Recently I read two articles from the commercial marketing world that — for me — raised the question: "How do fundraisers do this?"

The articles deal with the importance of the non-cerebral side of, first, making a sale, and then, winning loyalty.

In this report from Science Daily, we read that if the customer touches a product, they are more likely to buy it. Said Science Daily, reporting on consumer research conducted by Ohio State and Illinois State Universities: "Previous research had documented that many people begin to feel ownership of an item long before they actually acquire it. But this is the first study to demonstrate that strong feelings of ownership can begin in as little as 30 seconds after initial contact." And these guys were studying attachment to coffee mugs!

And in this Forrester Research study, we learn that the customer’s positive firsthand experience with a company and its product is strongly correlated with the customer remaining loyal. As reported in Brandweek: "… a good experience correlates with a willingness to repurchase a product or service, a reluctance to switch and a likelihood to spread a positive word-of-mouth endorsement."

At first, I gave both of these observations a giant … DUH!

But when I began to think about how these lessons might apply to nonprofit fundraising, I found it a bit difficult to see how they might work.

Especially the "touch" thing. How many nonprofits have a "product" the donor can physically touch before making a "purchase?" Does the tactile stuff in your direct mail package count? [A lot of testing says it does!]

The "experience" thing is somewhat easier. At least for some charities …

  • I can go to the museum or cultural performance and see what my gift has made possible
  • I have direct experience of my alma mater
  • That particular hospital saved my child or mother
  • I participated in an unforgettable Habitat for Humanity house-building project
  • I volunteered at the local food bank
  • I met the program staff and felt their enthusiasm and competence

And so on.

How can you provide a some kind of "touching" and "experiencing" of your organization? And assuming you can do it for at least some of your donors, how do you communicate that sense to donors or prospects who cannot partake firsthand?

For starters, you need to remind yourself that everything your donor sees or hears about or receives from your organization is creating an impression … as if they were there. It helps to think of your letters, your emails, your website, your newsletter as experiences you are offering your donor. Not just as parcels — words, factoids and rational arguments.

Other ideas?



This article was posted in: Communications, Copywriting / creative, Direct mail, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Nonprofit branding, Research.
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