The Opera, Crasharama, and the Importance of Knowing Who You’re Talking To

Several years ago, my husband Rob and I had a fun weekend planned. Friday night we went to an event in Bithlo, Florida called Crasharama (yes, a school bus figure-8 race and several other ‘races’ that resulted in the track being littered with debris from cars, trucks, boats and trailers). Saturday night we went to opera. What can I say, we have a very wide range interests.

The audience at each event, however, was quite different. I would imagine that if the opera tried to market themselves to the Crasharama crowd (and vice versa) that their results would be fairly dismal.

Thus the importance of defining who we’re talking to. Do you know the type of person or company that supports your nonprofit organization? Do you know what they read? What they do on the weekends? Do you know why they support you?

There are six steps that I walk organizations through as they are defining the audience(s) that they will be reaching out to:

  1. Review your list of current donors. Perhaps you’d like to do a survey to ask them key questions. As an alternative, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, say thanks for their support, and ask them those key questions.
  2. Try to find organizations similar to yours and see their revenue streams. Perhaps there are some missed opportunities for your organization. This isn’t about ‘stealing’ donors (donors don’t ‘belong to’ any organization, but that’s besides the point), rather its about seeing if there are types of donors or groups of donors you just haven’t been thinking about.
  3. Spend some time creating donor segments (i.e. groups of people with similar interests). You’ll also want to find a way to indicate this information in your donor database.
  4. By now, you have some ideas of who you might want to focus your communications on. Do some market research to determine whether or not there are enough people out there who fall into that group. InfoUSA is one source for that information.
  5. Make a list of those people who are connected to your organization in some way. Is there an overlap between your possible prospects and who your connected to?
  6. Finally, take into consideration Linkage, Ability and Interest. Are they linked to your organization in some way? Do they have an ability to give a gift in the amount you are looking for? And do they have an interest? And a bonus tip – if the answer to all three of these is not yes, it’s not the right time yet to even consider asking for a gift.

Those are some of my thoughts. What do you have to add?

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