraising or programmatic in nature, which could be used to show potential donors the tangible progress that appears to motivate them. 

Meanwhile, messages of need can be targeted specifically to those donors that you know identify closely with your cause.

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