Communication is the Key: Three Communication Tips

Long-term supporters are the life-blood of successful fundraising programs. So why is it that we so often take our long-term supporters for granted?

Think about it for a moment. How absurd would it be if we only called our parents when we wanted money? Okay, maybe that’s not a great example. Let me try another one. What if you only talked to your boss when you wanted a raise? How long do you think you would keep your job?

It’s all about communication. I had a phrase that I used so often in college that my friends used to tease me about it. “Communication is the key” I’d say – whether it was a relationship question, job question etc. I guess I said it so often though because it was – and still is – true. I might clarify that a little further now by saying the effective communication is the key.

Communication is definitely the key when it comes to building long-term friends (ie supporters) for your organization. Here are three communication tips to help you get started:

  • Communicate Regularly. It might be tempting to try to cut back on messages that you send out. I know we’re all overwhelmed with the amount of information we’re processing each day. Our email boxes are overflowing, we have ads popping up all over the internet, we have RSS feeds that we’re following, not to mention Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts to try and keep from running us over. So it’s tempting to cut back – to save other people from that information overload. Cutting back is not the answer. The real answer is to make your communications more meaningful. Make it something they look forward to receiving. Share stories about people your organization is helping. In some cases you may need to develop a ‘composite’ story to protect the identities of those you serve. But whatever you do, make it more meaningful – rather than cutting back.
  • Communicate Emotionally. This is where stories become so helpful. Instead of stating: ‘this makes me angry,’ share a story that would evoke anger. Let others experience it for themselves, let others come to their own conclusions about how they feel. When you read through your materials, pay special attention to assumptions that are made – instead, provide the backup that led you to that assumption so that the reader can make their own assumption as well.
  • Communicate Appropriately. There are so many possibilities for communication these days. The most important thing then is to find out where your people hang out and where they get their information. Then pick a few different ways to communicate and build an integrated message. This means (1) communicate where they are and (2) use different mediums to reinforce your message.

These are my thoughts – what are yours?


Communication is the Key: Three Communication Tips — 10 Comments

  1. Wonderful post Kirsten! I’m a big believer in frequent communications. They key lies in making our communications joyful, upbeat and donor-centric. Email provides such a wonderful way to communicate with our supporters because it’s an inexpensive way to let them know what their dollars are doing. I often point to Best Friends Animal Society as a great example of effective email communications. Yes, they’re got the budget for professional copywriters – but the small nonprofit can emulate their work. Remember, we’re building relationships here :).

  2. Kristen, great points. I want to echo your call for meaningful communications. When you are sharing relevant info with supporters they will listen no matter how much data they have flying at them. You also want your organization to have a reputation for quality communications so always start with meaningful content.

    • Thanks Sherry for your comments. Relevant is certainly a key word. And, they won’t get tired of the same message if they hear it more than once :-).

  3. This is very relevant post about how we should communicate effectively. Communication is oftentimes overlooked, but the ability to communicate effectively is necessary to carry out the thoughts and visions of an organization to the people. It is truly the key in every success

    Keep the Smiles,

  4. I too want to underscore useful, meaningful, compelling information. I’m always surprised when organizations tell me that that their newsletter is a member “benefit.” Really. Would someone actually pay money to subscribe to your newsletter because its so interesting and fun to read? That’s the standard I like to use.

  5. Very informative and well done, Kirsten. I used to be a newspaper publisher where effective communication was essential — of course that goes for any organization. Great blog!

  6. Great analogy about calling your parents for money. That is all too accurate, isn’t it? Good, healthy communication is not simply a good habit…it makes all the difference in the world.

  7. Love it! You’re right on about the need for effective communications. The biggest tip I give people is that when you are creating a piece that you will send your donors and prospects, write about what’s interesting to THEM, not what’s interesting to YOU. That one simple shift can make a HUGE difference in the impact and results your communication piece has.

    Sandy Rees

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